Running and walking shoes: is there a difference?

Posted on: 22 October 2014

If you live an active lifestyle or want to take up an exercise routine it's important to take care of your feet. Walking, jogging, or any physical activity can cause injuries to muscles and joints. Taking care to buy the appropriate shoes for your exercise will save you a lot of pain and ensure you can continue exercising into old age. So what is the difference between walking and running, and which shoes should you buy?


When you walk, your foot interacts with the ground differently to other physical activity like running or playing sport. The first point of contact with the ground is at the heel. Your foot then comes down so that the ball of your foot and your toes also press into the ground. It's a kind of "rolling" motion, with about a least your body weight being absorbed by the impact.

Walking Shoes

Although walking is low intensity exercise, it is still important to wear the correct shoes. The best shoes for walking have extra-cushioning at the heel because this is where you get most impact with the ground. They should be flexible around the ball of the foot to help with the rolling motion of your foot. Some walking shoes are also made with a sole that curves upwards slightly, which also assists with the walking motion.


When you run, your outer heel hits the ground first and at a much greater impact compared to walking. The force is about 2-3 times your body weight. Your foot still rolls out to your the ball and toes, but to a lesser extent and with much less impact.

Running Shoes

Two different types of shoes are recommended for running. The more traditional is a shoe with thicker padding in the heel for shock absorption. Running shoes are also typically lighter in weight, and made with more breathable fabric to keep your feet cool. This type of shoe is ideal for running and jogging in an urban environment, on hard ground or cement.

The other type of shoe recommended for running is the "barefoot" shoe. They are an ultra-lightweight footwear with barely any padding in the sole. They're also often made with toe-slots and look like gloves. The idea behind barefoot shoes is that running barefoot is safer than running with shoes on, that our natural style of running prevents injure. When you run barefoot, you're forced to land more on the middle area of your foot and the ball of your foot, with less impact on your heel. Barefoot shoes are great to use on grassy areas, but are not ideal in where there is concrete, small rocks and rubbish like glass.

A sports podiatrist can evaluate your exercise routine and make recommendations based on your unique needs.