There was a time when the only buying choice for sneakers was white or black. Today’s athletic shoes are the product of sophisticated science and engineering that have expanded consumer choices to precise details about athletic shoe cushioning, flexibility, orthopedic qualities, and the breathability of inner and outer materials. The distinctions between walking shoes, running shoes, and cross trainers from the same manufacturer may be small in some cases but they are real differences that will affect your walking experience, and not just a marketing gimmick.
Walking shoes have more flexible soles and are specially designed to promote the easy roll of the foot from heel to toe, your natural walking motion. Cushioning is designed to absorb about 1.5 times body weight for any shoe size. Walking shoes do not have to be as rugged so there is more opportunity for manufacturers to use mesh and other lighter, highly breathable materials on the shoe outers. Feet sweat and some walkers will really appreciate this feature. Tread designs are less deep and the soles and side walls provide all around grip. The best walking shoe is, in fact, a Walking Shoe, but you could certainly use the other types of athletic shoes in your walking program so long as the fit was right.
Running shoes are designed to absorb impacts up to three times your body weight and provide sufficient lateral stability to control pronation. Heels are higher and more heavily cushioned. Treads and sides are designed for maximum forward grip. Trail running shoes have impregnated solid guards to prevent bruising from sharp rocks. Running shoes from the same manufacturer will not be as flexible at the ball of the foot as a purpose made walking shoe.
Cross-trainers attempt to provide a versatile compromise between walking and basketball, tennis or other court shoes. Generally, cross trainers have more rigid metatarsal (side-to-side) support than running shoes, and do not have adequate heel cushioning for long distance running, Cross-trainers work OK if running is limited to a few miles at a time but a cross-trainer shoe would likely break down faster than a purpose made running shoe.
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