Mythbusting 8 Walking Shoe Myths

Don't Fall For These Common Myths About Your Walking Shoes

Old Walking Shoes
Old Walking Shoes. magnetcreative/E+/Getty Images

The truth is out there. You may have some long cherished ideas about walking shoes, but what you think may well be wrong.

1. Shoes Should Last Forever

Shoes do not last forever, they generally last only 500 miles before you have beat the stuffings out of them. If your shoes have leather uppers or you are gentle with the uppers, they may still look OK. You may not have worn through the tread. But they are dead.

Adding a new insole might make them feel better, but they have lost whatever cushioning they had and their support elements may also be broken down. Now you have a recipe for injury and for tired feet as your feet and ankles will be taking more of a pounding with each step. The best habit is to have two pairs of walking shoes, alternating them. Start wearing the second pair 6 weeks after starting the first pair. You will then be able to feel when the first pair dies. Buying new shoes is much cheaper than seeing a doctor for a twisted ankle or for plantar fasciitis, or stopping your walking program.
When Should You Replace Your Walking Shoes?

2. Buy walking shoes the same size as your regular shoes.

Do your fingers swell when you walk? Guess what - your toes are swelling even more! Your walking shoes should be larger than your regular shoes, because your feet swell up to a full shoe size when you walk for over half an hour.

If your shoes aren't big enough, you can end up with black toenails, blisters, and foot pain from this swelling. Give up on shoe size shyness and get fitted correctly. You may find that your walking shoes are too big to wear around the office or home when you aren't walking. If so, save them for walking.


Getting Fit Right for Shoes
Do You Need Bigger Shoes?

3. I can't buy bigger shoes, my feet slide forward in them anyway.

You need to lace your shoes correctly so your heel stays in the heel cup of the shoe while your toes have room to expand. This will also help prevent heel blisters. See my Lacing Diagrams for how to lace your shoes. If you are getting black toenails despite having enough room in your shoes, or your heel isn't securely in the heel cup of the shoe, then learn to lace your shoes correctly. Lacing Your Shoes to Fit

4. I like to just wear my favorite comfy shoes for walking, I don't need athletic shoes.

I encourage you to start walking with whatever shoes you have on hand. But if you plan on walking for more than a half hour at a time, your feet will be happier in athletic shoes that support and cushion them correctly. Your feet flex with each step and need shoes that bend with them. Many of us overpronate and need a shoe that helps correct that motion so we aren't set up for injury.

These are things best found in a good pair of running shoes or athletic walking shoes.
Shoe Types for Walkers

5. Socks don't matter.

If you find yourself developing blisters or hot spots on your feet, the right socks can help prevent those. First, wear socks. Second, wear synthetic socks of acrylic, CoolMax, Ultimax, or other sports fabrics which wick away moisture from the foot. Don't wear cotton socks when walking for more than half an hour, as they retain sweat next to the foot, soften the skin and leave it more prone to blisters.

Wear synthetic socks, lubricate your feet and/or use corn starch to keep them dry.
Before You Buy Walking Socks
7 Strategies to Prevent Blisters

This is critically important if you have diabetes, you must not risk getting ulcers on your feet.

6. Wear two different brands/styles of shoes for walking and rotate them.

This myth is one that may be good advice. The theory is that it keeps your muscles from settling into one pattern with one shoe. But the opposing theory is - why is that a good thing? If you are training for speed or distance, it then just confuses your muscles without having a good training effect. I have a full "shoe wardrobe" and wear shoes depending on the conditions I'll encounter on my walking route for the day - wet, dry, trail, pavement. They generally are all from the same brand and the same shoe last style, but give a variety with their fit.

7. Boots are best for long walks.

Sarge thought so, but you were carrying a 30 pound pack and might have to dive into a foxhole at any moment.

Many European distance walkers wear boots. But if your long walk is on pavement, your feet will be happier if you wear shoes designed for marathon runners and walkers. You will need some cushioning, but not heavy cushioning. If you overpronate, you need motion control shoes especially when walking long distance.

Visit one of the running shoe web sites such as Roadrunner Sports and select shoes that say they are good for longer distance.

8. My walking shoes are fine for hiking.

You will bust this myth yourself if you take a trail and discover how painful it is to have rocks and roots poking you through the soles of your shoes. Trail shoes or lightweight hiking boots protect your soles from these. Even gravel roads can be a painful experience with many walking or running shoes. Switch to trail shoes for those surfaces. Today's trail running shoes are lightweight, flexible, and protective.
Top Picks for Trail Shoes

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