Can running shoes be used for walking?

They can make us run faster and have a myriad of biomechanical features to support our foot landing – but when we decide to go slower, can running shoes be used for walking?

Running and walking involve different types of movement. When walking, one foot always stays on the ground, but when running, there is a moment when both feet are in the air. So choosing the best shoes for walking may not be as easy as putting on an old pair of running shoes.

A study of differences in muscle function during walking and running published in the Journal of Biomechanics (opens in a new tab) concluded that running produced greater power in certain leg muscles, particularly the soleus, hip and knee extensors. But all other muscle groups distributed mechanical power and provided support and forward propulsion in the same way when walking. and functioning. There seems to be some overlap in how muscles work when we walk and run.

We spoke to Matt Hart, Sports Podiatrist and Chief MSK Podiatrist at ACE Feet in Motion (opens in a new tab)to find out if running shoes can be used for walking.

What are the main differences between walking shoes and running shoes?

Person tying shoelaces on a hiking shoe

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Hart says it’s important to understand the difference between walking/hiking shoes and everyday sneakers.

“In general, walking/hiking shoes have a more resistant and protective upper layer to protect the foot and ankle from rain, stones, mud, brambles and twigs when walking,” he explains. -he. The upper can be at ankle height and above the ankle to provide more or less support around this area. The midsole is also harder and more durable and the tread has deeper lugs for better grip on muddy or rocky terrain.

In comparison, general trainers, such as Skechers, tend to feel more comfortable due to their soft, cushioned midsole and inner lining. However, this softness and flexibility can cause problems as it does not provide support around the foot and ankle. Hart says these types of shoes can actually increase stress on joints and soft tissues, depending on a person’s biomechanics or injuries.

Sizing is also often a challenge with these types of shoes as they are usually only available in full sizes rather than half sizes and one width. This reduces the possibility of a correct fit and space to accommodate the natural swelling of the foot while walking.

Two people in running shoes

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When it comes to running shoes, the design is different from hiking and everyday sneakers. A running shoe has a more breathable top layer that helps keep feet from getting hot and a lighter, flexible upper, which is one-piece, reducing the risk of chafing or chafing the seams. They come in half sizes and multiple widths, making them more suitable for every wearer.

Running shoes have a number of different features, such as supportive features (dual-density medial display, guide rails, midsole flare, reinforced heel counters, increased longitudinal flex stiffness). Some also include forefoot rockers which can help people with reduced range of motion in the big toe joint, reduced ankle dorsiflexion, Achilles tendon issues and pain in the ankle. plantar heel.

The cushioning in a running shoe is also better because it is designed to reduce shock from much higher impact loads than walking, so the shoes are more likely to last longer.

Running shoes also vary in height from heel to toe to address ankle issues (a deeper drop of 10mm to 12mm) or knee pain (4 to 0mm). Indeed, this differential can influence the stresses exerted on different parts of the lower limb.

“The cushioning in a running shoe is also better because it’s designed to reduce shock from much higher impact loads than walking, so the shoes are more likely to last longer,” Hart says. Running shoes also tend to have an outsole like a walking/hiking shoe or boot, which provides better traction and durability compared to general sneakers.

Can you walk in running shoes? What are the risks ?

Person tying running shoes

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The answer is yes. And that’s pretty good for you. It’s best to wear road shoes for walking on sidewalks and smooth surfaces, but switch to trail shoes if you’re walking off-road or on muddy ground. That said, the stiffness of a walking/hiking shoe would provide better support and overall protection than a running shoe.

Using a running shoe for everyday walking on sidewalks is actually likely to be more comfortable and provide a better fit than general trainers because you can get a more specific width and size.

Research has shown that heel cushioning during running and walking is influenced by shock absorption and possibly rebound. An article in the Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting (opens in a new tab) concluded “a good running shoe can in most cases satisfy the biomechanical needs when walking”.

The only real risk of walking in running shoes is slipping if the cleats aren’t grippy enough off-road or using old shoes with degraded foam. Hart says the EVA foam in running shoes degrades quickly even if the shoes haven’t been worn. A new pair on a shelf in the box will naturally degrade. If you’re going to be walking in running shoes, the newer the better.

What to look for in a walking shoe?

Person adjusting running shoes on steps

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Many people believe that the softer a shoe, the more cushioning it has, and therefore the more effective the shoe is at reducing impact. The opposite is true. In softer shoes, the ankle stiffens, increasing the rate of loading during foot strike, which can increase impact and stress through the lower limb.

As with any shoe, the most important thing to look for is comfort and fit. “The shoe should feel comfortable when your foot is in the shoe. There should be no bulging areas, which would indicate that the shoe is too narrow for the foot,” says Hart. He also says there should be a half inch width at the end to allow for expansion and swelling and the heel should not slip.

Also think about the surfaces you will be walking on. For road and sidewalk walking, running shoes are more beneficial than hiking shoes or an everyday trainer. But if you’re hitting the trails, consider a hiking shoe or a trail running shoe if you want something lighter.


Further reading

Perceived differences in running and walking shoes (opens in a new tab)

Differences in muscle function while walking and running at the same speed (opens in a new tab)