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Choosing the best pair of female-specific trainers for walking can be difficult because there are so many choices out there and it’s easy to get confused. But don’t worry! I’ve got some great recommendations for you of walking and hiking shoes that will keep your feet comfy as you pound the pavements and trails.
Walking is a fantastic form of exercise, whether you’re out in the countryside or pounding the mean city streets. It’s low impact, great for cardiovascular fitness, helps to strengthen bones and can help to cut excess body fat. Go walking in the right pair of footwear and it can be an absolute pleasure – fresh air, birds tweeting and the sun on your face. Do it in the wrong footwear though and it can be a nightmare of blisters, rubbed ankles and bashed toe nails. You’ll be too occupied with staggering painfully along to hear any birds tweeting at all.
So, how do you go about picking the right pair of trainers? Well we’ll take a look at the factors to consider in a moment. Along the way, I’ll also give you some recommendations for fantastic walking trainers that it’s worthwhile taking a closer look at.
Recommended women’s trainers for walking:
How to choose walking trainers
When you’re choosing a pair of trainers for walking it’s important to think about when and where you’re likely to use them most. For city pavements, the best option will likely be a trainer such as road running shoe. For muddy countryside paths though you’ll need a trainer like a lightweight walking shoe as this will give more support and better grip. There’s lots of things to consider and we’ll go through each of the important factors to think about now so you can make a well-informed choice about which trainers are right for you and your walking.
If you’d like a little more detail on how a trainer is put together – looking at each of the main elements of a trainer so you can see what each does and how they interact with each other – take a look at my other article on trainers for long distance walking.
Types of walking trainer
There are three classes of trainer that are good for walking and the one that’s best for you will ultimately depend on the type of walking that you tend to do.
Road running shoes can be a really versatile option for many women. They’re ideal for smooth pavements and roads and are particularly good if you like to walk at a brisker pace than average as this will involve more heel impact – something that the cushioning on running shoes is designed to protect you from. They’re also handy if you want one pair of trainers for lots of different activities – walking, running, and trips to the gym.
Walking shoes are a lower cut and lighter weight version of a hiking boot. They’re perfect when your walking takes you deep into the countryside. They don’t have the ankle support of a hiking boot, but can be better as they aren’t as heavy to lug around all day on a long walk. They’re also much cooler (and therefore less sweaty) to wear on a hot summer’s day.
Trail shoes are a cross between lightweight hiking shoes and road running trainers. They’re great for off-road walking and have more flex than a hiking boot combined with less sole cushioning compared to a running shoe. They tend to have great grips on the sole as they’re designed for running up and down muddy, scree-covered slopes, so they work really well for walking in those conditions. Bear in mind though that, like walking shoes, these won’t have the ankle support you’d get with hiking boots.
What terrain will you be walking on?
If you expect all of your walking to be on dry, non-muddy, smooth pavements or along country roads, then a road running trainer is likely to be the perfect option for you. However, if you’re planning to go further into the countryside, where you’re likely to encounter more puddles and mud, then it would be best to choose either a trail-running shoe or lightweight walking shoe. Many walking shoes are waterproof and this will help prevent soggy socks, which could otherwise lead to rubbed and sore skin and blisters.
What time of year will you be walking?
If walking is purely a summer sport for you then it’s fine to go with road running shoes. However if you’ll be carrying on throughout the wetter wintertime (and, as we know, even spring and autumn can be quite wet in Britain too!) then it’s a good idea to go with either walking shoes or trail shoes. These will give better grip in wet and slippery conditions and the waterproofing that some models also have will keep your feet dry.
How do your feet measure up?
If you’re a runner shopping for running trainers then it can get very complicated. I remember shopping for a pair of trainers and being videoed whilst running on a treadmill – this was during my lunch hour and I was wearing a suit, so felt fairly silly! The purpose of it was to take a closer look at my running style to see whether I was under- or over-pronating, or had a neutral running motion. It got quite technical and so it’s nice to know that pronation is much less of a concern when choosing trainers for walking as heel impact is less pronounced than it is with running. Phew.
However you’ll need to be aware of the specifics of your own feet when shopping for new walking trainers. Things like one foot being bigger than the other (get the trainer size to match your biggest foot), or wider than average feet. If you do have wider feet then it may be worth looking at men’s trainers as these are generally cut more generously across the width.
If you need additional arch support then it is often a good idea to choose trainers and insoles separately. Trainer soles can normally be replaced easily and you can buy a pair of soles to suit your feet. You could also take insoles from your existing trainers although keep in mind that these soles do need to be replaced with new ones once they get too worn.
How much heel cushioning do you need?
Another feature of trainers that is more important for running shoes than it is for walking shoes is the depth of the heel and the heel-to-toe drop.
When you’re running your heels will tend to take quite a pounding as they are the first landing point for every step that you take. That’s also the case when you’re walking but, because you’re not jumping from step to step, there’s far less impact on your heels. That means that you don’t need to hunt out trainers that have ginormous heels. Heel-to-toe drop refers to the difference in cushion height between the heel area and toes. It’s important for running shoes, but less so for walking shoes, so you can choose a shoe that has a more similar height across the full length of the sole.
When you should replace walking trainers
Sadly, trainers don’t last for ever! Whilst walking trainers take less impact than running trainers they will still suffer from wear ‘n’ tear and need to be replaced eventually. Cushioned heels will become compacted and lose their bounce. Grips on the sole will get worn down. Big toes will start to peep out through the mesh on the tops of the shoes.
A good rule of thumb is that trainers should be replaced once they (and you) have done 300-500 miles. Do 5 miles every week and that means you’ll need to get a new pair every 1-2 years.