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There are two types of people in the world: those that get an exhilarating thrill out of running several miles on any average day and those who, well—can’t seem to wrap their head around this thing called a “runner’s high.” If you fall into the latter category, that doesn’t mean you’re any less active or fit. You can find other, more enjoyable ways to move your body to add into your daily routine, like walking. Even though walking is a low impact form of exercise and takes less exertion than hyping your body up to a consistent running pace, that doesn’t mean it’s any less important to your health. In fact, walking remains a much more attainable way to incorporate more health practices into your life.
According to the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, walking has many health benefits, including promoting weight loss as well as lowering your risk for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
But just as with running, before you head out the door to embark on your walk of the day, it’s important to have an efficient shoe that caters to your foot.
Podiatrists agree that proper walking shoes should be supportive, flexible and provide a bounce tot help you reach your maximum potential for speed, form, comfort and longevity of muscles and joints.
Like running shoes, the best walking shoes are specially designed to propel you forward, says New York-based podiatrist Dr. Jacquelyn Sutera. Before you assume you can wear just any sneaker for your daily walks, keep in mind basketball or tennis shoes won’t be great for walking long distances, as they’re made for lateral or side to side motion.
What to Look for in a Walking Shoe
Whether you’re always on-the-go, or walking is your preferred method of exercise, Dr. Sutera recommends wearing options with arch support, cushioning and thicker soles. If you have exceptionally high arches, you’ll want to find a shoe with the most cushion there to pad where the force is greatest upon contact. With that said, if you’re walking in worn-out shoes that no longer have a cushion in the footbed, it’s time to invest in a new pair and toss the old.
And if you suffer from plantar fasciitis, which typically causes pain in the heel area, Pensacola, Fla-based podiatrist Dr. Grace says it’s especially important to choose styles with ample cushioning and rearfoot support — including features like deep heel cups, firm heel counters and flared heels.
With all this in mind, we rounded up some of the best walking shoes for women according to experts, customer reviews and this writer’s own hands-on product testing. We break down the best shoe for every type of foot — from flat feet to those with high arches — and every type of need — whether you’re searching for a pair to provide lasting comfort while traveling or one that offers the best value on a budget.
In addition to being functional and stylish, some are machine washable for a quick refresh. And remember, the right walking shoes should fit snugly to support your foot while allowing for just the right amount of room to breathe.
Keep reading to meet your match among the best walking shoes for women in 2021. Spoiler alert: You’ll be amazed at how much more enjoyable and efficient your walks can be, simply by switching to the right sneakers.
Most Versatile Walking Sneakers
Designed for comfortable all-day wear, Altra’s Rivera is a wonderful option for various foot types, and especially great for women with slightly wider feet. The most notable feature from Altra is the brand’s patented FootShape. It’s a unique design and shape that gives your feet more space to sit naturally compared to the average sneaker. To the eye, you can visually see how the toe bed appears boxier instead of narrowing out at the toes.
The Rivera is flexible with balanced cushioning that allows for a lower impact landing. It can be used for running, too. If you’re not totally sure of the “type” of foot you have, the Altra Rivera is a safe choice because it touches a little bit of everything you need in a good walking shoe.
Altra has a cult-like following with fans claiming they can’t wear any other sneaker. While the wider style is slightly different than the average sneaker, the comfort and balance outweigh pretty much anything else.
What reviewers say: “I absolutely love this shoe. At 75 years of age, my arch has fallen. My second toes are longer than my big toes and they tend to rub the top of my shoe. I purchased a half size larger and with the excellent arch support, I’ve had no issues. I find myself reaching for them every morning, whether I’m out for my three-mile walk or just moving around.”
Hoka One One Clifton 7
Best Walking Shoes for High Arches
Earning the American Podiatrist Medical Association’s (APMA’s) seal of acceptance for promoting good foot health, Hoka One One’s Clifton 7 boasts marshmallow-like cushioning with full compression EVA midsoles and a plush collar designed to ease pressure on the Achilles tendon. You’ve probably seen the name Hoka tossed around, as the brand gained massive popularity over the last few years. The cushion on these babies is no joke, and should feel great for anyone with high arches, back and heel pain.
Sure, the unique design of this platform-like cushion is stylish, but it’s more functional with a foam footbed that helps absorb shock without putting too much pressure on your knees. Combined with a supportive fit, the Clifton 7s from Hoka bring the best of all worlds to the table.
The style comes in an array of colorways and extended sizes, while the Meta-Rocker design promotes a smooth stride from heel-strike through toe-off. They’re designed to propel you forward so power walking (and running) feel like much less work. They’re a great option for walking and running and will become that one pair of sneakers you won’t ever want to take off, even after a long day.
What reviewers say: “Great fit! Really helped me with heel pain and back pain. Can feel the gel in the sole of the shoe and it makes all the difference. I also think they are really cute!”
Best Walking Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis and Bunions
Vionic shoes (in general) come highly recommended by podiatrists because they simply make your feet feel good and perform easily. And the Tokyo sneaker is approved by the APMA for helping with foot problems like plantar fasciitis and bunions.
This style offers a snug mesh upper, durable rubber outsoles and a cushioned tongue and collar for added ankle support. It also features a removable orthotic insert to add bounce to your step throughout the day and Advanced Motion System technology for added stability. The result is better mobility and added comfort. They also have a breathable mesh fabric to help keep you cool and avoid moisture-induced infections like athlete’s foot. Vionic prioritizes combatting health issues and the result is a game-changing sneaker that keeps you moving while you heal.
What reviewers say: “Love all my Vionic shoes, but especially athletic shoes as they support my arch and keep my plantar fasciitis away when exercising. Recently, I noticed my feet ached and my legs were especially tired after my long walks and decided it might be time for new Vionics. My last ones were the best I’d had to date, but the Tokyo style gives even more support and has a substantial sole. Tried these on and haven’t taken them off.”
APL Techloom Pro
Most Stylish Walking Sneakers
When you’re shopping for a pair of new walking sneakers, it’s important to look for function first and style second. APL’s Techloom Pros however, hit both nails on the head. Lightweight, flexible and supportive, the Techloom Pro is APL’s signature running shoe with a cult following. Sure, they are uber-stylish, but they’re also undeniably comfortable thanks to Propelium cushioning throughout the midsole and outsole.
The small-but-mighty layer of cushion adds just enough foam without eliminating the foot-on-the-ground support. And the breathable flexible fabric molds to whatever type of foot you have. New mom and former “Glee” star Lea Michele is among those who love to slip on a pair for running errands and everyday walks.
What reviewers say: “Very comfortable! I have tendinitis in my feet and ankles and very high arches, and these shoes are supportive and cushy.”
Ryka Devotion 2
Best Budget-Friendly Walking Shoes
Featuring over 2,000 five-star ratings, the Ryka Devotion Plus 2 is equipped with a plush, multilayer construction that’s designed for reliable comfort and support. The sneaker’s gradient-style colorway and chunky multi-toned outsole also add an interesting touch to this walking shoe.
The foot pads are removable, making it easy to add insoles for additional support or a more customized fit. The shoes have a lovely cushion inside combined with a tread that can tackle a variety of terrain. They’re roomy (great for, but not limited to, people who have a wider foot) with a soft-yet-sturdy fabric reviewers praise for providing out-of-the-box comfort.
What reviewers say: “This is the fifth pair of Ryka Devotion Plus 2 walking shoes I’ve bought. After having back surgery ten years ago, I find myself needing shoes with enough cushion and support to make sure my back won’t ache after I have walked for a while. These do the trick! I have been very happy with every pair.”
“When I put the shoe on it was like butter for my foot. They’re very comfortable.”
Allbirds Wool Runners
Most Sustainable Walking Shoes
If you prioritize sustainability, consider investing in Allbirds’ Wool Runners. Available in a wide variety of attractive colors, these shoes are both comfortable and responsibly made — featuring uppers made of ethically sourced and renewable merino wool and plush insoles composed of castor oil. To top it all off, the merino wool construction makes the pair super breathable and machine washable, too.
A bonus is that you can go sockless in these without compromising comfort (say goodbye to foot odor and blisters). They’re an easy, stylish travel shoe that can handle days of exploring a new city and trekking miles around town for work or play. They feel like supportive slippers you won’t ever want to take off.
What reviewers say: “This is my second pair of Wool Runners and I just adore them. They are complete perfection — they fit true to size and are completely comfortable for walking around endless hours. And they are the only running-style shoe I’ve ever felt comfortable wearing without socks.”
Saucony Echelon 8
Most Supportive Walking Shoe
A running shoe that provides cushion and support for walkers too is the Saucony Echelon 8. The sneaker has a roomy toe box made of mesh so toes can breathe and move freely. Plus, the ultra-plush footbed is built to supply underfoot comfort for different activities.
But the most notable feature is the well-rounded support this sneaker brings to your foot. From the tread to the snug lacing system, your foot will be protected and supported to the max with the Saucony Echelon 8.
What reviewers say: “I have bunions and a hammertoe along with a bad back. Wearing these sneakers makes my life so much more comfortable when I’m out doing errands or just walking around my house. I’m so happy with this purchase!”
New Balance FuelCore NERGIZE
Most Lightweight Walking Shoe
Featuring a durable and responsive foam REVlite midsole, New Balance’s FuelCore NERGIZE is a great walking shoe. Found at a solid price point, the NERGIZE has a sleek knit upper that provides lightweight comfort, too. This pair is easy to wear and pack, making it a good fit for anyone’s sneaker arsenal.
Not only do these shoes bring comfortable cushioning, but like your favorite pair of sweatpants, are breathable and flexible via feel-good mesh.
What reviewers say: “Comfy shapes with exactly the support I was expecting. Wear them around the house, and my feet, knees and back are much happier.”
Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit 2
Best Everyday Walking Sneaker
A sneaker list without a pair of Nikes is like pizza without toppings: It just doesn’t make sense. One of the most popular Nike styles right now is the React Infinity Run Flyknit. This second iteration of the FlyKnit style is even more lightweight, stylish and extremely versatile. You get a midsole cushion you can rely on for countless miles. This sneaker literally works for everyone, providing a stable feel on your foot and comfortable cushioned footbed without compromising style.
It’s the type of shoe that instantly adds energy to your walk or run through its responsive foam. Plus, the cushioning absorbs impact and evenly distributes your weight, so you’ll want to keep on moving without your feet ever hurting. The knit material feels more like a sock than a sneaker, adding even more comfort to this dreamy versatile sneaker.
What reviewers say: “I tried these on and didn’t want to take them off; they are so comfortable. They have a lot of bounce, tons of arch support and just make walking feel better somehow. My left foot, ankle and knee are messed up, and these add cushion to soften the impact and reduce pain.”
Brooks Launch 7
Best Walking Shoes for Motion Control
While we love to cover the latest and greatest, sometimes it’s a classic staple that deserves a spot on this list.
Known as a really good running shoe (and almost a decade old), the Brooks Launch 7 is also optimal for walking thanks to its breathable and supportive mesh upper, BioMoGo midsole technology and cushioned rubber outsole. Additionally, the silhouette features a nearly seamless internal construction for a lightweight barely-there feel.
The best thing about this pair is that the cushion adds just enough spring in your step while supporting the body’s natural forward walking/running motion. It offers a perfectly balanced ratio of responsiveness and control, along with a cushion that softens impact without feeling too squishy.
What reviewers say: “The support of this shoe is outstanding. I just tried a different style but found it wasn’t as supportive, so went back to my standby shoe. I’ve had the Launch shoe for 8+ years. I won’t buy anything else from now on. Please keep selling this shoe.”
Columbia Women’s Facet 30 Outdry Hiking Shoe
Best All-Weather Walking Sneakers
If you’re walking beyond your neighborhood sidewalk into the woods or mountains, consider investing in a walking shoe with all-weather tread. Columbia’s Outdry Hiking shoe is a sneaker-boot that remains ultra-lightweight and breathable without compromising cushion or support.
It’s designed to support your feet as you walk or run on any type of terrain, and in any weather conditions. In these, you can go to great lengths without fear of getting your socks wet, as they’re equipped with a quick-drying feature. They provide the perfect combination of function, style and ease of wear, with a self-lacing system and cool comfort for any off-road activity.
What Reviewers Say: “I’m just getting into hiking and this shoe has been great. I don’t feel the rocks at all. It keeps me stable through any trail. It was a great buy!”
Asics Gel-Quantum 180
Best Walking Sneakers for Flat Feet
With over 2,500 near-perfect Amazon reviews, Asics’ Gel Quantum 180 rightfully earns a spot on this list. This style is great for women with flat feet, as it offers the necessary stability and control for fallen arches via a firm-but-not-too-firm gel-infused footbed. (Women with flat feet should avoid choosing styles with foamy platform insoles.) The result is a sneaker that allows your foot to feel supported on the ground with a layer of bouncy gel for a cloudlike feel and responsive pep in your step.
This style comes in nine different color combos and fits true to size. It’s technically a running sneaker that provides everything you need in a walking shoe, too, making it a worthy investment.
What Reviewers Say: “I really like that these shoes are so light. I walked in these shoes on day one for more than 10 hours and my feet never hurt. They provide great support, great cushion and are quite stylish. The quality seems to be what you would expect from an Asics shoe. I specifically bought these for work because I walk on concrete and needed the additional cushion. So far, these have held up well and I really like them.”