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Running vs walking shoes: What’s the difference?

Your feet provide support to the rest of your body, so not any old shoe will do. Whether you are a runner, casual walker, or somewhere in between, it’s important to pick out the right pair of shoes so you can both comfortably and effectively move. While walking and running appear to be similar movements, their dynamics are completely different. Because of this, walking and running shoes can’t be casually interchanged.

When it comes to running, you are hitting the ground with 3 times your body weight, putting more stress on your feet due to the pounding, while also getting in more steps. Walking causes you to hit the ground with 1.5 times your bodyweight, with a less exertion and fewer steps. Regardless of the intensity of your activity, With the right footwear, you’ll be able to prevent both injury and aches with the right footwear.

What is the difference between running and walking shoes?


In order to absorb impact while running, you need a bit more protection on the sole of your foot, so runners need more cushioning in the forefront of the shoe and in the heel. Because walking exerts less force, walking shoes tend to be less cushioned and more lightweight. However, that doesn’t mean your running shoes are going to be heavy. Fortunately, most of running shoes feature supportive cushioning that won’t weigh your feet down.

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The heel

In order to provide runners with maximum stability, you will typically find a running shoe that has an elevated, flared out heel. The heightened heel helps keep a neutral foot, preventing pronation. While there is a lot of contention about the where runners strike the ground with their feet (the heel vs. midfoot vs. the toe), running shoes are designed with the heel toe drop in mind, which is why the heel is built up.

When it comes to walking shoes, the heel does not need to be too high because weight is more evenly distributed on the feet while walking – walking tends to produce a rolling motion in the feet. Straight cut or undercut heels will make it easier for you to achieve a natural walk, especially if you’re athletically walking.


Because of the extra cushioning, running shoes tend to be less flexible than walking shoes. However, you’ll find increased flexibility in different areas on different shoes. Depending on how you hit the ground while running, you may want a running shoe that’s flexible at the ball of the foot. Alternatively, a flexible running shoe at the midfoot is ideal for the heel toe runner. Similarly, you’ll find flexibility at the front of shoe and in the midfoot when it comes to walking shoes. While this seems like a tricky situation for both shoes, you just have to decide what works best for you.

The price tag

Running shoes are typically going to be more expensive than walking shoes. Because of the impact of running, the soles of running sneakers tend to wear out more quickly, so you’ll have to get a new pair running shoes more frequently. While it may be tempting to delay the purchase of a new pair of sneakers, if you continue running in worn out shoes, you’re more prone to injury.

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Can you use running shoes for walking?

Technically, the answer is yes. The flared heel and extra cushioning might make it somewhat difficult for you to achieve a rolling stride, but the extra support never hurts. If you consider yourself an athletic or power walker, a running shoe may be your solution for the in between of walking and running. Let’s just keep in mind that you definitely can’t use walking shoes for running – your feet and legs will suffer. If you dabble in other sports or cross train, it’s time to add another pair of shoes to the collection, because you need a different type of shoe for exercise outside of running.

No matter what your movement style is, your body deserves supportive footwear. You only have one body, so make sure you take care of it! With the proper cushioning and flexibility, you’ll be able to endure miles worth of running and walking with minimal pain. Now that you know the differences between the two types of footwear and what to look for, it’ll be a lot simpler to choose your next pair of active shoes. At the end of the day, as long as your feet are comfortable, you are doing something right.

The Manual Contributor
Former Digital Trends Contributor
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