Running Vs. Walking Shoes: What's the Difference?

Runners love shoes. Did you know that it is best for your body to have a different style of shoes for different things? For example, if you run trails, trail-specific shoes are helpful. Cross-training shoes are good for cardio classes at your favorite gym. While many people think of this, often they neglect walking shoes. Do you know the difference when it comes to running vs. walking shoes?

If you do both, as separate dedicated exercises, you should know the difference. Running vs. walking shoes: everything you need to know.

Running Shoes

Running shoes tend to be lighter than other shoes. In addition, they often have more cushion. Because running is an impact activity, the feet of runners often crave extra cushion to help protect the feet on impact.

Although runners hit the ground at different places on their feet, it is generally true that the impact requires more shock absorption when running then it does when doing other activities. While it is true that your feet also hit the ground every time you step while walking, it is not with the same force as while running.

Some runners strike the ground with the heel of their foot, and the entire foot makes impact with the ground, much like in walking. Other runners are mid-foot strikers while some are toe strikers. A fore-foot striker runs much like a sprinter, up on their toes for most of the run. Because of this, running shoes are often more flexible than walking shoes.

running shoe vs walking shoe differences

Also, because your feet will likely sweat while running, running shoes tend to be made of breathable materials. This also helps to cut down on the weight of the shoe.

Running shoes have structure around the heel to ensure a snug fit with little movement while your feet bend and flex. This is called the heel counter.

Another important aspect of running shoes is the toe box. To prevent movement in the front of the foot, which can result in blisters, a good fit in the toe box is important. If you talk shoes with runners you may hear discussions about “narrow toe boxes” or a “roomy toe box.” Certain styles and brands of shoes tend to have certain features, including the size of the toe box.

Running shoes also tend to be more fun and colorful than walking shoes. They come in amazing colors with cool patterns and such!

Walking Shoes

When you walk, your heel hits the ground first and the foot rolls forward. For most walkers, your entire foot makes contact with the ground at some point (starting with the heel and working all the way to the toes).

As you walk, your body is more adequately supported by the foot. The body’s weight is more evenly distributed across the foot since one foot is always in contact with the ground while walking. If you’ve ever closely examined a truly epic race photo you will notice that both of the racer’s feet are off the ground providing a visual like the runner is floating!

walking shoes

Walking shoes tend to be heavier and are constructed to be flexible through the ball of your foot. This is because your foot will contact the ground through the entire flex of taking a step. Walking shoes tend to have a beveled heel to allow for ease and comfort for the heel strike.

Unless you run in a minimalist shoe, walking shoes will be more flexible than a running shoe. That is assuming you have cushion and control in your running shoe.

Walking shoes are typically made of more solid material instead of the mesh found in running shoes. Sadly, walking shoes tend to be more muted colors than running shoes. Think white, black, and blue.

What About Intervals?

If you have heard about C25K (Couch to 5K) or the Galloway method, you have heard of intervals. When you just start out running you may be doing more walking than running. Guess what? That’s okay! If you are just beginning you may find yourself only running for :60 seconds every few minutes.

First, remember that old saying, “You have to walk before you can run!” It’s okay to walk when you are just starting out. Heck, it’s okay to walk even when you are a running pro. Did you know that people have qualified for the coveted Boston Marathon while using the Galloway method? Yup. It’s true!

If you’re working your way into running, you should indeed have running shoes. Yes, even if you are doing intervals. Why you ask? Because it’s more important to wear shoes appropriate for the part of your workout most likely to wreak havoc on your body.

Since your body experiences a lot of impact while running, you need to be ready for that. If you plan to interval in your shoes you should try the shoes out doing both. You heard that correctly.

When choosing running shoes, you should strongly consider a visit to a local running shoe with a clerk on hand who knows how to do gait and stride analysis. Someone adept at analyzing how you run will ensure you are getting shoes that work for your body.

Many running shoe stores have treadmills so you can put on a few pairs and do your thing. Otherwise, others hook to a sidewalk or running trail for the same purpose. If you plan to interval, make sure your ratchet the speed down and walk some also. Before laying down money on new shoes, be sure they suit all of your purposes.

Specific Shoes to Save Money

Some athletes have separate shoes for everything they do. Think about it. With an average pair of running shoes lasting about 350-500 miles, it makes sense not to walk in them. Also, as we age we are all prone to more injury.

running, cross training, walking shoes

For this reason, it is smart to have separate shoes for cross-training, walking, and running. Unless you combine these activities into one workout, separating shoes will ensure that the big money spent on running shoes won’t be wasted as you put miles on the shoes doing other activities.

There are enough differences in running and walking shoes to merit a pair of each if you regularly engage in both forms of exercise.


The Difference Between Running Shoes and Walking Shoes
Anatomy of a Running Shoe
Galloway Method: Shoe Purchasing

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