Guidelines for Buying Walking Shoes

Finding the Perfect Fit



Three essential factors should be taken into consideration before purchasing a new pair of walking shoes. These are:
Stability ~ Test for a balanced and secure feel throughout a normal range of motion.
Flexibility ~ Allow for a good degree of give at the base of the toes, allowing smooth motion.
Comfort ~ The best walking shoes comprise contours and padding conformed closely to the foot, providing a snug fit at the heel and mid-foot, with ample room in the forefoot.

Examine these following four specific areas of any walking shoe:
Heel counter ~ This area of the shoe holds the back of the heel, just under-neath the Achilles tendon. Look for it to be snug, but not tight, comfortably cupping the back of the heel. A good heel counter will help prevent the feet from over pronation or supination (rolling to the inside or outside edge of the foot).
Midsole ~ Between the tread and cloth or leather upper of the shoe, the midsole is the most important component of footwear. Made of a variety of materials, it gives a shoe a greater or lesser degree of cushioning, support and flexibility.
Insole ~ Located inside the shoe, on the bottom, where the sole of the foot contacts the shoe, the insole should contour comfortably to the foot. A good design reduces shear forces between the foot and the shoe and provides some shock absorption.
Toe box ~ Be sure the area surrounding the toes provides adequate room for toes to move freely; wiggling and bending the toes at the joints should be unrestricted. Conversely, too much space will cause shifting and discomfort. There should be approximately one-half to a full thumb’s width between the end of the longest toe and the end of the toe box.

Here are general guidelines to consider when getting fitted for a new pair of walking shoes:
- Have the salesperson take dimensions of both feet, as there may be differences. Take measurements while standing, because feet expand when bearing weight. Base the current shoe size on these measurements, not on a previous shoe size.
- Measure feet at the end of the day. They tend to swell throughout the course of the day.
- Try on and lace up both left and right shoes while wearing regular socks. Stand up and walk around to make sure the fit is correct.
- Never buy walking shoes that immediately feel too tight. Although they will go through a break-in period, if walking shoes initially feel tight, they are too small.
- Finally, keep in mind that arch supports, or orthotics, can supplement the original shoe to help attain the best fit.


Ted Forcum, a doctor of chiropractic in Beaverton, OR, is a contributing author for Spine-Health.com. Thomas Hyde, a doctor of chiropractic in Aventura, FL, is a member of the medical advisory board for www.Spine-Health.com.

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