Have you ever thought about how many steps you've walked in your lifetime? Even simply counting our steps per day with a fitness watch or phone app can really feel mindblowing at times.
Walking is a much bigger part of each person's life than many give it credit for. Once we truly realize its significance, we also realize how important it is to find the best pair of walking shoes possible. Any old cheap pair of sneakers with a worn-out leather upper layer isn't going to cut it for the millions of steps ahead of you.
Whether you walk for fitness, fun, or simply on your commute to work and throughout day-to-day activities, today's Kizik guide is for you. We're laying out our definitive buyer's guide for men's walking shoes, including info on features to have, how to consider your lifestyle's unique needs, and styles to try.
Let’s get started!
The first step to finding comfortable walking shoes is knowing how to evaluate each pair and what you should be looking for.
While walking may seem like a simple exercise, you wouldn't wear just any shoe you own on a day with lots of walking involved. This is no secret, but how exactly to pick shoes for walking may not be as obvious.
If you've ever grabbed a pair of sneakers that looked sporty and stylish, only to find they feel horrible to walk more than a few hundred steps in, you'll know exactly what we mean.
Let’s break down the features below.
The first line of defense against the ground is the outsole. The bottom of a men’s running shoe or walking shoe is potentially the most important part, even though it's the part you see the least. You’ll often find shoes with rubber outsoles or outsoles made from memory foam.
The outsoles on athletic shoes need to offer the right support, slip-resistant and water-resistant traction and shape for your foot and body. Support and traction are universal, more or less. Cushioning from the ground is a must, although you'll find competitive race walking shoes tend to lack support to get the most efficient, lightweight model possible.
Traction ensures every step is secure from slipping, an obviously important feature. A mesh upper section of the shoe can provide breathability, but the sole is what provides comfort and support.
In terms of foot and body shape, it differs for everyone. People with flat feet, extra wide feet, or feet that turn more while walking (known as overpronation) thrive in specialized shoes, while the opposite is true for those with mid or high arches in their feet.
Outsoles aren't the only sole that plays a role in comfort. The sole inside your shoe is just as important since it's the part you'll feel most closely with each step. Unlike outsoles, insoles don't need to worry much about terrain or durability. Insoles just need to be incredibly comfortable!
Finding soles that fit your foot shape is once again something to keep in mind, but ultimately a soft and cushy insole is the main priority.
Walking with proper technique means heel-to-toe rolling movement and flexibility to adjust your steps as needed. Walking in especially rigid shoes is likely to impede these factors. Look for walking shoes made of flexible material in a non-rigid design.
This applies all the way from the shoe's upper to its soles. Everything needs to work in harmony to be flexible. You'll know if this isn't happening, since it will probably feel like walking around with bricks on your feet after a few hundred steps.
Even during cold weather, proper airflow in your shoes is essential. While walking may not be the intense athletic activity that running is, it can often work up a sweat. Of all parts of your body, the most likely to get hot while walking is indeed your foot.
Breathable material not only allows cool air to flow in but also allows hot air to exit the shoe. These processes, in tandem, are incredibly important when it comes to allowing your body to thermoregulate (the way our body naturally keeps its temperature at an ideal state).
Without breathability, your feet can quickly become overheated, sweaty, and sticky, or in colder weather clammy and chilled. Either case obviously involves quite a bit of discomfort, and in serious events like a race, could pose a serious problem.
While walking is a fairly low-intensity activity, it still puts more wear and tear on your shoes than sitting around the house or office. Durability is a feature you should never settle without.
Shoes that are built to break within a year are not only of poor value for you, but they also harm our environment, contributing to the massive fashion-related waste that pollutes our planet every year. For a sustainable future and efficient closet, look for high-quality materials that will last you years to come.
Speaking of value, the biggest consideration most people have to think about before any of these other features is budget. The price that makes sense for you is personal and depends on your situation.
Consider how often you walk, whether it be on your daily commute, as a hobby, for fitness, as a competitive activity, or just throughout errands and around the house. The more you walk, and the more important it is for you, the more it's worth investing in specialized walking shoes.
What terrain will you walk on most often? The difference between flat ground, such as sidewalks, and natural terrain can be significant. If you're walking off-road, or on natural trails, you might consider walking shoes with greater support.
Running shoes with flared heels are one option if you're planning to step off the sidewalk when you walk. Trails or even grass environments have plenty of opportunities for trips, slips, and other missteps. Ankle rolling, knee injuries, and chin soreness aren't fun anyway, which is why extra support is often suggested for these kinds of terrain.
You can also try hiking shoes or lightweight hiking boots instead of trail running shoes. These are popular options in some parts of the world but have their downsides too. Hiking shoes aren't as lightweight or flexible as walking shoes, and they can be a bit pricier too, as they are more specialized. However, hiking shoes do provide you with a cushioned footbed and some extra arch support to help you tackle tough terrain.
Do you want to also use these shoes for running or other more intense activities? We’re big believers in versatility, but needs for running and other sports shoes can differ from walking shoes. You should research each individual activity you plan to take on to make sure you're fully prepared.
With that said, the best running shoes can often double as walking shoes, provided they allow for flexibility, offer some shock absorption, and are lightweight. In addition, they’re made from materials that can stand up to the elements — no leather or suede.
Likewise, many walking shoes can handle low-intensity runs without issue. Going for a quick jog in the park? No problem. Running a marathon? You should choose some of the best men’s shoes specialized for race running.
Outside of exercise, walking shoes are also super versatile when it comes to casual wear. While you may not wear your heavy-duty hiking boots to get groceries or out to lunch, walking shoes are the perfect go-to.
Do you take slow, casual walks or fit your walks into a busy, active day? If you're like us, you know the hustle and bustle of each day can be a challenge. There are times to slow down and take it easy, but there are also times when optimal efficiency is key.
Here at Kizik, we're doing all we can to add convenience to every step. It starts with our HandsFree Labs® Technology, an innovative design that lets you slip our shoes on with one simple step — no bending, kneeling, or stooping and tying necessary.
Perfect for quickly taking your eager dog out on a walk, ushering the kids to the car, or simply going to check the mail. While it may seem like a small difference, you'll be amazed at how far a bit of convenient quality-of-life improvement goes.
We’ve got a lot of info on the table to help you choose the perfect walking shoes, so let’s top it off by looking at some of our favorite options.
When it comes to versatility and comfort, we’re the top brand to choose from. Our Men’s Lima slip-on shoes pretty much take the cake. In addition to our super convenient HandsFree Labs® Technology, they also have a breathable upper to allow plenty of airflows, lots of flexibility, and plenty of rebound and cushioning from our Rabbit Foam® outsoles. Made with high-quality materials built to last, the Lima can be your go-to walking shoe for years to come.
Our Men’s Athens is the quintessential hands-free footwear style, with a cage design at the heel to give plenty of spring back for easy slipping on and off, plus extra Rabbit Foam in the outsole and a cushioned midsole to really soften every step. Try a pair as well as our Lima’s to have alternative looks throughout your week, and two fresh, comfy styles for just about any occasion.
Wherever your walk of life takes you, you ought to be comfortable and confident with every step. We hope our guides and innovative footwear can be of help to you as you go! For more content like this, as well as products and gift cards, check out our shop, the rest of our Kizik blog, and our style collections.