Reviews You Can Rely On

10 Best Walking Shoes of 2024

We've tested the best walking shoes from New Balance, Saucony, Brooks, Altra, La Sportiva, and more
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Best Walking Shoes Review (We hope our evaluations will help you select the best hiking shoe for your next adventure.)
We hope our evaluations will help you select the best hiking shoe for your next adventure.
Credit: Trish Matheny

Our Top Picks

Thursday March 28, 2024

Over more than a decade, our team has tested hundreds of the best shoes on the market. Whether you're prepping to get out for a morning dog walk or you need something comfortable and supportive for work, we have some great suggestions. We've spent countless hours strolling around town, running errands, and hiking local trails to find out which performed the best. Along the way, we took detailed notes on key aspects, judging comfort, support, responsiveness, weight, and stability — among others. From wallet-friendly models to ultra-cushiony options, we've found the perfect walking shoes for your needs and budget.

Looking for other ways to stay active? We've tested the top exercise equipment, including the best dumbbells and best yoga mats. Keep moving from the comfort of your home, even on rainy days, with the best treadmill or exercise bike. If you want to pick up the pace with a dedicated running shoe, we also have comprehensive lineups showcasing the best running shoes and our favorite trail running shoes. And if you need a great pair of socks, check out our sock review to see our favorites.

Editor's Note: Our walking shoe review was updated on March 28, 2024, with a new recommendation for our favorite women's shoe for walking long distances.

Best Casual Shoe for Men

Hoka Clifton 9

Thick foam footbed
Gentle rocker
Lacks responsiveness
Not great on uneven terrain

The Hoka Clifton 9 offers a lush amount of cushion without compromising weight. The foam is dense with a gentle rocker, and this, plus a deep footbed, results in a more stable ride. The soft side walls and wide-toe box add to the overall comfort of this shoe, keeping your foot centered. The gentle rocker helps keep you moving forward, yet won't be uncomfortable if you're standing in place. We never had any problems with our feet getting too warm in the Clifton, thanks to a lightweight and breathable upper. A slightly recessed heel cup helps keep your foot steady, while upper ankle padding provides extra support and comfort. Whether it's a long workday or a casual stroll around the neighborhood, this shoe is comfortable and firm.

There isn't a whole lot we didn't like about the Clifton 9. However, it isn't the most responsive, which is to be expected with how cushioned they are. As such, these high-stack shoes may not be the best choice for uneven terrain. The amount of exposed foam also leads us to question the overall durability, though we didn't have any troubles with this during our testing. With excellent comfort and a stable ride, we feel pretty confident that most people will love this shoe for daily strolls. We also like the Hoka Mach 5 as a comfortable daily walker with an extra cushion boost.

Read more: Hoka Clifton 9 review

Taking a look to see what makes the Hoka Clifton 9 such a comfortable walking shoe.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Best Casual Shoe for Women

Hoka Anacapa 2 Low GTX - Women's

Balanced cushion
Narrow fit
Minimal arch support

As a combination of a hiker and a sneaker, the Hoka Anacapa 2 Low GTX offers both reliable stability and comfort. The thickly padded sole absorbs most impacts with ease, providing a plush underfoot feel. This, along with the SwallowTail heel and Vibram Megagrip outsole, add to the shoe's overall stability. The breathable design includes a recycled mesh upper, which is flexible on your feet and kinder to the planet. The Anacapa is made even more versatile thanks to its waterproof build. Whether you're walking the dogs around town or venturing on trails, these Hokas will keep your feet protected and comfortable.

The support of the Anacapa 2 may be slightly lacking for those with high arches. That said, you can solve this issue by swapping out the insole for something with additional support (we've outlined our favorite insoles here). Hoka's sizing for this model runs a little large, which can help compensate for the narrow fit. On the other hand, these may feel slightly restrictive if you prefer a natural toe-box shape. Considering everything, the Anacapa 2 is a terrific all-around shoe worth a spot in anyone's closet. If you frequent trails where you might need more traction and support, the La Sportiva TX4 is almost as comfortable as the Anacapa and has a roomier toe box for those who have wider feet.

Read more: Hoka Anacapa 2 Low GTX review

The Anacapa 2 Low GTX has an excellent waterproofing system, should your walks take you to wet climates.
Credit: Trish Matheny

Best Distance Walking Shoe for Men

Saucony Endorphin Speed 3

Comfortable footbed
Rocker shape
Less support
Lacks stability

The Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 is a highly cushioned and responsive shoe that offers unbeatable comfort for those big days out. Featuring PWRRUN RB foam, it provides a perfect balance of compression and support. The lightweight design makes it an excellent choice for long walks, while its versatility allows for a smooth transition into a reliable running shoe. The foam's impressive shock-absorbing footbed reduces foot strike impact, enabling you to go the distance with less fatigue. Additionally, the rebound effect of the foam paired with the slight rocker shape propels you forward and keeps you moving. These shoes excel in comfort and are an excellent choice for a leisurely stroll around town or a paced treadmill walk.

Despite how great these shoes are, they lack lateral stability and support. Still, they shouldn't pose a significant issue for everyday activities and walks. Since these shoes are designed for road running, they won't be the best pick for treading uneven, rocky ground. Furthermore, the steep toe-off may take some getting used to, though once familiarized, these shoes will be an easy go-to for longer walks. If you need a shoe that's more supportive on light trails, check out the Hoka Anacapa 2 Low GTX.

Read more: Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 review

The Speed 3 is a comfortable shoe that can help you go the distance on the treadmill or on the road.
Credit: Nathaniel Bailey

Best Distance Walking Shoe for Women

Hoka Clifton 9 - Women's

Top-tier cushioning
Stable ride
Good road traction
Particular heel fit
Not super responsive

The Hoka Clifton 9 is a plush ride for those who plan to cover more than a few miles throughout the day. This is a shoe made to protect and cushion joints for hours on end. With a 34mm measured heel stack and 28mm stack in the forefoot, the Clifton 9 is made to go the distance. Hoka is a brand known for its maximalist shoe models that have long been favored by marathoners, distance walkers, and even those who spend most of the day on their feet. Despite the higher stack that comes with ultra-cushioning, this shoe felt quite stable in our testing. The Hoka Clifton has a lower-than-average drop of just 6mm, keeping your heel closer to your forefoot and increasing the feeling of underfoot stability. We also appreciate the outsole, which provides the right amount of traction for most surfaces thanks to the use of grippy Durabrasion rubber.

While it didn't score the best in responsiveness, we don't think this is as big of a deal in slow runs and long walks; we'll take the extra cushion and stability any day. The one thing to note about the Clifton 9 is the uniquely shaped heel cup. The higher heel tab and thick lateral edges may rub the wrong way on some people's heel and ankle area. For this reason, we recommend trying on the shoe before buying to ensure this won't be a problem later down the road. Otherwise, the breathable upper feels moderately roomy, and the shoe comes in a wide width, so can accommodate various foot shapes. If you are after a shoe to carry you over miles of smooth terrain without breaking a sweat, the Hoka Clifton 9 may be a good choice. If you value stability over cushion, another option to consider is the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23, which is a versatile shoe with a little more stability than the Clifton.

Read more: Hoka Clifton 9 review

Stability and comfort take priority in this cushy model. The Hoka Clifton 9 is our preferred shoe for tackling slow, long distances on foot.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Best Trail Shoe for Men

Hoka Anacapa 2 Low GTX

Excellent tread
Great support
Run a bit warm

The Hoka Anacapa 2 Low GTX is undeniably one of the most comfortable hiking shoes we've tested. Combining the features of hiking boots and trail runners, they are the perfect balance between comfort and stability, especially for uneven terrain. Able to handle just about any trail, these shoes have a 5mm deep tread pattern, a rocker sole, and an extended outsole for added stability. The snug heel cup and classic lacing system help provide excellent support and a secure fit. The Anacapa is built with thick materials that are more durable than classic trail runners, and that will help ward off any rolled ankles. Even so, these walking shoes are remarkably lightweight, weighing just 1.96 pounds for a pair of men's size 11. Furthermore, they have a Gore-Tex Invisible Fit membrane, so tackling those late-spring water crossings will be no problem.

Since this pair is waterproof, the Anacapa 2 Low GTX may be overkill for those living in a dry climate that doesn't get much precip. Gore-Tex is known for its breathability, but your feet may still get a little sweaty if you're hiking in warm weather. The traction may also be more than you need if you plan on mainly wearing these around town, but if you're searching for a comfortable and durable pair of trail shoes, the Anacapa 2 Low is a great option. If you don't need the waterproofing because you live in a warmer, dry climate, check out the HOKA Speedgoat 5.0, which is suited for trails and is more breathable.

Read more: Hoka Anacapa 2 Low GTX review

The stable and thick sole of the Hoka Anacapa 2 Low GTX can take on a large impact.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Best Trail Shoe for Women

La Sportiva Spire GTX - Women's

Minimal break-in period
Run large

If you plan on hitting the trails, you'll want the La Sportiva Spire GTX on your side. These rugged and reliable hikers thrive on uneven terrain, though they can tackle any trek you put in front of them. From the moment you lace them up, you'll be greeted with impressive comfort straight out of the box. We found many foot shapes and sizes were impressed by the Spire's comfort. They are stable and durable, with a robust outsole and structured arch support, and boast an abrasion-resistant mesh upper, which helps expel moisture while maintaining flexibility and trail responsiveness. Thanks to its incorporated Gore-Tex technology, the Spire GTX is well-equipped to handle run-off and river crossings.

Given they are waterproof, the Spire might not be the best option for warm climates where water crossings and snowmelt aren't present (the breathable Hoka Speedgoat 5 is a great go-to for warm and dry climates). Though the Spire maintains a breathable mesh layer, your feet might get a bit sweaty on hot, dry days. These shoes also tend to run slightly large, so you might want to order a half-size down for a more precise fit. Additionally, these sneakers are on the more expensive side. However, despite these considerations, the Spire GTX is an excellent shoe that had an outstanding overall performance in all our tests.

Read more: La Sportiva Spire GTX review

The La Sportiva Spire GTX is stable and responsive enough to handle rocky trails and uneven terrain.
Credit: Trish Matheny

Best Barefoot Shoe for Men

Vibram V-Trail 2.0

Tough traction
Minimalist feel
Durable build
Takes some breaking in
Style isn't for everyone

Barefoot shoes are meant to make you feel connected to the ground below you, and the Vibram V-Trail 2.0 does just that. These shoes have a minimal 3.7mm between your feet and the ground, so you can feel just about anything underfoot. However, the tough rubber has no problem protecting you from sharp rocks and rugged terrain. The outsole traction has large triangular lugs, which are great for traversing bumpy trails. The FiveFinger design is unique, to say the least, individually housing all ten toes like a winter glove to allow your foot to splay out as though walking barefoot. With how minimal this shoe is, you might think durability is a concern. However, the V-Trail 2.0 proved to be far from short-lived. They are composed of a tough Cordura-like nylon upper and a 3D Cocoon Mesh, so you can feel confident taking these on whatever walk your day holds.

Those new to this style of shoe will find it takes some time to get used to the FiveFingers design of the V-Trail 2.0. At first, your toes may feel like they are being restricted. The 0mm heel-to-toe drop may also cause some discomfort as your body adapts. That said, after the break-in period, you'll be met with the pleasurable barefoot experience that so many rave about. As far as barefoot shoes go, these aren't the most sensitive, though they are far more responsive than the traditional sneaker. Additionally, we found the lug pattern to be a little slick when descending trails, specifically on rocks. Overall, the unique and minimalist V-Trail kept us feeling more connected to the ground around us. If you're interested in a barefoot-style shoe but just can't hang with the toe separation, check out the Merrell Vapor Glove 6.

Read more: Vibram V-Trail 2.0 review

Whether walking or running, the Vibram V-Trail 2.0 can help you feel more grounded while still offering underfoot protection.
Credit: Jon Oleson

Best Barefoot Shoe for Women

Xero Shoes HFS - Women's

Minimalist profile
Minimal support
Can be uncomfortable for those new to the profile

Loved by our testers for years, the Xero HFS have earned high marks, and for good reason. These barefoot shoes embrace a minimalist approach, featuring a 0mm heel-to-toe drop and light cushion. The outsole is 5.5mm, which helps give that barefoot feel. They include optional insoles measuring an additional 2mm. This optional sole makes this an excellent first pair of barefoot shoes, as they provide more cushion than most others, making the transition from traditional sneakers is smoother. The natural toe box allows for an unrestricted feel and allows your toes to splay. Designed to only feel like a light layer between your feet and the ground, the HFS is flexible with just enough support.

The outsole of the HFS is mainly built for low-traction surfaces and road use. Occasional use on gravel and light trails is certainly doable, but you may want to consider a shoe with burlier traction if you plan on taking your walking shoes on more intensive hikes. And, although they may not be the lightest among barefoot walking shoes, they still offer a significant reduction in weight compared to regular sneakers. As with any zero-drop shoe, if you're not already wearing barefoot shoes, these may take some time to get used to. If you want to get as close as possible to a true barefoot experience, the Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO is one of the most natural feeling options we have tested.

Read more: Xero HFS review

walking shoes - the xero hfs is made to feel like you're walking around barefoot...
The Xero HFS is made to feel like you're walking around barefoot with a light protective layer between your feet and the ground.
Credit: Lyra Pierotti

Best for Overall Cushion for Men

On Cloudsurfer 7

Plush underfoot cushioning
Lighter weight
Luxurious upper material
Not as responsive
Less stable

When you slip into this shoe for the first time, you'll understand how the On Cloudsurfer 7 got its dreamy-sounding name. A combination of cushy midsole foam, a taller stack height, and a pronounced rocker angle provides a smooth rolling sensation with every step, and it is one of the most comfortable models we have tested so far. This shoe is a great option for those who spend a lot of time on their feet during the day and need a soft landing to carry them through. We also love the look of these shoes and think they are more stylish than other heavily cushioned models. We would not hesitate to wear them out and about on our daily errands.

One of the downsides to the Cloudsurfer 7 is the lack of stability, which is a direct result of the high stack height and softer foam that make this shoe so comfortable. If you have a tendency to roll your ankles or if you walk on uneven surfaces very often, you may want to opt for something more supportive. The Saucony Triumph 21 has similar comfort features but feels a bit more stable underfoot. But, if you spend most of your time indoors or walking on smoothly paved sidewalks, the On Cloudsurfer is a shoe we highly recommend.

Read more: On Cloudsurfer 7 review

The lightweight foam and unique midsole structure both contribute to the cloudlike feel of these shoes.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Best for Overall Cushion for Women

Asics Gel-Kayano 30 - Women's

Comfortable midsole and upper materials
Good stability
Decently responsive
Heavier than average
Beefy design

The Asics Gel-Kayano 30 - Women's is one of the top performers when it comes to cushioning and landing comfort. These plush-feeling shoes have a thick stack height filled with pillowy foam in the midsole and a gel insert in the heel, both of which help lessen the impact of footfalls throughout the day. We also love the upper material that Asics used for this shoe. The stretch knit fabric is breathable, and the thick tongue creates a lace bed that prevents laces from digging into the top of your foot throughout the day.

The Gel-Kayano 30 is a bit heavier than average, weighing in at just over 8 ounces for one women's size 6.5 shoe. With all the extra foam and comfort features, this is to be expected, and we wouldn't consider the weight a deal-breaker for such a cushy shoe. If you like the maximalist cushioning but also need maximum stability in your shoes, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23 is one option that may work well for you. A last note about the Gel-Kayano is that it runs a bit short; you may want to try it on before purchasing or order a half size up for the most comfortable fit.

Read more: Asics Gel-Kayano 30 review

The Gel-Kayano 30 offers maximalist-style cushioning in the midsole and a comfortable upper that can help keep you on your feet through the long haul.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Best Budget Walking Shoe

Brooks Divide 4

Runs narrow
Average weight

Throw on the Brooks Divide 4 for a walk around town or a stroll in the woods. These versatile sneakers will get you from point A to B without breaking the bank. With a stable and rigid neutral platform, the Divide ensures that your foot remains securely placed throughout your entire walk. As these shoes prioritize foot protection, they are well-equipped to handle the occasional toe strike or jagged rock. These comfortable shoes accommodate a wide range of foot types, and both our men and women testers loved them. The breathable upper allows heat and moisture to escape, while the water-resistant outsoles help keep your feet dry. Furthermore, the Divide's moderate traction makes it a great option for those who frequent various types of terrain on their walks.

While they perform well in most conditions, the Divide isn't the burliest or most sensitive option for rugged trail walks. These shoes are about average when it comes to weight, not too heavy but not the lightest either. Our women testers found these sneakers to run on the narrower side, which might not be the best for wide feet. Outside of these things, whether you're strolling through the neighborhood or exploring less demanding trails, this shoe is a great contender to keep your feet and wallet happy. If you don't wander off smooth pavement too often, the Puma Velocity Nitro 3 is another affordable option to consider.

Read more: Men's Brooks Divide 4 Review

Read more: Women's Brooks Divide 4 review

The Divide 4 is even more breathable than its former versions.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Most Comfortable Sandal for Men

ECCO Yucatan

Supportive contoured footbed
Adjustable straps
Not stylish

For those warm weather strolls, the ECCO Yucatan provides impressive open-toed comfort. These sandals boast a contoured EVA footbed that supports the foot and remains comfortable throughout the entire stride. The first time you put these on, you'll be met with a cushiony underfoot and soft straps. The neoprene straps are quick-drying, well-cushioned, and can be adjusted for a variety of foot shapes. This, along with the heel cup, keeps these sandals securely in place step-by-step, wet or dry. The thick platform is wide with excellent traction, making the Yucatan stable for all types of terrain. These sandals are our go-to for warm-weather walks, thanks to their unbeatable comfort and performance.

The Yucatan is a high-performing, well-loved sandal by our testers. But, given its price tag, this certainly isn't a budget-friendly option. However, its sturdy build should last for years to come, and its comfort is undeniable. These aren't very fashion-forward walking shoes, but if you prioritize comfort over style, the Yucatan will do wonders for your feet. If you are a more budget-conscious shopper, the Teva Katavi 2 is a similar style of sandal that costs significantly less while still offering decent performance.

Read more: ECCO Yucatan review

The Ecco Yucatan can handle just about any terrain thanks to its burly built and adjustable straps.
Credit: Jacob Clark

Most Comfortable Flip Flop for Women

OluKai Ohana - Women's

Available in many colors

Time and time again, we find ourselves slipping on the OluKai Ohana to wear around town. It's hard to beat the comfort these sandals provide as they mold to your feet. The arch support and contoured footbed allow them to stay stable and structurally supportive. The footbed material is designed to feel like you are standing on a sandy beach, remaining comfortable to wear even when wet. The padded synthetic nubuck straps are wide enough to prevent hot spots, and they dry fairly quickly. With impressive traction, you'll be able to wear these flip flops on most types of walks. The Ohana's are available in a wide selection of colors, all of which can easily be dressed up or down.

The Ohana runs on the wider side, so if you're in between sizes or have narrow feet, we recommend sizing down. For flip flops, these are also on the heavier side, so they might not be the most packable pair if you like to pack light for travel. Additionally, they are pricey. However, the superb comfort and versatility are hard to deny, and excellent craftsmanship means these flips will easily stick around for many seasons to come. If you are in the market for a lightweight pair of flip flops for travel, the Clarks Breeze Sea fits the bill while still offering good arch support.

Read more: OluKai Ohana Women's review

walking shoes - the olukai ohana can easily be paired with a sundress or athletic...
The OluKai Ohana can easily be paired with a sundress or athletic clothes. These comfortable flip flops are great to walk around in, even for extended periods.
Credit: Matthew Blake

Best for Slick Terrain

La Sportiva TX2 Evo

Great for wet surfaces
Recycled materials
Minimal support
Lower durability

While approach shoes are primarily used for rocky hikes leading up to technical rock climbing routes, they are also excellent options for walking around on slick ground. Throughout our years of testing, we have found the La Sportiva TX2 Evo to be one of our favorite pairs for both men and women. These shoes are somewhere in between hikers, climbing shoes, and classic tennis shoes. While most shoes of this style are on the rigid side, the TX2 Evo remains soft enough for casual day-to-day use. The uppers are constructed from a lightweight sock-like knit, while the outsoles are made from Vibram Idrogrip. This grippy outsole is what makes these shoes an excellent option for walking on dry or wet terrain and even slippery rocks. Providing a snug yet comfortable fit, the TX2 Evo has a thicker padded lining just above the heel along the Achilles. This, paired with the tight lacing pattern, allows for a precise fit. As an added bonus, these sneakers are made from recycled materials, and the ESS Resoling platform means the soles can be replaced.

These aren't considered heavy-duty approach shoes, which is part of what makes them so versatile. That being said, the knit material lacks structural support and durability. Still, the TX2 Evo is heavier than traditional hiking or running shoes. However, when compared to other approach shoes, they are some of the lightest. Overall, if you plan on spending any considerable amount of time on slick, wet ground, it's worth looking into a pair of shoes like these. There are many great options out there, and if you need something a little more versatile but still want the super grippy outsole, the Scarpa Rapid crosses over into hiking and trail running with ease.

While there are many great options out there, we love the versatility the TX2 offers.

Read more: Men's La Sportiva TX2 Evo review

Read more: Women's La Sportiva TX2 Evo review

walking shoes - even if you don't plan on using these for climbing approaches, they...
Even if you don't plan on using these for climbing approaches, they are still a great all-around shoe for everyday use on slick terrain.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

How We Test the Best Walking Shoes

Year after year, we dive deep into searching the market for the best shoes out there. Following our research, we order the most promising pairs for rigorous back-to-back testing. We check every box, testing each model for comfort, support, traction, weight, durability, and more. Our hands-on trials conducted by various well-equipped testers allow us to fully grasp each shoe's overall performance. Every walking shoe in this lineup has been tested on multiple terrains, including sidewalks, riverwalks, trails, roads, and around town. Furthermore, we tested these out at various distances to see how they hold up with extended use.

We use each shoe in our day-to-day lives and also use standardized methods to test aspects such as toe box volume and fit.
Credit: Natalie Kafader

Why You Should Trust Us

This comprehensive review highlights some of our favorite walking shoes that we've found over the years. For everyday casual road shoes, Ally Arcuri, and Nathaniel Bailey, lead the team. Ally has a degree in kinesiology from Cal State Fullerton that allows her to search for shoes with proper biomechanics in mind. Working with physical therapists for many years and being an experienced ultrarunner, she brings a wealth of exercise science knowledge to the table. Nathaniel has spent many years running and cycling and now coaches both high school and recreational runners. When not guiding other people through their running journey, he is on a personal mission to break road-racing PRs, which always involves a trusted pair of sneakers.

When it's time to hit the trails, our expert in the hiking shoe department is Trish Matheny, who is joined by trail runner Matthew Richardson. Trish has been exploring Rocky Mountain trails for nearly 15 years, concurrently finding her passions for climbing, split boarding, trail running, and yoga. Matthew's biggest passion is running, and he spends much of his time exploring new routes through the mountain ranges of Southern Colorado. With a top-ten finish at the Telluride Mountain Run in his back pocket, Matthew knows what it takes for a trail shoe to go the distance. When he's not running, you can catch him bikepacking, backcountry skiing, and playing guitar. These two are pro's when it comes to finding comfortable shoes for more rugged terrain.

walking shoes - we spent many hours testing every single pair of shoes to find you...
We spent many hours testing every single pair of shoes to find you the very best.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Many more reviewers and testers worked diligently to bring you this review, including Jon Oleson, Hayley Thomas, Jacob Clark, and Rebecca Glades, all of whom love to be on the move, whether for work or play, and value having the right footwear to support their active lifestyles.

Testing out how well the La Sportiva Spire GTXs hold up in wet...
Testing out how well the La Sportiva Spire GTXs hold up in wet conditions.
We cut open every pair of shoes to further inspect the materials...
We cut open every pair of shoes to further inspect the materials, footbed, durability, and more.
The ECCO Yucatan has adjustable straps, so you'll be sure to get...
The ECCO Yucatan has adjustable straps, so you'll be sure to get that precise fit.

How to Choose the Best Walking Shoes for You

First and foremost, when looking for a good walking shoe, you should consider overall comfort. Many aspects go into this, especially when taking different preferences and activity levels into account. To further narrow it down, a few key elements should be considered.


Most shoes will offer some level of cushioning, though it can span a wide range. If you're not used to wearing either very minimal or maximal cushioning, there can be a bit of a transition period when getting used to the profile. On the minimal side, these shoes might have just a couple of millimeters of cushion. These “barefoot” models have just a thin layer protecting you from the ground with the intent of allowing you to feel more underfoot. These minimalist models are very responsive but not the most protective. On the other end of the spectrum, maximum cushioned models will have a thick footbed that helps absorb shock to avoid leg fatigue. Though these thick footbeds feel relieving, they aren't very responsive and aren't a great choice for quick movements.

walking shoes - the on couldsurfer 7 offers some of the most cushioned landing pads...
The On Couldsurfer 7 offers some of the most cushioned landing pads we have experienced in a shoe.

Support and Stability

More stable shoes help keep your feet properly aligned and minimize excessive movement, reducing the risk of injury. Shoes that are more stable will have a supportive midsole, snug heel cup, ample arch support, and a durable upper. Highly cushioned walking shoes tend to be less supportive. This is due to the softer underfoot that prioritizes comfort and flexibility. As your foot sinks into the sole, the shoe becomes less responsive and often less stable. Based on your planned activities, you can get away with more or less stable options. Shorter and more casual outings that don't require constant time upright won't need an excessively rigid build. Whereas, for plans that include hikes or uneven terrain, look for more structurally stable models, like trail-specific walking shoes.

The cushiony Hoka Anacapa 2 are stable even when the terrain gets a little bumpy.
Credit: Trish Matheny

Heel-to-Toe Drop

With zero-drop shoes becoming more and more popular, it's important to first understand what this means. Heel-to-toe drop is the difference between the stack height of the heel and the toe. Barefoot and zero-drop shoes have no drop. Minimal toe-drop shoes have 1 to 4mm of drop. Both of these are best for those who land on their mid-foot or closer to the toe during foot strikes. Moderate and maximum shoes have a drop of up to 10mm or more. These shoes are best for those who land heel-first. Neither high nor low toe-drop is a one-size-fits-all. However, selecting the right differential for your foot strike can provide more comfort and relief. Transitioning to shoes with different toe-drops can be challenging at first. You might experience some slight discomfort in your calves and feet, but this should dissipate over time as your body gets used to the new drop. It's important to make changes slowly and incrementally to avoid potential injury.

walking shoes - the xero hfs have zero drop, meaning there's 0mm height between the...
The Xero HFS have zero drop, meaning there's 0mm height between the heel and toe.
Credit: Jill Rice


Waterproof shoes certainly have their time and place. Those walking in wet climates or on trails that are subject to snowmelt and run-off will want to pay particular attention to this feature set. Some manufacturers make their own unique waterproof membrane to keep your feet dry, whereas many other companies add a layer of Gore-Tex (sometimes written "GTX"). Regardless, these membranes are designed to keep water out of your shoe while still allowing your feet to breathe. The downside to this is that these shoes aren't as breathable as non-waterproof versions. If you mostly walk in a warm, dry climate, you'll likely find your feet pretty sweaty. Therefore, those dry climate dwellers should consider a non-waterproof option.

walking shoes - waterproof shoes like the hoka anacapa 2 will keep your feet dry...
Waterproof shoes like the Hoka Anacapa 2 will keep your feet dry even after you've braved the river crossings.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Consider Terrain

You might be planning on walking primarily indoors, on a treadmill, or on sidewalks and roads. If that's the case, you likely won't need a shoe built for the trails. These “road shoes” have minimal traction to cut down on weight and bulkiness. However, if you plan to spend most of your walks on uneven terrain, it's worth considering a trail shoe with bulkier tread and more overall stability. If you're just getting started or you venture out in various conditions, a trail shoe with less aggressive traction might be the best option. A versatile shoe like this will have you covered for all terrain types, but it won't be too bulky for everyday use.

The Divide 4 offers enough additional traction to tackle light trails without breaking the bank.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Regardless of where you plan on walking, this list of top performers will have you covered. We understand how intimidating it can be to choose just one pair of walking shoes, which is why we are happy to pass on our knowledge of the best to you. Whether you're set on ultimate comfort or trying out a new pair of zero-drops, we hope we've made it a breeze to choose your new pair of walking shoes.

Nathaniel Bailey, Trish Matheny, Ally Arcuri, and Matthew Richardson