Choose the right walking shoes

Make sure you have the right shoes. There's nothing worse than getting all psyched to exercise and within the first block, your feet start aching.

Take a hike.

Please.

Now that the weather is finally cooling down, you have few excuses for not taking a walk. Around the block, around your neighborhood, in a charity walk. It doesn't matter. Just walk.

But first, make sure you have the right shoes. There's nothing worse than getting all psyched to exercise and within the first block, your feet start aching.

The key is in the fit, says Thomas Bembynista, a Kansas City, Mo., podiatrist.

A mistake many people make is not having their feet measured before they buy shoes. As we age, our feet get longer and wider. "You should always double-check your shoe size," he says.

Next, pay attention to the toe box, the space where your toes go.

"Make sure there is enough depth," Bembynista says. "When we walk, our toes tend to pull up, and if the toe box isn't deep enough, your toes will hit the inside of your shoe, which can lead to nail deformity."

Before you buy those walking shoes, do your research, says Saskia Jacobse, membership coordinator for KC Express, a women's running club that promotes fitness through running and walking.

"It's a huge mistake to rely on store personnel because you just do not know what their experiences have been, and you can make a much better decision for yourself if you walk into the store knowledgeable."

She tells people to surf the Internet and read magazines, including walking and running mags, to see what kind of shoes are out there and what kind of feet they fit best.

"One thing the resources will tell you is that you should look at how your old shoes have worn to get an idea of how your foot strikes the ground, and therefore what kind of shoe you need to provide maximum comfort and foot health," she says.

Consumer Reports' top shoes

Men's

  1. New Balance MW 791 ($75)
  2. Saucony Grid Omni Walker ($90)
  3. Asics Gel-Walk Tech ($60, a Consumer Reports Best Buy)
  4. New Balance MW 557 ($60, Best Buy)
  5. Etonic Lite Walker ($60)

Women's

  1. New Balance 791 ($75)
  2. Saucony Grid Omni Walker ($90)
  3. New Balance 557 ($60, Best Buy)
  4. Nike Air Max Healthwalker V ($70)
  5. Adidas Supernova Walk LE ($90)

Fit tips

  • Choose the shoe that fits your activity.
  • Shop late in the day when your feet are the biggest, says Sheila Wood, KC Express president.
  • Choose the store wisely. Consumer Reports says that most walking shoes are bought at department, discount and family-footwear stores. But salespeople at an athletic footwear store are more likely to measure your feet and have knowledgeable answers.
  • Make sure the shoe is comfortable, Consumer Reports says. Feel around the inside for seams and rough spots.
  • Have at least a thumb's width between your big toe and the end of the shoe, Wood says.
  • Your feet should go "Aaah, that feels good," no matter what brand, type or size shoe you try on, Wood says.

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