walking vs running shoes

The Difference Between Walking and Running Shoes

Running and walking are both great exercises.  But what is the difference between walking and running shoes? They are very similar by the lone eye.  However, there is a significant difference in the way the foot strikes the ground when a person walks compared to when a person runs.   These tips will not only  help you distinguish the differences between the exercise walking and running but the importance to why each sport has its own shoe and why you should take that seriously.


Difference #1: Foot Strike Motion

Walking- While walking your foot strikes basically your entire foot: from the heel to the midfoot to your toes.  You basically use your entire foot to walk.  To get the best picture of what this may look like, imagine your foot as a rocking chair rocking back and forth as you walk.

Running- Running motions are vastly different and there is a much greater variety of running motions.  Running motion typically start somewhere near the heel, but not quite as high on the heel as walking and pushes toward midfoot or directly to forefoot.  Runners typically land much closer to “flat-footed” compared to somebody walking hitting their heels.

Difference #2:Soles

Walking-The soles of walking shoes are usually pretty thin.  This is because walking is a very light exercise and there is typically a lot less impact force.  There are going to be exceptions of course.  You may be able to find thicker-sole’s on walking shoes that may be designed for trails.

Running-Contrary to walking shoes, the soles in running shoes are often thicker.  With more shock going through the body of a runner, thicker soles are often made to help absorb some of the shock.

Difference #3:Flexibility of the Shoe

Walking-The difference between walking shoes and running shoes in flexibility is pretty simple.  Walking shoes are much more flexible.  Why is this usually the case?  Because walking requires a greater motion of the foot than running.  It’s a simple concept.  The more you need to be able to bend or flex your foot in a specific motion, the more flexibility will help towards that goal.

Running-Running shoes are a bit tricky in this category.  While there are some really great flexing running shoes, as a whole, running shoe’s flexibility cannot compare with walking shoes.  Runners look for a lot of other qualities a lot of the time before they start to look at flexibility.  Runners will look for flexibility in shoes when they run a lot of quick tempo runs that may require lateral movements or simply for race performance.

Difference #4:Cushioning of the Shoe

Walking- There is no doubt about it, cushioning can be found in either type of shoe but most of the time, there will be less cushioning in a walking shoe.  Why is that?  Running puts a much greater force on the feet and the body as a whole.  Ever notice how when Doctors encourage more exercise the first activity they will probably bring up is walking?  This is because walking is considered the lightest activity but it still offers a lot in terms of actually “staying active.”

Running- As mentioned, runners impact the ground pretty hard.  This is typically why the heavier the runner, the more cushion he or she may want.  A lot of shoes designed for heavy-runners are made with a lot of cushion for a reason.  It helps ease the pain, the force, and the shock absorption of the foot.

Difference #5: Heel Height of Walking and Running Shoes

Walking-Walking shoes often offer a much small heel height than running shoes do.  Why?  This is because, as previously mentioned, walking requires a lot less force on the ground, a lot less cushion, and tread within the shoe.  The foot strike motion while walking covers the entire foot so the closer the foot is to the ground the easier that motion will be.  That is why “minimalist” speed running shoes may be very similar to walking shoes.

Running-With running shoes, there are tons of different levels of heel height.  Some are pretty small and non-existant others seem enormous.   I have worn shoes with a mm difference of 4 in my Nike Free 4.0’s and have worn shoes like Brooks Ghost’s 7 that offer a differential of over 10 mm.  The idea is that some runners need better arch support.  Some runners are considered “supinators” which basically mean their heels and forefront of their shoes hit the ground and their midfoot are in an “arch” and never actually make contact with the ground.  To determine your foot type, you can check out this guide which will explain all the factors when determining what your foot type is.  The idea is though, a better arch for the shoe will help out these supinators.

Difference #6: Weight of the Shoe

Running- While there are heavier running shoes, a difference between walking and running shoes is that running shoes are simply lighter.  This is because, runners create a greater demand on going faster than “walkers.”  There are a lot more running shoes tail-made for speed and performance for this very reason: to attract a certain type of runner.  Not to mention with all the force and shock that goes into running, a lighter shoe may go a long way, as long as its built appropriately.

Walking- As said, walking shoes are heavier.  Other than speed-walkers, there is not a huge demand in creating a lightweight walking shoe.  This is partly why some speed walkers love using running racing flats.  They offer a lot of walking shoe features such as a thin sole, flat differential from heel to toe and overall to the ground.  The big bonus is they are much lighter than most other walking shoes.

Difference #7: Level of Stability

Running There are a lot of type of running shoes.  The differences are everywhere.  A lot of running shoes are considered to be “stability” shoes.  This is because a lot of runners need shoes that help keep the correct foot motion.  Stability running shoes are known to help foot motion.  This is a huge reason why walking shoes would not be recommended for a runner.  If there is a lack of stability features in a shoe, the foot may naturally want to curve inward which can cause pain as well as injury for certain runners.  There are also going to be other type of running shoes known as “neutral running shoes” that will not offer this extra stability.  This is simply because not all runners need it.  It all depends on your foot type.  If you don’t know your foot type, you should learn more about figuring it out with my personal guide.

Walking- Most walking shoes do not offer as much stability.  At least this is how it used to be.  This is the result of a few reasons.  One, walking is not as forceful of a sport so the foot motion isn’t as harmful.  That is not to be taken lightly though.  There are still plenty of great stability walking shoes such as the New Balance 847 Walking Shoe.  If you feel pain while walking, you should see a specialist to help determine what type of walking shoe is best for you.  Everybody’s foot type is different so its best to know yours to help prevent injuries and pain.

Difference #8: Appearance/Color

Running- From a visual standpoint, running shoes are easier to find in a larger variety of colors.  Also, since running is an activity that often occurs in the darkness, is much more prone to super bright and even reflective colors that are necessary to being seen through the dark.

Walking- Though it may seem trivial, the difference between walking and running shoes is pretty vast.  Sadly, walking shoes often get the short end of the stick in color palette.  Though if you do not mind shoes in a solid black or white, it may not be too bad.  Personally, I always love a pair of black athletic shoes.

Difference between Walking and Running Shoes – Conclusion

Now that you have all the basic information, I hope you realize that the difference between walking and running shoes are important.  While some of them may mix and match, and some that are active in both sports may be able to mix and match, for all new to the sport always keep in mind the differences.  New Balance is probably one of the most popular brands that offer both great walking and running shoes. Most Importantly, always consult a doctor before starting a new exercise program.  Stay safe and enjoy life.