I know many walkers who walk in running shoes, but I don’t know any runners that run in walking shoes. At first glance, walking and running shoes look very similar, but in fact, they are completely different. The most common question walkers ask is, Is it ok to walk in running shoes? And the answer is yes, but before going any further, you need to know what’s the difference between walking and running shoes because there are some important factors that you must take into account.
The Differences Between Running and Walking
First, it’s essential to know that running and walking are two different activities. Running is a high impact sport that puts stress on the body while walking is a low impact exercise. A runner will mostly land on its heel, or midfoot, or the ball of the foot. When running, both of the feet are off the ground at some points. A walker lands on its heel and then rolls through the ball to the toe. But one of its feet must be in contact with the ground at all times. You see now why walking shoes don’t work for running.
Walking VS Running Shoes
As I mentioned, running and walking shoes have different features. Walking shoes are a little heavier and more flexible in the forefoot while running shoes are lighter and more flexible in the midfoot. Note that stability and motion control shoes are often stiffer in the midfoot since they feature medial support to prevent the foot from rolling inward. For the same reason above, walking shoes aren’t ideal for power walking unless the shoes are extremely lightweight, flexible, and supportive. If you are a fitness walker, you’ll often feel more comfortable walking in running shoes than in walking shoes. So if you look for running shoes, it’s important to know what quality to look for to help you find the model that works best for you.
Why Running Shoes
The good thing about running shoes is that designers always keep them updated with the latest technology and materials. You can find a wide variety of choices for running shoes to meet your style and needs. They vary in models; some are designed for long distances running, others for racing, daily training, and more.
Running shoes are constructed with a wide range of heel-to-toe drop to promote the runner’s toe-strikers, midfoot strikers, and heel strikers.
There are three categories of running shoes: ( neutral, stability, and motion control). These help correct gait faults such as overpronation and supination. Some models are designed with fewer seams to prevent rubbing and others with more cushioning and less weight.
Why Walking Shoes
By contrast, walking shoes are more designed for comfort and less for performance, and they are not always built with the newest technology. Since fitness walkers strike with their heel first and roll through each step, they need a lightweight and flexible shoe that allows the foot’s natural movement. Many walking shoes are heavy and stiff, which tend to slow you down when power walking. So make sure you choose the shoe design carefully before you decide to purchase. Walkers often buy running shoes for their walking workouts because there are more design choices and are lighter than walking shoes.
Runners support their body weight three times with each step when running while walkers absorb only one and a half times their body weight when walking. This explains why runners’ shoes have more cushioning systems in the heel and forefoot than walking shoes. But this is not always the case, some runners prefer to run in minimalists, barefoot shoes. These shoes are extremely flexible and offer zero protection against shocks and debris.
Walkers need cushioning in the heel, but not as much as runners do, and can also get away with less cushioning in the toe (forefoot). Often, walking shoes have more cushioning under the ball of the foot. This is because the walkers’ heel touches the ground first before the foot and then rolls forward to the ball and toe; thus, they need more protection in this area. If you are a fitness walker, you should look for lightweight walking shoes that provide decent cushioning so your feet don’t get hurt from the impact after a long-distance walk. Minimalist and barefoot shoes are not ideal for long walks as they don’t provide enough cushioning.
If you plan on walking more than five miles at a time, running shoes are the way to go.
Many running shoe designs offer more flexibility at the arch or midfoot. But some models are more flexible in the forefoot to suit the runner’s strike style. Not all runners strike on their heel, some strike at the midfoot, and others with the ball of the foot.
Stability shoes and motion-control shoes are usually less flexible in the midfoot as they have medial support to prevent the foot from rotating when running. If you are a runner or a walker who needs motion control, you will have to give up on some level of flexibility in your shoes.
Walkers can use both running and walking shoes as long as they are flexible. If you are a fitness walker, you should check the flexibility of your shoes by bending them. Good fitness walking shoes should flex well at the forefoot since walkers tend to push off with their toes. If the shoes bend at the midfoot (under the arch), this means they don’t provide enough support unless they are stability or motion control shoes. Shoes that don’t bend at all are awful and can lead to injuries.
Because there are three different foot strikes (heel strike, midfoot and forefoot strike), running shoes are built with various heel heights to suit the runner’s foot strike. A high heel-toe to drop promotes the heel strike, while a lower heel-toe to drop encourages the midfoot and forefoot strike. A zero-drop means the heel is on the same level as the ball of the foot. Whereas a 10mm drop, the heel is 10 mm higher than the foot’s ball, which supports the heel strike.
Walkers: Walkers don’t put as much stress on the heel as runners do, so they don’t need a high heel drop shoe. A walker should look for shoes with a heel drop less than 8 mm, and 4 mm would be even better. Some shoes appear to have a higher heel, but in reality, the heel’s depth is lower inside the shoe. So it wouldn’t be a good idea to estimate heel drop by just looking at the shoe’s outer sole.
Stability running shoes and trail shoes are often built with a flared heel to give more stability to midfoot and forefoot strikers.
Walkers are heel strikers since they land on their heel first, and shoes with a flared heel prevent the walkers’ foot from rolling forward through the step. Fitness walkers should not do their workout with flared heels but instead, look for an undercut heel.
Not everyone cares about the look, but some do. However, be aware that running shoes and walking shoes have a different style. Running shoes are often made with bright colors, and some of them have a flashy design.
Walking shoes tend to have toned down colors, making them look more classic. It doesn’t seem to be a big deal, but it matters for some people.
Features Used in Walking and Running Shoes
EVA, also called Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate, is a light and flexible foam that absorbs shock from hard surfaces. This elastic copolymer is often used in household products such as mattresses, boat decking, gym floors, and more. Many running and walking shoe midsoles are made from EVA. This foam offers excellent cushion and comfort, but tend to flatten over time and lose its cushion. That’s one of the reasons why running or walking shoes need to be replaced every 500 to 600 miles.
Medial support is a term used by doctors. It’s a small roll bar in the midsole that adds extra support and correct overpronation.
It’s the heel of the shoes that is slightly wider near the bottom. It’s designed to stabilize midfoot and forefoot strikers.
A sockliner is an inner part of the shoes that cover the shoes’ insert (footbed). The sockliner is made of foam, which provides cushioning and allows your foot to sit comfortably in the shoes without feeling stitching and other parts of the shoe that may create discomfort.
This is the front part of the shoe that covers your toes and protects them from injuries. The toe box should be spacious enough to allow your toes to move freely in the shoes. If the toe box is too tight or too large, it could change your walking pattern and cause injuries.
To sum it up, if you are into fitness walking, a running shoe will definitely fit the bill. You just need to make sure the shoes fit well and correspond to your needs. And if it’s just for everyday walking, both traditional walking shoes or running shoes will suit. Ensure that the shoes match your stride style to avoid foot injuries, and most importantly, they must be comfortable.
Are there other differences you would like to add to this article? If so, you are welcome to share them in the comments below.