When it comes to footwear, it seems like there are nearly as many types of shoes as there are activities.
There are running shoes for running, walking shoes for walking, hiking boots for hiking, ski boots for skiing, soccer cleats for soccer, water shoes for aquatic activities, basketball sneakers for basketball, and even skateboarding shoes for skateboarding.
The list could go on and on, but the point can be made that there seems to be a specific type of shoe for each type of exercise or sport.
But can you mix them up?
While you certainly wouldn’t want to wear ski boots or hiking boots while running or playing soccer, can running shoes be used for walking? And if so, are running shoes good for walking?
In this article, we will discuss the differences between running shoes and walking shoes and whether you can wear running shoes for walking.
We will cover:
- Running Shoes Vs. Walking Shoes
- Are Running Shoes Good For Walking?
Let’s jump in!
Running Shoes Vs. Walking Shoes
Even though running shoes and walking shoes appear fairly similar, there are several key differences between them.
Here are some of the differences in the characteristics of walking shoes vs. running shoes:
#1: Running Shoes vs. Walking Shoes: Cushioning
Although there is cushioning in both types of shoes, running shoes tend to be more cushioned than walking shoes, and the zones of cushioning are somewhat different.
The cushioning in both types of shoes is there to help attenuate the impact shock of ground contact, which is the point in the gait cycle when your foot first strikes the ground.
With that in mind, because the foot strikes the ground with much less force when you walk compared to when you run (about 1-1.5 times your body weight during walking and 2-3 times your body weight while running), walking shoes can be less cushioned than running shoes.
Moreover, the cushioning in walking shoes is concentrated primarily in the heel region because the heel is the region of the foot that makes ground contact during the walking stride.
Although many runners are heel strikers when they run as well, there are three potential foot strike patterns that runners may display: heel striking, midfoot striking, or forefoot striking.
Due to this variability and the need for good cushioning under the area of the foot that actually makes ground contact, cushioned running shoes have cushioning in all of these regions of the sole rather than just the heel.
#2: Running Shoes vs. Walking Shoes: Flexibility
While you can’t readily discern differences in the flexibility of walking vs. running shoes with just your eyes, wearing or manipulating the shoes in your hand will quickly demonstrate that running shoes are much more flexible than walking shoes.
Running shoes usually have a sole that is easy to bend, as this supports a smooth heel-to-toe transition from ground contact to push-off.
Walking shoes are much stiffer so that even when you try to bend the sole of a walking shoe with your hands, you will feel a lot of resistance.
#3: Walking Shoes vs. Running Shoes: Heel Height and Flare
Another notable difference between walking shoes and running shoes is that running shoes usually have a heel that is higher or more built up than that seen with walking shoes.
This added thickness provides additional stability and cushioning for impact.
Walking shoes should ideally have zero heel drop, which means that the difference in height between the heel and toe of the shoe is 0 mm.
Running shoes also have a heel flare, which is an extension of the outsole material along the back and sides of the heel region of the shoe in order to aid stability and control pronation.
A heel flare isn’t necessary on walking shoes.
In fact, an undercut heel or some removal of the material around the heel is ideal for brisk fitness walking because it prevents catching and dragging the heel on the ground.
#4: Running Shoes vs. Walking Shoes: Quality of Construction
Running shoes are usually better made relative to waking shoes, featuring the latest technology and higher-quality materials, construction, and design.
Although both types of shoes are usually designed to last 300-500 miles (500-800 km), because running is a high-impact activity, running shoes are comparably more durable.
The materials used for running shoes are lighter, more breathable, provide better cushioning, and rebound faster between uses.
#5: Running Shoes vs. Walking Shoes: Weight and Comfort
A key difference between running shoes and walking shoes is the weight of the shoe.
Despite having less cushioning, walking shoes tend to be heavier, bulkier, and less breathable than running shoes because of the technology and materials used.
Are Running Shoes Good for Walking?
After comparing running shoes and walking shoes, it can be seen that there are actual differences in each type of footwear; it’s not just a marketing ploy to sell additional shoes.
With that said, can running shoes be used for walking?
According to the American Academy of Podiatric Medicine, you can wear walking shoes or running shoes for walking as long as the shoe is comfortable and provides the stability you need.
With that said, are running shoes good for walking?
The answer to this question isn’t a definite yes nor is it a definite no.
Some running shoes are good for walking (and potentially even better for walking than walking shoes), whereas others are not.
Moreover, some walkers will do better wearing running shoes for walking, whereas others will be better served wearing walking shoes for walking.
So, let’s look at each of these individually. What type of running shoes are good for walking?
As described above, there are certain characteristics of footwear that make one type of shoe optimal for walking vs. running.
There is quite a rich diversity of running shoes these days in terms of materials, design, and construction, making some running shoes more suitable for walking than others.
If you want to do a lot of walking, look for running shoes that have a low heel-to-toe drop and little to no heel flare.
Examples of running shoes with a low heel-to-toe drop include Altras, Hokas, and Xero shoes.
Other than that, as long as the running shoe is breathable and flexible, which it should be, it can be a great walking shoe for fitness walks.
Motion control and stability running shoes will be less flexible than neutral or cushioned running shoes.
The second factor that affects whether running shoes or walking shoes are better for walking deals with the type of walking you will be doing and your gait needs.
Walking speed and duration are the primary aspects of your walking workouts to consider here.
If you are just going to be walking slowly and for short distances, such as around town or while you shop at the grocery store, a walking shoe can work well.
However, if you are going to be doing fitness walking, maintaining a brisk walking pace, and walking for at least a couple of miles or more, a running shoe might actually be more comfortable and effective as footwear for your workout.
Walking shoes can be overly heavy and clunky, as well as restrictive in terms of the heel-to-toe transition and push-off.
Walking shoes aren’t very breathable because they typically aren’t designed to promote as much airflow or wick moisture and sweat as effectively as running shoes.
As a result, your feet can overheat and get sweaty on longer fitness walks
Walking in running shoes can feel more like “barefoot walking” because the shoe is more responsive, flexible, lightweight, and breathable, whereas walking shoes are stiffer, so they are less compliant and more restrictive to your natural walking stride.
It’s important that whether you are walking in running shoes or walking shoes, the shoe should bend at the forefoot when you put pressure on the toe region, even when you just press with your hands to test it out.
If the sole of the shoe does not readily bend, or if it bends at the arch rather than closer to the toes, the footwear will probably feel restrictive when walking briskly.
Again, just be mindful that if you’re going to walk in running shoes, wear running shoes that do not have a heel flare or a high heel height.
Minimalist running shoes are also not ideal for long-distance fitness walking as they lack the stability the foot needs during the walking gait pattern, and they don’t provide any cushioning.
The other thing to think about when deciding whether running shoes are good for walking for you personally is your biomechanics and stability.
If you need extra support and stabilization while you walk, a walking shoe can be better, but if you’re well-balanced and have a very neutral stride, a running shoe can be fine for walking.
Lastly above all, comfort in terms of the fit and feel of the shoe is paramount.
If you find a running shoe that is more comfortable for walking, by all means, wear that shoe. If you feel better walking in walking shoes, that is also an excellent choice.
There are no rules either way.
Adding insoles or orthotics can also be an effective way to improve your gait and support your foot in the right position.
If you are struggling to find any footwear that feels comfortable and supportive for your foot, you should consider making an appointment with a podiatrist for an evaluation for orthotics or other treatments.
If you need help choosing your running shoes, check out our guide for helpful tips.