You are getting faster, stronger, and more determined to make your walk count. Whether you are walking for recreation, fitness, speed, or glory, traditional walking shoes, those bulky, heavy, and sometimes stiff accouterments, are making way for innovative, lightweight, intelligent shoes that match your support needs, and your desire to go faster, go farther, and go healthier. Now you can be pragmatic, and still have fun!
In the past two years, there has been a major shift in the running shoe world that has vastly increased the number of suitable walking shoe options. Many of these shoes, though categorized as “running” shoes, are simply the best go-forward shoes on the market. In order to determine the best shoe for you, you need to know a few things about yourself:
What type of walking are you going to do?
Race walking: focused on form, foot strike, hip swing, arm swing, and overall pace. Shoe types will be lighter, lower to the ground, and generally less supportive.
Speed and Fitness Walking: Event-minded, pace and distance are important, but form is simple and practical. Shoe types will vary based on foot needs but will strive to be lighter, slightly lower than normal shoes, and possibly have reduced overall stiffness.
Recreational Walking: Pace is of no concern and priorities are seated in protection, cushion, durability, and stability. Shoe types will be more supportive and stable, may have added features like weather protection, and will likely be slightly higher and stiffer.
How Much Cushioning Do You Need?
Most people like a soft feel but too soft can influence your gait, increase fatigue, and decrease overall efficiency. Seek strategic cushion, like a mattress. That country B&B bed with the feather soft-top, and the huge comforter is so great until you actual sleep in it. You wake up the next day twisted into some unnatural and nearly permanent position. Cushioning in shoe should be approached the same way. We all need cushion. Determining how much is appropriate has to do with your gait, your habits like where you walk and on what types of surfaces you walk.
How Much Stability Do You need?
Gait Evaluation: Make sure to have a professional watch you walk in your natural motion to determine how much support you might need in order to maximize your walking routine. A proper gait evaluation should include an evaluation of your foot shape, your arch height, your width and length, and the interaction between your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and back. The final result should be a determination of your footstrike and weather or not you do one of the following:
- o over-pronate: roll excessively from the outside of your heel, across your arch and toward your big toe.
- o Neutral: roll from outside of your heel to the middle portion of your foot with toe off in the center of your feet and toes.
- o Supinate-roll from outside of your heel to the middle portion of your foot and then toe off toward the pinky toe or outside of your foot.
“Drop” refers to the heel-to-toe offset in mm. Barefoot would be a zero offset or drop. Traditional footwear has approximately 12mm of drop. This higher-heel construction offers heel cushioning, added durability, and support. However, with newly constructed materials, and with research, it is now clear that lower heel heights can actually be beneficial in promoting a more natural gait. Walkers used have to sacrifice ride or protection to get lower to the ground. Now, most manufacturers offer a variety of supports, weights, and drops.
Midsole: refers to the material between the outside of the shoe and your foot.
Outsole-refers to the outer rubber material on the bottom of the shoe
Upper: refers to the materials on top of the foot including the heel counter, tongue, and laces.
Forefoot-the region of your foot toward your toes from your arch
Rearfoot-the fatty pad in the back region of your foot
Midfoot-region parallel to your arch in the middle and outside of your foot
Shoe Weight: Although lighter shoes are inherently more comfortable, many lightweight shoes do not offer enough protection from road surfaces or they are simply less durable than slightly heavier, slightly denser materials. New developments in materials and construction have greatly reduced weight over the past five years. Important to note that an appropriately matched shoe, one that supports your gait, regardless of weight, will tend to feel lighter as your feet and body fatigue than a shoe that does not support your foot.