What Type of Walker Are You?

he key to finding the right walking shoe is to first find out what foot type you have. Then, you'll be on your way to smooth walking.

You may have tennis shoes, running shoes and even water shoes. What about walking shoes? Contrary to the country song, those boots aren’t made for walking—and nor are those old, ratty sneakers. Walking for fitness is a bona-fide exercise that calls for a supportive and flexible shoe—one designed to keep us moving toward our weight-loss and fitness goals.

Your walking shoes should have good shock absorption in the heels and in the balls of the feet. They should be a bit stiffer and more supportive than running shoes, although they need to have a very flexible forefoot to allow for the natural bend of the foot. The midsoles will be thinner than those of running shoes in order to accommodate the slower foot roll when you walk. Look for a shoe that features beveled, or slightly angled, heels to allow for a smooth heel-to-toe roll.

Beyond these basic traits, look for a shoe that matches your foot type:

  • Pronators have feet that roll excessively inward when they walk. Look for a board-lasted shoe (the inside of the shoe is glued rather than stitched in place) that has a motion-control device in the midsole. A straight-shaped shoe, which provides support for the inside of the foot and thus prevents you from overusing the inside edge of your foot, is also preferable. (When you look at the bottom of the shoe it will have very little curve.) Another plus is a reinforced heel for control and stability. Sturdy uppers and stability straps can also help prevent inward roll. Shoes with too much padding can exaggerate pronation, so avoid them.
  • Supinators roll their feet to the outside when they walk. Look for greater stability and a shoe whose outsole, insole and midsole are designed for extra shock absorbency. Slip-lasted shoes, with their inside inserts stitched into the bottom of the shoe, are best, as supinators have such rigid feet. Look for a curved shape; when you look at the bottom of the shoe, the top will curve inward. Buy shoes with reinforced material around the ankles and firm heels for maximum ankle and heel support. Extra cushioning under the ball of the foot helps increase comfort.
  • Owners of neutral feet—feet that don't roll too much inward or outward—can wear just about any shoe and be sure of proper support and comfort. But even if your feet are neutral and you have no problems with injury, don't skimp on the basic walking-shoe features.

Not sure about your foot type? Grab an old pair of walking or everyday wear shoes and place them on a level table. Walk around behind them and crouch down so that the top edges of the soles are at eye level. If the upper part of the shoe caves excessively inward relative to the soles, you're a pronator. If the uppers lean excessively outward in relation to the sole, you're a supinator. If the uppers break only slightly either way, you have neutral feet.

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