Walking brings a host of health and wellness benefits – it strengthens muscles, improves cardiovascular health, helps maintain a healthy weight, boosts vitamin D levels, and can even enhance mental health. But in order to reap these rewards, you have to make sure you have proper footwear. The right supportive shoes can make walking feel effortless, while flimsy sneakers or unsupportive flats will leave your feet throbbing after even short distances.
If you spend a good part of your day on your feet – whether walking for exercise, running errands, commuting, or standing at work – having shoes with adequate arch support and cushioning is crucial. The strain of impact without proper padding leads to aches and pains that will only intensify over time. Unstable footwear can throw off your natural gait, leading to knee, hip and back issues down the road.
We want walking to feel good, not painful! This is why choosing shoes designed for optimal comfort and support is key. In this article, we’ll outline the top features to look for when shopping for supportive walking shoes. We’ve also done the legwork and curated the 5 best everyday walking shoes that provide cushioning and stability in spades. Read on to learn about the ideal kicks to keep you striding in comfort.
What to Look for in Supportive Walking Shoes
Your walking shoes should fit and feel great right out of the box, but there are some key characteristics that ensure they promote proper foot alignment and keep you comfortable mile after mile:
The arch – or midfoot – serves as your foot’s shock absorbing system. When the arch drops excessively as you walk, this leads to overpronation. Conversely, if you have high arches, the foot is stiff and doesn’t absorb impact – which can cause supination.
Shoes with adequate arch reinforcement prevent the foot from rolling or flattening too much. This stabilizes the foot for a more efficient gait. Look for an arch ridge inside the shoe and midsole material that molds to the arch without compressing fully.
Those with flat feet do best with sturdy stability shoes to prevent overpronation. If you have high arches, seek out shoes with extra cushioning to encourage midfoot flexibility. Those with a neutral foot type can wear neutral cushioned shoes.
Impact cushioning is important for comfort during walking. Midsoles and insoles made of materials like EVA foam serve to absorb heel impact upon footstrike. Full length foam provides softness under the entire foot.
Cushioning also prevents jarring up the kinetic chain. Good padding at pressure points protects joints, keeping pain at bay even when walking long distances. Make sure to try on shoes and test out how the cushioning feels.
Motion control refers to stabilizing features that prevent too much foot rotation and promote an efficient stride. This includes midsole material to discourage pronation, plus reinforcements to make the shoe more rigid in key areas.
For the overpronator, a straight last design with dense, reinforced midsole prevents the arch from compressing and foot from rolling inward excessively. Those needing more midfoot flexibility will prefer a curved last.
Proper airflow keeps feet dry and cool during activity. Walking shoes constructed with breathable mesh uppers have ventilation panels that allow air to pass through. Some models also have moisture wicking linings to dissipate perspiration, preventing hotspots and blisters.
Leather or vinyl overlays add structure while still permitting adequate airflow. Just say no to plastic uppers that block ventilation, causing uncomfortable overheating.
The lighter the shoe, the less weight and drag on your feet as you walk. Newer midsole foams and mesh uppers cut down on shoe bulk without compromising cushioning. Midsole cutouts also shed weight from areas that don’t require as much padding.
If walking long distances, choose the lightest shoe that still meets your foot support needs. Carrying excess weight with every step tires out feet faster.
While the heel and midfoot need to fit snugly, the toe box should have some room for toes to spread out. Restricting toes causes irritation over time. Look for a wide or round toe box shape and sufficient overhead clearance for pain-free range of motion.
The heel cup should stabilize and secure the heel to prevent sliding. Low collars lead to constant readjusting. Taller collars with integrated lacing systems lock the heel in comfortably. Internal heel counters also promote rearfoot stability.
Key areas like the upper, outsole and midsole should withstand daily usage without breaking down quickly. Abrasion-resistant rubber outsoles have better traction and longevity. Durable uppers made of leather/nylon resist tearing.
Don’t choose shoes that seem flimsy right off the shelf. Sturdy construction prolongs the life of your investment.
No two feet are the same – that’s why fit should take priority over looks or brand names when shopping for shoes. Try shoes on in the afternoon when feet are slightly swollen. Wear the socks you’ll use for walking.
Ideally, walking shoes should fit snug in the heel with minimal slipping, have a secure midfoot wrap, and roomy toe box for splaying toes without tightness. Pressure points mean the shoe is too small. 1/2 inch gap between the longest toe and end of shoe is perfect.
Take time to walk around the store to get a feel for comfort and support. Shoes that need no break-in are unlikely to maintain foot health long term. Expect some initial stiffness that softens after a few weeks.
Now that you know what makes a walking shoe truly supportive for all day wear, read on for our top 5 choices that deliver on all fronts.
The Top 5 Supportive Everyday Walking Shoes
1. Asics Gel-Tech Walker Neo
Notable features: Ortholite X-40 insole, Rearfoot and Forefoot GEL cushioning, Durable rubber outsole, Monosock construction
Benefits: The GEL cushioning absorbs shock evenly throughout the footfall. The insole provides long-lasting cushioned comfort. The outsole has zones of varying traction and flexibility for a smooth transition. Designed to support and stabilize.
Ideal for: Supinators seeking flexible cushioning. Walking for exercise, commuting, everyday use.
Pros: Generous cushioning without heaviness, secure lace-up fit, comfortable padded collar
Cons: Runs narrow, limited colorways
Average rating: 4.2/5 stars (890+ reviews)
Price range: $65 – $120
The Asics Walker Neo has all the signature features of the leading athletic brand at a reasonable price point. Reviewers praise the plush feel right out of the box, with generous GEL pads cushioning every step. The insole and padded tongue and collar prevent hotspots for irritation-free all day wear. While sizing runs narrow, the secure lacing helps custom tune the fit. With miles of cushioned comfort, the Walker Neo earns its spot as a top walking shoe.
2. New Balance MW877
Notable features: ENCAP midsole, Rollbar stability technology, Premium leather upper, Dual-density collar foam
Benefits: The polyurethane midsole provides durable cushioning and support. The patented stability system prevents overpronation. The leather upper is breathable yet supportive. Maximum rearfoot control.
Ideal for: Overpronators. Walking on paved surfaces. Standing all day. Casual workplace attire.
Pros: Roomy toe box, good forefoot flex, long-lasting construction
Cons: Break-in period, sizing runs large
Average rating: 4.5/5 stars (2,000+ reviews)
Price range: $70 – $135
New Balance is renowned for superior support and stability, and the 877 model lives up to the reputation. Reviewers are impressed by the immediate comfort and security of the ergonomic midsole. The heel stabilizer and padded collar provide unmatched rearfoot control. While break-in takes some patience, customers report the leather upper molds beautifully. True to size after the initial stretch period. With unbeatable motion control, the 877 earns a spot among the greats.
3. Saucony Echelon LE2
Notable Features: EVERUN topsole, Arch-Lock design, TPU guidance frame, FORMFIT contoured sockliner
Benefits: EVERUN topsole provides enhanced energy return and continuous cushioning. Arch-Lock adapts to foot shape for custom stability. Guidance frame stabilizes stride. Contoured sockliner prevents hotspots.
Ideal for: Neutral walkers. Concrete and asphalt surfaces. Athleisure style.
Pros: Responsive cushioning, comfortable security, breathable upper
Cons: Narrow overall, runs small
Average rating: 4.4/5 stars (1,300+ reviews)
Price range: $100 – $150
Saucony’s Echelon LE2 offers a springy ride and custom stability for low-impact walking. Walkers praise the dynamic feel of the responsive EVERUN topsole, which absorbs impact then energizes the foot for an effortless stride. The arch-hugging midsole keeps feet aligned and supported on varied terrain. Half sizes are recommended to dial in the ideal fit. While snug at first, the breathable upper has stretch to adapt. For a secure yet lively feel, the Echelon LE2 hits all the right notes.
4. HOKA One One Bondi SR
Notable Features: Full compression molded midsole, Meta-Rocker geometry, Ortholite molded insole, Extended medial support
Benefits: Maximum shock absorption and energy return. Smooth heel to toe transition. Long-lasting cushioning and moisture management. Enhanced support prevents overpronation.
Ideal for: Overpronators. Heavier walkers. Hard surfaces.Athletic leisure style.
Pros: Ultimate cushioned comfort, much lighter than expected
Cons: Narrow, holds heat
Average Rating: 4.3/5 stars (780+ reviews)
Price Range: $140 – $165
HOKA One One has cultivated a die-hard following for their pillowy cushioned kicks, and the Bondi SR is instantly recognizable with its chunky midsole. But it feels much lighter than it looks! The compression molded EVA midsole absorbs the hardest impacts, while the rockered profile encourages smooth transitions. The extended medial support prevents feet from collapsing inward. Fans rave this is cloud walking at its finest – just watch for heat buildup and snugness across the metatarsals. For featherlight comfort, the Bondi SR floats to the top.
5. Brooks Addiction Walker V-Strap
Notable Features: Extended Progressive Diagonal Rollbar, full grain leather upper, adjustable hook and loop straps, HydroFlow technology
Benefits: Provides maximum pronation control. Secure adjustable fit. Moisture-managing lining keeps feet cool and dry. Slip-resistant outsole.
Ideal for: Severe overpronators. Walking on slippery surfaces. Professional settings.
Pros: Incredible stability and motion control. Versatile. Roomy toe box.
Cons: Bulky & heavy. Break-in period. Runs large.
Average Rating: 4.1/5 stars (1,100+ reviews)
Price Range: $140 – $160
The Brooks Addiction Walker appeals to even the most severe overpronators who require maximum motion control. It’s equipped with one of the strongest stability systems on the market, preventing the foot from collapsing inward and keeping the gait smooth. The adjustable straps hug the midfoot securely while the roomy toe box allows natural splaying. The outsole grip shines on slick surfaces. Customers say this shoe cycles out miles of punishing pavement, concrete and treadmills while sparing feet and joints from jarring. Yes, it takes dedication to break in the sturdy construction. But the superior control makes the Addiction a top choice for flat-footed power walking needs.
Dialing in the Perfect Fit
Now that we’ve outlined some solid supportive options, it’s vital to focus on fit when selecting your shoes. Here are some tips for getting the size right:
- Measure feet in the afternoon when slightly swollen from activity rather than first thing in the morning. Feet expand as you use them.
- Always measure and fit both feet – they are often different sizes. Fit shoes to the larger foot.
- Wear the type of socks you plan to use for walking – thicker athletic socks take up more room than thin socks.
- Try shoes on after a workout when feet are expanded and warm. Cold feet in the morning don’t provide an accurate gauge.
- Press on the widest part of the shoe to ensure toes aren’t pinched and have wiggle room to splay. Your longest toe should have a 1/2 inch space between it and the shoe tip.
- Walk on tile or wood floors at the store to determine if heels slip or brace too tightly. The heel should sit securely in the cup without lifting.
- Don’t chose a shoe for its looks alone – go for optimal function and test the feel under your specific foot. Pressure points indicate improper sizing.
- Expect some break-in period as shoes adapt to your foot profile. But shoes that are painfully tight out of the box are unlikely to stretch enough.
Finding the sweet spot between a taught, braces midfoot and heel with enough toe room for natural flexion may take trying a few options. But nailing the fit will ensure your shoes support and cushion feet properly mile after mile.
Caring for Your Investment
The right walking shoes can clock serious mileage day in and day out. Let’s make sure we extend their lifespan and retain support through proper care:
- Always allow shoes to fully air out and dry between wears to prevent bacterial buildup. Consider using shoe trees to help retain shape.
- Spot clean leather/vinyl uppers as needed using mild cleanser and soft brush. Never submerge.
- Use a washing machine gentle cycle to clean dirt from mesh uppers occasionally, then air dry. Detergent can degrade cushioning foams.
- Apply waterproofing sprays to protect leather and suede materials. Use anti-bacterial sprays as well.
- Replace insoles every 6-12 months depending on how frequently they are worn. Don’t wait for them to fully compress.
- Add your own orthotics but remove original insole first if a tight fit.
- Monitor outsole tread – resole shoes once tread appears worn to restore grip and prolong use.
- Uppers can be repaired by a cobbler, but midsoles lose their integrity over time regardless of use.
- As soon as cushioning feels flat or support lacking, it’s time to replace shoes with fresh support – 300 to 500 miles tops.
Rotate between pairs of shoes to allow foam materials to fully rebound before each wear. Investing in proper storage and maintenance will ensure your shoes provide the support you need for the long haul.
Walk On! Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How often should you replace walking shoes?
Every 300 to 500 miles or about every 6 to 12 months. Replace sooner if cushioning feels compromised.
Q: Are more expensive shoes always better for support?
Not necessarily. Focus first on fit, comfort features and intended use rather than price alone.
Q: Can supportive walking shoes work for running errands and everyday activities?
Yes, they provide proper cushioning and stability for general daily use. Change to dedicated running shoes for frequent jogs.
Q: Can I wear my walking shoes comfortably to the office?
Many of the top rated walking shoes highlighted have a casual aesthetic suitable for workplaces. Focus on support features first.
Q: Do I need a wide width if I have naturally wide feet?
Wider widths help ensure a comfortable fit if your feet are on the wider side. Be sure feet are measured properly.
Q: Should I wear orthotics with my walking shoes?
You can, just be sure to fit shoes to the orthotics by wearing them when trying on shoes. Remove original insole if tight.
Q: What’s the best way to break in new walking shoes?
Wear them initially for short periods to stretch them incrementally. Massage, flex and bend the shoes to help loosen them up faster.
Q: How should I clean mesh or leather walking shoes?
Use a gentle leather cleaner and brush for leather. For mesh, wash in gentle machine cycle and air dry to avoid damage.
Q: How can I find walking shoes on sale?
Check manufacturer websites and retailers for seasonal sales when new models are launched. Sign up for emails and promos.
The Path to Happy Feet
We hope this guide has shed light on what makes a walking shoe truly supportive for all-day comfort. Keep these key factors in mind when choosing your next pair:
- Arch support suits foot type – high, neutral or flat arches
- Cushioning absorbs impact forces and enhances comfort
- Motion control technologies promote optimal foot alignment
- Lightweight, breathable materials prevent foot fatigue
- Roomy toe box allows natural toe splay
- Snug heel cup stabilizes each step
- Durable construction stands up to repeated pavement impact
- Perfect fit means no slippage or pressure points during wear
Start your search by checking out our 5 top picks with rave reviews. Taking time to properly fit your shoes makes all the difference. Shop late season sales to keep your support refreshed every 6 to 12 months.
Your feet work hard enough each day – treat them to supportive shoes that cushion every step! Happy walking!