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Walking Shoes vs. Running Shoes. Is There Really a Difference?
Wearing the right kind of shoes is key to keeping your joints and muscles healthy when you embark on a run, walk or hike. You might think that simply buying a pair of good, expensive shoes allows you to do all, but that’s actually not accurate. Your body reacts differently to different types of exercise, especially running and walking, because you use your feet differently.
If you’re a runner, you might bring your foot down first on your heel and roll forward to the ball of your foot. You may also land on the ball of your foot first and then push off. Much depends on your style and comfort level. Running is a higher impact exercise and each time your foot comes down, your body absorbs approximately three times your body weight.
Conversely, walkers all walk much the same way, with the heel of the foot making contact with the ground first before the foot, and thus the body’s weight, rolls forward to the ball and then the toes. It’s a less impactful exercise, with your body absorbing about one and a half times your body weight. Walking also distributes the weight more evenly for your feet and your legs.
“Shoe” Me the Way
Running shoes tend to be lighter in weight but heavier in cushioning, especially for the heel and the toe. Since running is a more intense sport, runners tend to exert more energy. Your feet get hot, and most running shoes are made of mesh to allow air to move freely. This mesh also keeps the shoe lighter.
Walking shoes, which didn’t even exist until 1986, don’t need to be as light and breathable but they do need to provide good arch support. If you have a high arch on your food, you probably have less natural shock absorption so the walking shoe you choose should have more cushioning than less. If you have flat feet, you also have less support which can lead to muscle and joint stress. You need walking shoes that offer stability.
The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine notes that good walking shoes and good running shoes both offer stability, cushioning and allow for a smooth stride. Here are four main differences to keep in mind when considering each type of shoe:
- The sole. Running shoes will have a stiffer sole; walking shoes have more flex and blend.
- Heels. Running shoes have thick heel wedges to provide more cushion. A thick heel when walking can actually cause tendinitis or shin splints, and can even cause a walker wearing a running shoe to trip. Walking shoe heels are more beveled.
- Motion control. Because the rotation of the foot is more exaggerated when running, most running shoes offer motion control to keep the foot more neutral. Walking shoes tend to provide less stability because it’s not as necessary.
- Weight. Running shoes are lightweight for moving, hopefully, faster. Walking shoes aren’t necessarily heavy, but they’re always heavier than running shoes.
Whether you’re a walker or a runner, having appropriate shoes is key to keeping your body and sole healthy. Both types of shoes will provide good support for between 300 and 500 miles. And because of the cardiovascular benefits, both will help keep you heart beating strong for life.