Walking shoes are a smart wardrobe staple for any person to have. They’re great for those who go out of their way to walk, of course, but they’re also great for running errands, exploring a new city or taking out the dog. The right pair should offer support, stability and cushioning, without all the technical bells and whistles needed in a shoe when training for a marathon. This is even more important as we all make our way back to a new kind of normal as the pandemic lets up. More getting out and about, less working from home in socks.
And when it comes to the latest feats in sneaker engineering, Nike has long reigned supreme. Since its inception in the ’60s, Nike has been innovating, testing and tweaking technologies to make the perfectly responsive shoe — emphasizing responsive midsoles, supportive heel counters and breathable fabrics. Although the thought of a walking sneaker might bring to mind heavy, clunky styles, Nike’s new-school models span a range of fits, feels and fabrics.
“When you’re looking for a good walking shoe, you want to pay attention to the durability of the materials,” says Mark Mendeszoon, a podiatrist and owner of Achilles Running Shop in Pennsylvania. “Also, make sure there’s a good, solid foot bed that’s comfortable for your feet, a supportive midsole and a good solid outer that has the ability to go on different surfaces, like trails or cement.”
Mendeszoon often recommends a running shoe for walking, especially for those without any foot issues or chronic pains. There are a few reasons for this. “Traditional walking shoes are made with leather or a leather-like material,” he says. “Sometimes, those materials don’t breathe well, and that can cause sweat and moisture to build up. This can lead to blisters and bacterial growth.”
Running sneakers, on the other hand, are made with materials that are breathable and moisture-wicking. This not only makes them comfortable to put on initially but prevents your feet from feeling constricted or too sweaty as you walk. Most running shoes are also made to expand without stretching out, says Mendeszoon.
Mendeszoon is not alone in his recommendation. The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine states that most running shoes offer the necessary stability and support functions you need for walking. Even Nike says that many of its running shoes can also be used for getting in your steps. That’s because while you hit the ground with more impact when you run (meaning runners typically need shoes with extra cushioning in the heel and forefoot), the movements involved in both running and walking are largely similar.
Because running shoes are built for high impact, they also tend to be more advanced in midsole innovation, which can be a benefit for walkers, too.
“The midsole is where the engineering of the shoe goes,” says Mendeszoon. “That’s what differentiates shoe models in terms of performance, stability and motion control. The thicker the midsole, the more durable it is,” he says. “A flat foot does better with more cushioning that stops the foot from rolling in, for example.”
If you have flat feet or generally need more support, look for a walking shoe that has a more expansive midsole and wider fit. People with narrow feet and neutral stances might do better with more standard silhouettes.
Also, Mendeszoon notes, don’t underestimate the power that less is more when it comes to walking shoes.
“People go buy X type of shoe and this brand X insole when they might not necessarily need it,” he says. “I always ask: Why are you getting it? Who told you to get it?” Try different sneakers out with various levels of support and different fits — and you might not need the extras. Start here with our list of the best Nike walking shoes. You’re bound to find a few that go well with your post-quarantine movement.
Nike React Miler 2
Nike’s React technology is a fan-favorite. It gives you just enough plushness so your steps feel supported with a nice amount of bounce back. The grippy rubber underfoot is also thicker where your foot hits the ground harder, giving the outsole a longer lifespan. As you head out to meet friends for lunch or go on a full day of errand running in this new normal we’re living in, these Nike walking shoes will keep you feeling supported all day long.
Nike React Phantom Run Flyknit 2
Thanks to its balanced support-to-spring ratio, you’ll notice Nike’s React technology makes up the foam midsole on quite a few Nike walking shoes. The Phantom Run Flyknit 2 uses a laceless design but still offers security with a snug mesh upper. This is a great walking shoe if you tend to lace up too tight or your foot swells noticeably when you walk.
Nike Air Zoom Pulse
Nike created the Air Zoom Pulse to be one of its most comfortable shoes ever. To achieve this, the brand used input from nurses — who stand and walk for long hours every day — to inform the design process. The result is a shoe made for unparalleled support and great stability when walking on, say, linoleum floors. Addicted to hitting that 10,000 step marker every day? These make getting there a breeze.
Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit
High foam and a wider shape makes these shoes a good go-to sneaker for flat feet. The forefoot has extra space, which gives an added feel of stability when your foot makes contact with the ground. The outsole is made with a waffle-printed rubber for optimal traction. Wear these for those walks around the neighborhood you’re keeping post-quarantine.
Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit 2
When it comes to those breathable fabrics Mendeszoon was talking about, there’s perhaps no sneaker fabric more comfortable to wear than Flyknit. This special Nike material is strategically placed on the upper of select styles to air out the sweatiest part of the shoe. Not only does the material make the shoe comfortable to walk in, but it also minimizes sweat and odor buildup.
Nike Men’s Air Monarch IV
Nike’s Air Monarch IV is one of Nike’s best sneakers for people with wide feet or anyone who needs extra support. The Air-Sole along the bottom of the shoe runs the length of the footbed, while your standard sneaker might only have this support in certain high-force areas. These also make great gifts for any of the loved ones you want to spend more time walking or hanging outdoors with to transition into the new normal.
Nike Downshifter 11
Nike’s Downshifter is a bit lower profile and doesn’t have as thick of a foam midsole, making it a great style for people with more narrow feet and a neutral gait. These shoes are super flexible and lightweight — two key characteristics of a solid walking sneaker to bring on vacation or explore a new city in.
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 FlyEase
Nike’s Pegasus sneakers are beloved by runners — and likely one of the best Nike shoes of all time — but their stability and support features are ideal for walking, too. They have extra toe room for stability and to accommodate your foot as it swells, which might happen after a few hours of walking. These also include mesh uppers for superb breathability.
Nike Wildhorse 7
Looking for walking sneakers is one thing. Looking for trail-ready walking sneakers is quite another — and spending ample time outdoors with friends around trails is something we don’t want to sacrifice in this version of normalcy. Nike’s Wildhorse 7 sneaker has a middle-of-the-road foam insole that’s supportive without feeling overly bouncy. The key detail on these shoes is multi-traction lugs, which are made to grip surfaces so you can glide through your walk.
Nike Pegasus Trail 3
The Nike Pegasus Trail 3 is a combination of two of our other favorite Nike sneakers. It has the same cushioning as the OG Pegasus with a similar silhouette. But these ones add more stability around the midfoot and have that trail-friendly traction on the outsole.