Have you ever wondered if you can use running shoes for walking or walking shoes for running? It’s a debate, one which many people aren’t too sure of the answer. Today we want to help you find out the difference between walking shoes and running shoes, so you can make a well-informed decision the next time you go to buy shoes.
Walking Shoes vs. Running Shoes – The Big Differences
Make no mistake about it, because although both running shoes and walking shoes are designed to cover your feet and offer you a bit of protection, they really do not have the same properties. Let’s take a look at the main differences between walking shoes and running shoes right now.
One of the very biggest differences between walking and running shoes has to do with the amount of cushioning they have. Walking shoes do have a bit of cushioning, as mostly all types of shoes have some level of it. If you have walking shoes, meant for long-distance walking, more cushioning usually also means more weight. Anyway, walking is not very fast or high impact, and therefore walking shoes don’t require all that much cushioning. Yes, they do have some lightweight cushioning that will keep you comfortable when walking long distances, but that is about it.
Now, on the other hand, running shoes have far more cushioning contained in the sole. This is because when you run, you create much larger and heavier impacts than when walking. All of that force, if there is no padding, gets transferred to your feet and legs, which can become quite painful pretty quickly. Therefore, running shoes will have lots of padding in the heels, because that is where you land with each stride, and they also tend to have a good deal of cushioning in the forefoot too, to keep you comfortable as you roll off the balls of your feet, as is the proper running technique.
Another big difference that you will notice between walking and running shoes is the amount of arch support they contain. Just like with cushioning, most average walking shoes won’t have all that much arch support; they will usually have enough to keep your arches fairly comfortable for normal walking, but that is about it.
Running shoes, on the other hand, usually feature a lot more arch support than walking shoes. Just like with the energy that gets transferred to the feet, if there is a lack of cushioning, each and every single impact created when you put your foot down when running, can cause the arches to stretch out, almost simulating flat feet. Too much impact and too much arch stretching can become painful and lead to some serious foot-related medical conditions. Therefore, to keep the arches supported against heavy impacts and at high speeds, running shoes should have a lot of arch support.
Yet another big difference between walking and running shoes has to do with the heel of the shoe. Depending on how you run, which is most likely by striking the ground with the mid or front section of the heel, you need to have good heel support.
To increase the efficiency of running, and to help maintain proper running technique, most running shoes will have a slightly raised heel to help add support and stability. This is not the case with walking shoes, which have a normal heel height, which is fine for simple walking.
On that same note, running shoes usually also have a flared heel, which also assists in proper running technique. When walking however, you usually roll through from the heel to the ball of the foot, so a flared heel would actually be an obstacle to this.
The next noticeable difference between walking and running shoes is that walking shoes usually don’t come with the best ankle support. If you are just walking, this is not going to be a big deal. After all, if you are walking normally, the chances of you slipping, tripping, and rolling an ankle are fairly minimal. Most would say that great arch support is not really a requirement of walking shoes.
However, the same cannot be said for running shoes. When running, or even just jogging, the chances of you tripping and rolling an ankle greatly increase when compared to simple walking. Therefore, to keep your ankles safe while running, good running shoes will have a higher ankle cuff to ensure that your ankles are well supported from all directions.
What you should also know here is that most running shoes have a far better traction pattern than walking shoes have. Simply put, if you are running at a fast pace, potentially over harsh or slippery terrain, you need to have a good traction pattern on the running shoe to keep you from slipping or falling. Seeing as walking involves a much slower pace, this is usually not a big requirement for walking shoes.
The final difference worth noting here is that walking shoes really are not all that flexible. Now, you might think that walking shoes don’t need to be flexible, because it’s just walking. However, in all reality, a good walking shoe should still be fairly flexible, although that said, many simply are not.
On the other hand, running shoes are much more flexible than walking shoes. You will notice that running shoes usually flex at the forefoot or midfoot, usually the forefoot, which helps increase comfort, speed, and more or less everything else when running. Sure, you need a flexible shoe for walking, but still not nearly as much as for running.
As you can see, there are indeed some pretty substantial differences between walking and running shoes. Simply put, running shoes are more flexible, have better arch and ankle support, more cushioning, and better traction too.