Difference Between Walking and Running Shoes: Which is Best 2023

Walking and running are the best go-to exercises for maintaining your overall fitness. You only need a pair of shoes to keep your feet on the go. However, understanding the difference between walking and running shoes is ultimately a game changer for an effective and productive workout.

The right kind of shoes are essential for providing your feet with sufficient support and comfort while helping reduce the strain on them. Nonetheless, many people don’t give enough importance to this key factor, or maybe, the many options and types of shoes available now a days overwhelm them. Whatever the case, using the same pair of shoes for walking as well as running is quite a common mistake many people make.

This article will discuss the difference between walking and running shoes. It will also help you analyze the kind of effects they have on your feet during these exercises. Let’s get started.

difference between walking and running shoes

What is the difference Between Walking and Running?

Even though walking and running are both cardio exercises just like apples and oranges are both fruits, they are hugely different. Not only do both activities differ in terms of ‘work done’, they immensely differ in stride, landing impact on the body, and foot movement.

Using a very simple analogy, a small hammer is required for a small nail but a sledge hammer for a large one. In other words, the right tool for the right job. A sledge hammer would obliterate the small nail and possibly destroy the part it was being driven into while a small hammer would probably see its own demise in trying to get the big nail to even budge.

In the same manner, a walking shoe is not the right tool for running and a running shoe not right for walking. Using the wrong type of shoe would not only result in below par gains and undue fatigue but also in potentially damaged muscles and feet. This, of course, usually leads to demotivation and a subsequent ‘I give up’.

Let’s dig into the differences between walking and running to understand the need for different shoe types.

Different Foot Strikes

One of the differences between walking and running is the part of the foot that strikes the ground. Walking constitutes the heel striking first, then rolling the foot to the toes and pushing off the ground. On the contrary, a runner can land on his heel, midfoot, or forefront, depending on the runner, technique, speed, and ground.

Also worth noting here is that the amount of energy transferred to the ground during running is much higher than that transferred during walking. Each foot strike carries higher force needed to propel the runner faster with a lot more momentum because of the speed, which acts as a multiplier, as compared to a walker.

The high forces being generated coupled with the very short ground contact times makes the energy being transferred quite ‘explosive’ as compared to a walker’s. This obviously translates into extremely explosive bursts of very high stress on the runners body, particularly the feet, ankles, knees and hips.

Different Foot Strikes

Each type of foot strike carries a unique pattern through which the runner’s energy is transferred to the ground, this causes extreme stress on the feet along the strike pattern. Consequently, the shoe design and construction must efficiently transfer the runner’s energy to the ground and at the same time reduce the stress on the foot along the strike pattern.

Therefore, wearing the right kind of shoes that suit your purpose is essential to boost you efficiency and safety. This will also mean longer lasting shoes.

Landing Impact

Running has more landing impact than walking, many times your body weight in fact, and wearing suitable shoes diminish shock and the risk of injury. The difference in landing impact can be attributed mostly to the speed and momentum of the runner as well as the mechanics of running itself. 

On the other hand, the impact of walking is much less, around one and a half times your body weight. It is because you always have one foot on the ground, uniformly distributing your weight. 

Foot Movement

Foot movement during walking and running depends on the mechanics and speed of these activities. How feet strike the ground, ankle and foot movement, and difference in stride determines the need for shoe support.

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Running Shoes Vs. Walking Shoes

As we all now know, walking and running are quite different from each other in terms of the forces generated, the technique involved, the biomechanics involved and of course, the tools needed, i.e., the shoes. Finding shoes optimized for the intended activity is imperative.

Let’s understand the difference between walking and running shoes to help maximize our gains and reduce risk.


Cushioning is one of the major differences between walking and running shoes. Running shoes have more cushion compared to walking shoes since running generates about 2 to 3 times the bodyweight of force on the foot as compared to walking. Furthermore, the cushioning is placed in a running shoe differently as compared to a walking shoe.

At the heel to absorb the shock as well as the toe, to absorb shock and help the runner push off with every stride.   Both these differences efficiently reduce stress and shock on the joints and ligaments in the foot and leg.

Walking is comparatively low-impact, with one foot always on the ground. Thus, good cushioning at the heel is usually sufficient buffer. In contrast, the heel or forefront foot strike of running creates a higher landing impact. Therefore, extra padding at all contact points help avoid injury and improve efficiency.

Heel Drop (Height)

Heel drop, or heel-to-toe drop, is the height difference between the heel and the forefront of the shoe. This difference provides stability and cushioning to the feet while reducing stress during strides. That said, running shoes come with a higher heel-to-toe drop than walking.

The forward-leaning posture with a high heel drop of running shoes reduces the force of impact during heel strikes. Conversely, walking doesn’t require elevation at the heels as the feet roll over to the toes after a heel strike. In fact, the lower heel drop (preferably zero) is ideal for maintaining a natural gait and avoiding injury risks.  A thick heel when walking can actually cause tendinitis or shin splints, and can even cause a walker wearing a running shoe to trip.

Heel Flare

Heel flare is yet another difference between walking and running shoes. This is the degree to which the shoe heel flares outward from the sole, side to side and backwards.  A suitable amount of heel flare helps maintain stability and balance even when running on uneven terrain. 

Running shoes have more heel flare to provide more support by reducing over or under pronation.  Both these terms refer to the foot leaning either outwards or inwards.  It is the safest and most efficient when the foot stays level when in contact with the ground while running.  Conversely, walking shoes have a smaller heel flare to provide a natural feel and a good range of motion.


Flexibility in the sole allows a more natural range of motion for a smoother stride without any risk of injury. Walking shoes are designed to be more flexible in the forefoot area, allowing for a more comfortable and efficient toe-off during the walking motion.

Running shoes, on the other hand, have more rigidity to provide support and stability, particularly for runners who need additional arch support or have pronation issues.  This also helps with efficient transfer of energy to the ground.

Construction Quality

Premium construction quality is a hallmark of good running shoes, with the latest technologies and the best materials being used. The design needs to help reduce the risk of injury and increase efficiency.  The materials used need to be light and breathable to help conserve energy and keep the feet cool.

 Running shoes need to be very strong too, given the forces generated in action.  Running on a broken shoe is like driving a car on a flat tire.  Not desirable in the least.  Good grip on all kinds of surfaces is very important.  A slip while going full tilt could result in grave injuries.

Walking shoes are designed for comfort.  They don’t need space age materials to be good.  Walking shoes are usually heavier than running shoes and cost less too. Walking shoes have lesser traction than running shoes, albeit having durable outsoles to tackle slippery surfaces. 

Weight And Comfort

Shoe weight significantly affects overall performance, such as in running. The lighter the weight, the quicker the runner’s movements are. It lets the runner move without wasting much energy. Therefore, running shoes are usually more lightweight than walking shoes.

Walking shoes, as described above, are designed for comfort and ease for your lazy strolls. Therefore, weight is not a concern here. In fact, these are heavier and bulkier, allowing a steady and consistent walking pace.


When can you wear walking shoes instead of running shoes?

You can wear walking shoes instead of running shoes if they are comfortable and fit your feet well. Another factor is cost; if you are low on budget, walking shoes can be a better option. Walking shoes work fine so long as you are strolling the town or doing daily activities, etc. 

Can You Wear Running Shoes For Walking?

Even though it is not recommended but yes, you can wear running shoes for walking in a pinch.   However, your gait may be awkward if the shoes have a high heel flare or an extra curved design and you’re prone to injury, as explained in the article, so keep your walking stints short if you’re wearing running shoes.


Walking and running shoes are made for the exact purposes of walking and running respectively. Although you can wear them interchangeably, it is best to realize how different these two types of shoes essentially are.  Knowing the pros and cons of both running and walking shoes will help you decide on a better shoe for your specific needs and requirements.