Brisk walking is one of the simplest and best exercises you can do to protect your heart, so put your best foot forward. A low-impact exercise that you can do almost anywhere, walking is both practical and popular. Another oft-mentioned perk of walking: the only gear you really need is a comfortable pair of shoes. Experts recommend changing shoes every 500 kms or so. Here’s what you should check before buying shoes for yourself
- Soft cushioning: A soft inner sole relieves pressure on the foot
- Stability: A sturdy area around your heel keeps your foot from slipping
- Space: Don’t crowd the toes. Give them plenty of room with a wide toe box
- Length: You need at least half an inch beyond your longest toe.
- Material: Look for uppers with some stretch, such as fabric
Some additional advice
Shop late in the day. Because your feet tend to expand by the end of the day, it’s best to try on new shoes when your feet are at their largest.
Choose socks first. The thickness of your socks affects how your shoes fit, so find some you like and take them to the shoe store. Avoid 100% cotton socks, which stay damp if they get wet, setting you up for a blister. Synthetic or cotton-synthetic blends will wick away moisture.
Give it a bend. Grab the toe and heel of a shoe and pull them toward each other. The shoe should bend easily at the ball of the foot. If it doesn’t, look for another style that does. The flexibility offers a greater range of motion and an easier push-off.
Look for a low heel. Stay away from shoes with big bulky heels, which can hinder the natural rolling foot motion of walking and may make you more prone to tripping.
Check for wiggle room. Allow at least one finger’s width between your longest toe and the front of your shoe, as your feet may swell more in warm weather and on longer walks.
Take a test walk. To get a feel for the shoe, take a few laps around the store. Try on a few different brands, with one on each foot for a side-by-side comparison. If you notice any rubbing, discomfort, or sore spots, try a different pair.
Comfort is the most important factor, and a shoe should feel good as soon as you slip it on. But don’t assume that the more support and cushioning a walking shoe has, the better. Some research suggests that thinner, more flexible soles put less stress on the knees, perhaps because they allow your foot to move in a more natural fashion.