Whenever we undertake a new type of exercise, one of the first things we do is find out what kit is needed – then learn a bit about the best brands around. Strangely, we rarely consider this when walking! It’s easy to underestimate how much walking we do, whether discovering a new city or strolling around on holiday. Yet rarely do we consider the benefits of the correct footwear as we would with any other activity. And, like it or not, your favourite sneakers are rarely up to the task.
Walking is seen by more and more as a serious and enjoyable form of exercise, and a great way to reduce our carbon footprint – spurred on by incentives such as the 10,000 step challenge.
This is pretty essential. How a shoe feels on your foot after 30 seconds in a store, compared to two hours into a trail is going to vary. If possible, test new footwear at the end of the day, as this is when your feet are slightly more swollen and in tune with a workout. And, always take the wiggle test, moving your toes around, making sure they are free and unrestricted.
If you’re going to be using your new steppers daily, whether commuting to work or taking the dog on a 5km walk, you’ll want to consider a durable shoe from the likes of York Athletics MFG or On Running. On Running designs are particularly good to use on multiple terrains, with a comfortable yet sturdy sole.
If you’re trekking across the city on your way to and from work each day, maybe you’ll prefer the more stylish walk wear creations of Oliver Cabell or Unseen – shoes that work better with a more casual, non-sports wardrobe. These types of designs will not only have you treading in total comfort, but they’ll have you looking at the dog’s swingers. Win-win.
Now that you have a good idea what you’re looking for, here’s where the fun really begins. We’ve put together these brands for your walking shoe consideration, to offer you a step in the right direction.
The darling of Silicon Valley and arguably some of the best no fuss comfortable shoes around. They're cheap and sustainable so it's hard to go past walking shoes from Allbirds
If you like the idea of pristine style, total walking comfort and a product made for the sustainable generation, then the Phoenix from Oliver Cabell has risen from the flames. This highly comfortable shoe fits easily into any casual wardrobe, and you could even get away with a pair of silky slacks for complete wardrobe practicality. It has been created using recycled water bottles and is machine washable, so you won’t have to worry too much about keeping on top of that brilliant white look. Ideal for everyday use, whether you’re heading into town for a few drinks or meandering along the coastline mid vacation.
On Running was created in Switzerland back in 2010 when a group of three elite-level endurance athletes were pondering retirement. Now they are proud owners of one of the world’s best running footwear brands. But you don’t need to be a runner to wear their designs, as proven by this pair of Clouds. It’s become the everyday shoe for millions worldwide, and even a few Olympic athletes. They’re made from zero gravity foam with a sole that produces superior grip across concrete and country terrain surfaces. They also feature a breathable, antimicrobe mesh that reduces odour when used intensively.
If you haven't already heard of Veja...they're currently taking the sneaker world by storm. Not only are they creating high quality, stylish sneakers, but they're also environmentally responsible. This isn't just the case for one sneaker or line, but for their whole collection. They use a selection of recycled materials for the uppers and natural Brazilian rubber for the midsoles. Save the planet in style...
When Everlane set up their Tread project, they wanted to make the world’s lowest impact, carbon-neutral sneakers - a statement of what can be achieved with a little forward-thinking. And you’ll be pleased to know they have more than delivered. The Trainer has a design for everyday use, a subtle addition to summer shorts and tee or winter jeans and raincoat. It’s more of a hybrid shoe than a luxury sneaker with a fit that loosens over time. The sole has been made from 95% recycled rubber, and Everlane claim to offset the remaining elements they can’t eliminate through NativeEnergy.
The Nike Internationalist Lox By You took the world by storm in the 1980s and was the weapon of choice for many of the world’s top long-distance athletes. It has since been adopted by streetwear enthusiasts as a Nike classic, but this shouldn’t take anything away from its performance benefits. The Internationalist is made from soft, lightweight materials and fabrics that make distance a doddle. Yes, it is a sporty looking shoe, but the retro design means it looks as good with shorts as it does with jeans and tee, making it a versatile wardrobe tool. It’s also available in luxe leather suede for the real style-conscious city hopper.
Whether you’re cruising the metro or at the top of some unpronounceable European mountain, you’re never too far away from spotting a pair of New Balance. And there are two good reasons for that - comfort and durability, aided by the Boston brand’s 100-year history making quality sports footwear. This 996 is made for everyday use, offering superior underfoot cushioning thanks to lightweight C-CAP Midsole technology. It’s also roomy around the throat and toe cap to keep your feet feeling less restricted on longer walks, with a leather upper for added splash and dirt resistance.
ARKK Copenhagen loves to mix up style and practicality. It’s what the ethos of the brand is based on. After all, why should style compromise practicality? Their Axionn Mesh trainer has been designed to help you dress up or dress down without impacting comfort when walking. It features a textured grip outer sole complemented by a highly cushioned PWR55 mid-sole for everyday wear. You can easily imagine these being worn with jeans or a pair of shorts or black chinos, adding more than a few style options to your everyday attire.
York Athletics MFG
York Athletics MFG’s most successful design by a country mile is The Henry. It’s won awards the world over and stands as one of the lightest and most durable designs on this list. It’s perfect for covering distance on flat surfaces in and around towns and cities, and is very much aimed towards the sports performance market. Dri-Freeze technology keeps your feet feeling fresh and dry during exercise, whilst a microfibre tongue protects you against unwanted lace-bite. It also has a super responsive EVA midsole that’s perfect if you’re covering long distances or just want to pick up the pace mid-walk.
There are a fair few models from Adidas that could have made this guide, such is their reputation for making high-class performance footwear, but we have settled on the Running Ultraboost. Why? Because it’s made for pure longevity and feels as snug as a glove. The shoe is not only light and perfectly suited to long-distance, but its fabrics are stretchable for an altogether more natural fit and movement. They’re also excellent for those who require reinforcement around the foot arch to boost performance posture.
New York is a snazzy lifestyle shoe from Asics’ Onitsuka Tiger range. It’s perfect for everyday use and strikes that ideal balance between cool and comfort - sports style and street style. As the name suggests, this one is made for the city, with a thin responsive sole and padding around the ankles for those longer days when a shopping spree turns into dinner and a few vinos. They are pretty thin and sleek, so maybe avoid them if you over-supinate or require plenty of width. On the plus side, they go with pretty much everything casual, especially around spring-summer.
Saucony is one of the oldest sports footwear brands in the world and now produce high-performance runners for those with an eye for distance. We've long been a fan of their Originals collection. The no fuss retro take on e everyday sneakers ensure you're getting a sturdy walking shoe that's also got a stylish edge to it.
The Walking Classic from Rockport is exactly what the name suggests. Rockport is well accustomed to making highly functional yet sophisticated shoes made to finish off that laid back casual look. This limited edition has been constructed with quality leather linings to offer supreme comfort, and trueTech lightweight shock absorbers that add longevity to long days spent on your feet. It also has a nice wide sole that helps your muscles relax whilst you walk and breathable lining to keep your feet fresh and dry.
Designed in London and hand made in Italy, these Trinity shoes by Unseen are the ultimate in smart casual. They combine all the aesthetics of a sports trainer and turn it into something more sophisticated and luxurious. High-arch support offers supreme comfort for unparalleled all-day comfort, whilst an Italian suede upper and tongue are finished off with classy waxed cotton laces. The sole is made from durable, long-lasting rubber, and features a 3M reflective detail at the heel.
Under Armour first came to everyone's attention back in 1996, a year that has inspired one of their most recent creations, the US Forge 96. It’s a cross-over trainer that looks great with both modern streetwear or sports attire, and there’s definitely a whiff of classic Reebok about it. Made to withstand the elements thanks to TPU film, it also features an EVA midsole (for great cushioning) and a full rubber sole. It’s also super lightweight, thanks to advanced cloud fabrics that also provide excellent breathability.