What Not to Wear Walking - Fashion Police Edition

Bad Walking Fashions

Are you risking an arrest by the Fashion Police when you step out your door for a walk? While your clothing and gear may be comfortable or functional, it might be why you have trouble recruiting a walking partner. My homage to Joan Rivers, the original fashion policewoman.

White Orthopedic Walking Shoes (Bonus for Velcro)

Etonic Ultralite DRx
Etonic Ultralite DRx - Too White. Photo © Wendy Bumgardner

Nothing says "Granny's Still Walking" like white or taupe clunky walking shoes. Even worse, if they have Velcro closures, you know they are styled for the assisted living center rather than the Senior Olympics. Make a visit to your local serious running shoe store and you will find serious walking and running shoes in fun colors. Even black is the new black!
How to Choose Walking Shoes

Mom Jeans

Wendy on Dog Mountain, 1984, Columbia River Gorge
Wendy on Dog Mountain, 1984, Columbia River Gorge. Photo © Wendy Bumgardner

Full disclosure: I prefer waist-level pants rather than wearing them hanging off my hips. I'm waiting for fashion to catch back up to me. At my garage sale last summer, I had dozens and dozens of expensive hiking pants that went unadopted because, horrors, they were considered too high-waisted. But Mom Jeans made of denim are not only unfashionable (for now) but denim should be avoided for fitness walking. It's too heavy and won't wick away sweat. Walking just once in a rainstorm in denim will convince you of this forever. Here I am the last time I wore denim on a hike -- 1984.
Mom Jeans Poll - High-Waisted and Proud?

Fanny Packs (Bonus for Wearing in Front)

Wearing a Fanny Pack in Front
Wendy Bumgardner ©

This is where fashion is the opposite of function. A water-carrier fanny pack is an essential for walkers. But fashion dictates that they are oh-so-80s. Instead, mini-backpacks are the style. I gave away over a dozen fanny packs at my last garage sale in the "free" bin. They went like hotcakes. I should have put price tags on them. A fanny pack is less likely to give you poor walking posture and a backache (not to mention chafing from the shoulder straps), so go ahead and risk Fashion Police arrest on this one.
More: Top Picks for Water-Carrying Fanny Packs

Flesh-Colored Tights or Bike Shorts

Leggings. Photo Courtesy of PriceGrabber
I've gotten whiplash a few times from having to turn and stare to convince myself that a walker is actually wearing clothes. Flesh-colored tights are guaranteed to get you noticed, but probably not in a good way. I don't know whether it's worse to pair these with patterned panties that show through, or leave gawkers guessing whether you have anything underneath. If this is your goal, well, OK, but not on my street corner.

Who Wears Short Shorts?

Brooks PureProject 3.5
Brooks PureProject 3.5" Shorts. Brooks Sports, Inc.

Fashion expert Cynthia Nellis says, "Super-short shorts that show off every lump and bump should be avoided. Layer short shorts over bike shorts for a more flattering look." Teeny tiny running shorts are popular, but you have to have the right body to wear them without regret. Like I had at age 10, maybe. Again, if you are in an actual athletic event, wear what works best for performance. I've also had the unfortunate experience of wearing longer shorts that rode up until they were bunched in my crotch like an adult diaper. Finding shorts that don't ride up can be a lifelong search, which turns many of us to bike shorts or running skirts.
More: Top Picks for Walking Shorts

All Black After Dark

Wendy Bumgardner ©

I love black. It's slimming. It hides my underwear. But dressing like a Ninja and walking after dark is an unsafe fashion choice. Cars and bikes aren't expecting you to be crossing streets. Give them at least a chance of seeing you. Choose your after-dark clothing to have lighter colors and reflective stripes. Or, for pity's sake, wear a reflective safety vest. My walking team sewed ours from sequined fabric. We are not only visible, we're memorable.
More: Top Picks for Reflective Gear

All Spandex, All the Time

B-Skinz Shorts
B-Skinz Shorts. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Spandex is good. Many of us need spandex bike shorts to prevent thigh chafing. But there is a time and a place for spandex in public. You are allowed to wear spandex shorts when participating in an actual athletic event. It helps to be wearing a bib number to erase any doubt. But for everyday workouts, the public would appreciate if you layered them under looser shorts or chose a cute running skirt instead.

Volksmarch Flash and Bling

Volksmarch Jacket
Volksmarch Jacket. Wendy Bumgardner © 2001

Full disclosure: I've been a volksmarcher for over 20 years. I have drawers and closets full of volksmarch pins, patches and medals. I've got a few hats and jackets covered with the stuff. But unless I'm attending a volksmarch walkfest, I leave them at home. Tasteful wearing of flash and bling is to wear 1 to 2 items at most, as befits the occasion. Yes, advertise your walking club, be happy to explain what it all means, but less is more.

Crazy Cat Lady Cotton T-Shirts

cat. Photo © Wendy Bumgardner

I'm a fan of Cute With Chris, and I love cats. But I've never purchased or worn a cat t-shirt in public. Chris will tell you that wearing a cat t-shirt, especially layered over a white turtleneck and paired with clogs, will ensure you will never have a man in your life. If that's your goal, or you are secure with your mate, go crazy, cat ladies! But for walking comfort, your shirt should be made of performance sweat-wicking fabric, not cotton.

Big Loose Top, Tight Bottoms

Two Senior Couples Walking by Ocean
Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty
Fashion maven Cynthia Nellis says she supports everybody who is out there exercising, no matter what they wear. But if you want a good look, she says, "The baggy over skintight silhouette doesn't really flatter anyone. I see lots of women wearing this look, when they would be so much better off in a more relaxed fit pant." I've avoided wearing the big sweatshirt over bike shorts or leggings. Being short, I know I end up looking like a beach ball. Yes, my buns are hidden, but you could just dribble me all the way to the hoop.

Tight Crotch Pants

If your pants feel tight in the crotch when you put them on, take them off and wear something different on your walk. A tight crotch will not only advertise your privates to the world, you'll be in a world of discomfort after a mile or two. Nobody wants a walking partner who is trying loosen up things down below for the whole workout, and later whining about chafed unmentionables.
More: Top Picks for Walking Pants

Bras on Parade

The underwear-as-outerwear trend is on it's way out, isn't it? If it looks like a bra, it's a bra. White or cream-colored sports bras with elastic adjustable straps and hook closures are not meant to be outerwear without stares. Please choose your sports bra to match the amount of support you need. I've seen some amazing harmonic bounces develop where breasts were attempting to depart their garments. "That can't be comfortable!" is the universal comment. Some jiggle is sexy, but major movement is painful. For us gals with tiny chests, going braless altogether isn't a good option if you want to avoid chafed nipples.
More: Sports Bras

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