If you search this question on Google, a lot of websites will immediately tell you that running shoes can absolutely be used for walking. However, we believe that it is best for you to understand the whys and hows behind this in order for you to get the whole picture. From there, you can decide for yourself whether you should be using your running shoes for walking.
First, let’s head on to discussing the difference between running and walking. These two activities have tons of similarities with each other and only a few differences. According to FleetFeet, the major difference between these two is the time spent in the air.
When running, both feet will be hanging mid-air in just a fraction of a second, which means you need to put more stress on your body when your feet land on the ground. On the other hand, one foot is always in contact with the ground when walking, thus putting less stress on the body compared to running.
Running and walking shoes are made with almost identical features and materials to accommodate the activities. Since you will be experiencing more impact and stress on the body with running, the shoes are commonly built with more cushioning along with supportive features. Running shoes always provide a nice and comfortable fit for the feet.
Due to the cushioning, these shoes offer less flex and the upper unit commonly has breathable mesh to easily let air inside the shoes for breathability.
On the other hand, walking shoes have less cushioning and sometimes might provide you with less/extra support compared to running shoes. The soles have no flare and there is more flex at the ball of the feet. Like running shoes, walking shoes typically have breathable mesh uppers as well.
Main differing factors between running and walking shoes
According to Marion Yau, a podiatrist, the location of the flexibility of the shoes is important in order to know if the pair of shoes will be great for walking. When running, your common foot strike will be in the midfoot or the ball of the foot, hence, most running shoes are designed with more flexibility in those areas for support.
However, to have an efficient walk, you have to have consistent heel-to-toe movement and good support and flexibility on your arch, thus, the flexibility of a typical walking shoe is placed on the sole. As stated by Marion Yau, you will risk straining and inflaming your plantar fascia when you opt to use the former option.
The weight of the shoes greatly influences the speed of the wearer. Most running shoes would sport a lighter weight making it easier for runners to move quickly and bump up their speed. On the other hand, walking shoes typically are heavier in order to provide great stability for the walker at a consistent and steady pace.
Cushioning of the shoes is one of the most important differences between walking and running shoes. Many experts have claimed that the amount of cushioning greatly affects your walking.
Cushioning mainly provides comfort and support such as in running shoes, they are designed with more cushioning in order to protect the base of their feet which experiences continuous ground impact.
According to Maricris Lapaix, a personal trainer and nutrition coach, if you will be walking, you will not need that extra cushioning, instead, you will be needing more flexibility on your shoes to accommodate the consistent heel strike.
Types of Running and Walking Shoes
Shoe companies have adjusted to the various types of feet humans have and designed shoes specifically for each. However, both running and walking shoes also have their own classifications. First, let us guide you through how to determine your arch or if you pronate, overpronate or supinate.
Pick up a paper bag and place it on the floor. Once done, wet your foot and step on the bag with your full weight on it. If the imprint shows your feet wholly and completely, this means you have a low arch/flat feet and overpronate or your foot rolls inward in each step.
If it shows that the middle portion of your feet is halfway filled means you have a normal to medium arch and pronate neutrally. Then, if the paper bag shows pretty much nothing in between your heel, ball of your foot and toes, this means you have high arches and you supinate which makes your foot roll on the outer part of your foot.
Now that you have an idea of what your arches are, let us head on to the types of running and walking shoes that would best fit your arch needs. According to TheWiredRunner website, running shoes have four different categories, but we will only discuss the three important ones.
First, there are Neutral running shoes that are great for anyone who pronate or supinate since they do not have much feature to provide more stability. In contrast, there are Stability running shoes designed specifically for people who experience overpronation due to a stiff foam built within the inside arch to fend off pronating excessively.
Finally, there are Motion Control running shoes for heavier overpronation that features more stiffness and weight on the shoes that will provide you with great support from heel to toe and also keeps your feet aligned in a neutral position.
As per TheWiredRunner, walking shoes have the same three categories, however, the Neutral walking shoes do not have any feature to correct your stride and allow for a more natural one.
Can running shoes be used for walking?
Yes, you can, however, it is not ideal according to experts. As discussed above, there are some features and specifications of running shoes that might do more harm than good on your feet once you use them for walking. Although, we can all agree that instead of buying a pair of walking shoes you could just opt to use your running shoes, which totally makes sense.
The most important thing about choosing your shoes on your walk is comfortability. If you end up wearing running shoes on your walk, podiatrists like Marion Yau advise that it should fit you well, give you enough comfort and you should take precautions to prevent inflammation or injuries.
Some people like to include a bit of running on their walks. It could be a run/walk warm-up or intervals, it is worth noting that it could greatly influence which pair of shoes you should wear. You should opt to use a pair of running shoes if you plan on running within your walking routine which will provide you with better cushioning on support once you run.
When it comes to the physical design and style, running shoes are more colourful and stylish compared to the muted colors walking shoes usually are made with such as black, white and brown colors.
On another note, when it comes to pricing since running shoes have more technology and shoe companies always strive to upgrade, discover and invent new features and technology within their running shoes, their prices go higher and higher.
As opposed to the minimalistic features of walking shoes, they are less expensive since they will not require too many high-end features and technology.
In a sense, if the typical colours and styles of walking shoes bore you or might not fit your wardrobe, you can still go for a pair of running shoes, but make sure it will provide you with everything you will need on your walk.
If you will follow the advice of experts to wear appropriate walking shoes instead of running shoes, they should be able to do and have the following:
- The support is placed on your arches, where you will feel a great amount of force once you start walking.
- In place of big or flared heels, walking shoes should have undercut heels to aid the feet to naturally roll forward and there should not be a huge height difference between the heel and toe.
- The heel counter, which can be found below the Achilles tendon, should be snug but not too tight, which will help prevent any excessive pronation or supination.
- The insoles of a walking shoe should mold comfortably on your feet to avoid shear forces with the shoe and the foot. It will also serve sufficient shock absorption.
- The toe box area should have enough space for you to be able to move your toes around but not to the extent that it will make your feet slide along your walk. According to the SpineHealth site, there ought to be around one-half to a full thumb’s width between the end of the longest toe to the end of the toe box.
- The midsole, which can be found between the upper and tread of the shoes, should give you the proper and sufficient support, cushioning and flexibility.
Marko Rakic is a trail runner and fitness enthusiast from Sydney, Australia. He is the lead writer for The Ultimate Primate and believes the best way to live a happy life is to take a holistic approach to fitness and health.