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Find the Right Walking Shoes

Get comfy and get going

The Shoe Check

The toe should be wide enough that toes aren't pinched. This is extra important if you have any foot issues like bunions or Morton's neuroma (a pinched nerve between your third and fourth toe). The shoe should be long enough that your big toe doesn't touch the end. Many walkers buy walking shoes a size larger than regular ones.

The heel should be flat and relatively straight. You don't need that big, wide, flared heel that some running shoes have for stability, since walkers land with less force.

Flexibility is key because walking is a rolling motion, and your shoes need to work with you. That means they shouldn't be stiff. Bend the shoe in half and twist it a bit to test its flex. It should give easily.

The shape should be a natural curve to facilitate walking's heel-to-toe motion. If you push the shoe's toe down on a flat surface, the heel should rise slightly.

The cushioning depends on your foot type. More cushioning increases comfort for someone with a high arch, for instance. If you have any issues with your feet, go to a store that specializes in walking or athletic shoes, and have a fitting expert help you find shoes that will likely work best.

The Fitting

Keep it personal. To determine the best shoe for you, a good salesperson will ask about your walking goals (how often, how far, on what surface) and observe your stride length. He or she will look for pronation (whether your foot rolls inward when you walk) and check out your arch type (high, low, flat).

The perfect match takes time. Even with expert help, you may need to try on lots of shoes to find the ideal pair. It's worth it. Wear the socks you plan to walk in when you try on shoes. Once you've narrowed it down to a couple of pairs, walk around the store in each one for several minutes (not a few steps). Repeat at home that night -- on carpeting, in case you have second thoughts about your choice or size.

Worry about the style last. You want to look good, yes, but feeling great during and after your 10,000 steps comes first. Choose the shoe that fits and feels the best.