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Walking into an athletic shoe store is a feast for the senses. All the bright colors! The fresh smell of brand-new shoes! The customers jogging around clothing racks to test out a new pair! There’s a lot going on, but it’s pretty easy to find the running shoe rack — most stores have a hefty supply of Nikes, Asics, Brooks, and other popular brands. If you’re a walker, it gets a little more confusing. There isn’t usually a separate section for walking shoes, which leaves you to linger by the running area, wondering if that pair of jogging-specific sneakers is going to feel OK on your walking-specific feet.

POPSUGAR asked Victor Ornelas, director of brand management and shoe expert at the running store chain Fleet Feet, to clear things up for us. First, let’s lay out the differences between running and walking shoes. The variation mostly has to do with the way the shoe hugs the top of your foot (rather than the makeup of the sole).

  • Running shoes are developed around a curved mold, while walking shoes are more “straight.”
  • More breathable materials, like mesh and knit, are typically used for running shoes instead of walking shoes.
  • Walking shoes “tend to be stiff to provide balance and stability,” Victor told POPSUGAR, while running shoes have greater flexibility in the midsole.
  • You’re more likely to see reflective accents, brighter colors, and newer technology used in running shoes.

Are Running Shoes Good For Walking?

Despite those differences, Victor said you can “absolutely” wear running shoes for walking, whether you’re out doing errands or going for a longer walk. “A running shoe is an appropriate solution for walking,” he told POPSUGAR. That doesn’t mean, though, that you should just rely on one pair — or even one brand — for all your walking, running, and errand-doing needs. Rotating your shoes helps them last longer, which is helpful when you remember that you should really be replacing your running shoes every four to six months, according to Victor. And beyond that, Victor said, “It’s also good for your body to change it up a bit. If you have two different shoe brands, you allow yourself to experience a different type of shoe, technology, and comfort.”

To sum it all up: feel free to do your walking workouts in running shoes, but switch things up from time to time, and don’t let them get too worn down before you pop in for a new pair. How can you tell when it’s time? Here are our best tips and tricks, from tracking mileage to checking the shoe’s flexibility. And when you’re ready to hit the road, track, or treadmill with that fresh pair, here’s a seven-day walking workout plan to get you started.

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