Best men’s shoes when walking is your exercise

Leigh Hanlon

Walking: Just about every guy does it without so much as a second thought. But it’s a good idea to think twice about it, since walking is a great way to keep and maintain a fitness program. Running and jogging both are good forms of exercise, but for some guys, walking is a better choice because there’s less stress on joints. The right pair of men’s shoes can also make a big difference when you start to incorporate walking into your exercise routine.

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“(It) can provide the same level of cardioaerobic activity as long as you reach your target heart rate,” explains Dr. Nate Jones, a primary care sports physician at Loyola University Medical Center/Loyola Center for Health at River Forest. “People tell me, ‘Doc, I walk all the time.’ But are you leisurely strolling or are you trying to keep a good pace that gets your heart rate up enough for maximum benefit?”

Jones notes that target heart rate should be 50 percent to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate — which is calculated by subtracting your age from 220.

Overall, you’ll probably see the same benefits from a leisurely 1-mile run as a brisk 5-mile walk. “Basically, the more intense the workout, the more time efficient,” Jones says.

A major benefit is that walking is definitely more joint friendly than running or jogging. “When looking at different activities on a spectrum from most to least joint friendly, swimming is probably the best, then biking, then working out on an elliptical machine, then walking, then jogging or running,” Jones says. “What’s great about walking is that you can walk anywhere. You can’t run everywhere, but you can walk quickly in many settings. Walking is an especially good exercise for people who can’t jog during the workday, yet can take a nice, brisk walk over lunch.”

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Jones recommends 30 minutes a day of moderate aerobic activity, at least five times a week. And if you’re going to be spending that much time doing good for your body, the place to start is at the bottom: your feet.

Men’s shoes for walking and running

“There are differences among running shoes, cross-training shoes and walking shoes,” Jones says. “A lot of people buy running shoes to use in all of their activities, but running shoes are designed for running, and provide more cushioning protection for heel and forefoot, unlike shoes designed for walking, which tend to have less cushioning and are lighter. A cross-training shoe is higher on the side, providing ankle stability for playing sports on a gym floor or running for shorter distances.”

You carry your core differently in running and walking, he says, so, “If walking is going to be your main form of exercise, get walking shoes.” A wide range of footwear targeting fitness walkers is on the market these days. Some walking shoes look like running shoes, while others are barely distinguishable from normal street shoes. How should a guy choose? 

Choosing a walking shoe

“Overall, there is definitely some cosmetics involved,” Jones says, “but I always tell my patients the most important thing is to think about who you are in terms of your feet (and address any issues such as) flat feet, overpronation or arch collapse. Regardless of what a shoe looks like, pay closer attention to the instep, the sole, the cushioning.”

Jones also dismisses the often-told admonition that shoes should be fitted only later in the day because feet swell up as the hours roll by. “I would say people can have more swelling (in their feet) by the end of the day, but I don’t tell my patients to avoid being fitted for shoes in the morning,” he says. “If you think about it, any material you choose is going to stretch, anyway.”