Can running shoes be used for walking? It’s a question that we see asked a lot.
While the long answer is rather nuanced, the short answer is pretty much yes.
Sure, it’s better to use shoes that are designed for your chosen activity — in this case, walking. But that doesn’t mean your running shoes are completely unsuitable. If you’re just starting to take walking seriously, or are walking short distances, your running shoes will be more than enough.
However, if you’re planning to walk long distances, proper walking shoes will be more suitable.
Running Shoes vs Walking Shoes — What’s The Difference?
Running and walking shoes share some similarities. But there are notable differences that make each shoe more suitable for a specific activity.
Walking shoes and running shoes tend to have cushioning in different areas. Running shoes have more around the heel and toes. This protects the wearer from the impact of heavy footfalls.
Walking shoes, while still cushioned, often have less in these areas. Instead, there’s more cushioning around the midfoot where walkers tend to take more impact.
The cushioning in running shoes tends to be a little more durable than in walking shoes. This is because running puts so much more force through your shoes than walking.
Both running and walking shoes are available with differing levels of arch support. However, it’s common for walking shoes to have a little more. This protects a walker’s arches from repetitive midfoot strikes. Runners tend to land on their heel or toes rather than the middle of their foot, so arch support isn’t quite as important.
Everyone’s feet are different. Whether you’re running or walking, you should ensure you have the correct level of arch support for you.
Walking shoes are flexible around the toes. This allows walkers to roll through their full range of motion from heel to toe with each step. Running shoes tend to be stiffer which creates a more supportive and stable base for your feet.
Heel Toe Drop
Heel toe drop refers to the difference in height between your heel and toes inside the shoes. In zero drop shoes, your heel and toes are at the same height — as if you’re standing barefoot on a flat surface. In shoes with a large heel drop, the difference between the height of your heel and toes could be as much as 10mm. It’s like standing on a wedge or slight slope.
Running shoes tend to have more heel toe drop which protects the wearer’s ankles and achilles from the strain of running. It also allows for more cushioning around the heel which protects against heavy impacts. However, a large heel drop also puts more strain through your knees and hips.
In recent years, the trend for hikers and walkers has been zero drop shoes. These cause your ankles to do more work but your knees and hips are protected by the natural flexibility in your feet.
Zero drop shoes more closely mimic your natural, barefoot gait. They allow you to build muscle and strengthen your feet in a way that shoes with a large heel toe drop do not. Shoes with a big drop can cause issues if worn too often. They cause your ankle and achilles to work less than is natural, which can lead to the muscles shrinking and tightening. They’re good for short term use or to protect you from old injuries but try not to use them all the time.
As you’d expect, running shoes tend to be lighter than walking shoes. They’re generally made of more breathable, mesh-like materials which weigh very little. Having lightweight shoes is important for runners as it allows them to manoeuvre their feet more easily.
To an extent, the weight of shoes is less important for walkers. Light, airy shoes are nice to use in the summer but for winter, thicker heavier shoes are more suitable.
Both types of shoe are available with various sole designs and patterns. Some are designed to offer traction on slick muddy trails while others are designed to offer high levels of grip on concrete or tarmac.
It’s worth noting that running shoes rarely come with an official non-slip rating which means they’re not suitable for the workplace. Walking shoes will often come rated as non-slip but always check before purchasing if this is a feature you require.
So to answer the question, can you use running shoes for walking?
Most of the time.
Not all running shoes are appropriate for walking but many will do in a pinch. You won’t want to walk really long distances in running shoes because they’re simply not designed for it. They flex differently and the cushioning isn’t in the right places. It’s perfectly fine to wear running shoes around town or to the shop but if you’re walking longer distances, a pair of proper walking shoes will be more appropriate.