8 Retail Brands That Sell the Best Quality Walking Shoes
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It's said that you never really know someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes. What we do know is that we'd be happy to walk for miles, as long as we have good-quality walking shoes.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), "Walking shoes provide stability through the arch, good shock absorption, and a smooth tread." They explain that since walking uses a "heel-toe gait pattern," a good sneaker will have a stable counter, "the back of the shoe that holds the heel in place."
While this is sound advice, it doesn't necessarily help narrow down which brands are best. That's why we consulted retail experts and podiatrists to get their advice on which ones go the distance. Read on for the retail brands that sell the best quality walking shoes.
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This athletic shoe disruptor made waves when it launched in 2016 for its claims to comfort, sustainability, and performance, with stores popping up on luxury shopping streets and malls. In addition to the convenience of being machine-washable, Allbirds' popular wool shoes are a favorite among runners, walkers, and Silicon Valley trendsetters.
"These routinely make lists of the best walking shoes, especially because they're great for travel and sustainably made," says Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews.com. "There are a number of varieties to choose from, including waterproof ones that are especially great for traveling and unpredictable weather patterns, but they're also some of the only fashionable-looking shoes that offer comfort and support out there."
Prices start at around $100, but loyalists say they're worth every penny. Ramhold suggests signing up for emails from the brand so that you'll know if discounts are on the way. Stores like REI also carry select styles and occasionally put them on sale.
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Classic sneaker brand New Balance has been around since 1906, but it continues to find new ways to boost comfort and competitive edge. For especially comfy walking shoes, Ramhold suggests their Fresh Foam line, which is known for its thick, cushioned heels.
"If chunky heels bother you (as some athletic shoes seem to have), there are enough Fresh Foam styles that you can find some that have a more streamlined appearance," notes Ramhold. "I personally can vouch for the comfort of the Fresh Foam Arishi series as they're the only shoes I have that let me spend significant amounts of time on my feet without any back pain."
While you can shop New Balance directly and catch a sale, Ramhold suggests checking out Joe's New Balance Outlet "for lower prices in general and deals that are more frequent."
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The 30-year-old chain Skechers has become synonymous with comfort. Their walking shoes include many slip-on, lace-less options, which are popular among older consumers.
Ramhold notes that for walking, their GO WALK line makes a lot of best-of lists. As Skechers breaks down on their website, within this line, you can choose four different technologies—Arch Fit, Massage Fit, Workout Walker, and Hyper Burst—depending on the type of walking you're doing (everyday walking versus fitness walking) and your foot needs.
Lots of retailers carry Skechers products, including Kohl's, Macy's, and even Costco at times. "The biggest thing to watch for if shopping these stores rather than Skechers direct is that sometimes coupons or sales will exclude the brand, so be sure to read the fine print," cautions Ramhold.
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Another classic runners' brand, Brooks is known for its high-quality sneakers that offer support, comfort, and protection in a wide range of styles with features like shock absorption, arch support, and breathable materials.
"I highly recommend considering them when searching for the best walking shoes," says Daniel Pledger, a podiatrist and founder of ePodiatrists. "What makes the brand stand out is their commitment to providing the best fit and support for the feet. They invest in research and development to constantly improve their products and offer a variety of widths and sizes to ensure a proper fit for every foot type. Additionally, their walking shoes are designed with durable materials to withstand daily wear and tear, providing long-lasting comfort for the feet."
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The popular Swiss contenders On have been spotted on chic feet for a while now. The brand is unique for its patented CloudTec cushioning technology: tiny pods ("clouds") on the soles that compress with each step to absorb impact. On is also known for the convenient speed lacing system that uses elastic laces so you can slip the shoes on and off quickly and easily.
"One of the reasons that On Cloud is great for walking or standing all day is the design of the shoe provides more stability to the foot for leg alignment. That's going to prevent a lot of aches and pains from knees or ankles falling inward," explains Amanda Brooks, certified running coach and editor of the Run to the Finish blog. "On Cloud is going to provide you with support, average weight, and moderate cushion. In fact, I actually prefer most On running shoes for walking!"
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A Good Housekeeping panel of experts and testers echoed many reviews of the Hoka brand for walking: "The thick cushioning on [the Bondi 8] from Hoka can seem intimidating at first, but it's a game changer if you're walking long distances or recovering from an injury… With medium and wide sizing, the shoes offer neutral stability with plush cushioning."
This brand is pricey, though, with sneakers ranging from $140 to over $200.
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Sneakers aren't suitable for every event, and sometimes they just aren't the right look. For non-sneaker walking shoes, Ramhold says, "I like Naturalizer and Børn, both of which do high quality, comfortable, supportive shoes that are great for being on your feet and walking all day. I once walked 100-some of blocks in a pair of 3.5-inch heels from Naturalizer and my feet were fine–I wouldn't recommend a very high heel for all-day walking, but I've done it."
These classic footwear brands can be found at shoe specialist department stores and online sources like Nordstrom, which carries an impressive selection.
For walking in winter or bad weather, classic "Blunnies" get votes for their rugged-yet-stylish appeal. Blundstone boots are light, comfortable, offer good support, and are durable. "I have friends and clients who swear by Blundstone once they are broken in," shares Ramhold.
According to the brand's website, the Tasmania-made boots feature "underfoot comfort systems providing superior shock absorption and comfort" and soles "designed and engineered to reduce fatigue and orthopedic problems in the lower [back]."