Fifteen pairs of walking shoes and three pairs of athletic shoes are rated for their comfort, appearance, and suitability for walking. Shoes that receive recommendations include the Soft Spots Wanderer, the Reebok BOKS Trading Post, and the NaturalSport TriWalker.
Walk to work in comfort and style
Prevention Magazine Is Dedicated To making the planet more walkable. We believe in the healing power of walking both for you as a person and for your community. Many of America’s health problems are the direct result of our lack of exercise. Many of our cities are suffering, in part, because they’re neither safe nor pleasant to walk in. In the suburbs, distance or lack of sidewalks forces people into cars, which keeps them isolated from encounters with neighbors.
THAT’S WHY WE PUSHED FOR National Walking Week, to be held the first week of May, National Physical Fitness Month. We’d like to inspire everyone to walk more, not just as part of an exercise routine, but also as a way of life. And through the Coalition to Make America Walkable, we’re striving to make it easier for people to walk every day, by helping to spread the word that we need safer streets, more sidewalks and better community planning to encourage people to walk to shops and workplaces.
In this year’s shoe review, we chose shoes that can take you from your front door to work and even to a night on the town, comfortably. We call them “commuter shoes.” Of course, many people can’t walk to work. But just about everyone can find a time and place to walk during the day–whether it’s downtown for a lunch break or some shopping, around a favorite park, or from a bus stop or train station. Let’s face it. How likely are you to opt for even a 15-minute walk if your feet are already killing you?
These shoes are designed for comfort and good looks. We chose from over 50 available styles, looking for up-to-date fashion suitable for a variety of working worlds. We balanced this with our testers’ impressions of comfort. There are lots more where these came from; our choices are just an introduction.
The next time you go shopping for a new pair of walking shoes, ask the salesperson for “commuter shoes” –something you can work and walk in. And remember: Every time you choose to tak a walk, whether it’s a fitness walk or a commuting walk (or both), you’re not only helping your own health and the health of your community, you’re also a pioneer–an inspiration to others to follow in your footsteps!
A. The Soft Spots Wanderer is a soft, moccasin like shoe with two buckled straps to give secure fit. The full-grain leather upper is hand-stitched directly to the polyurethane bottom of the shoe, which allows you to walk directly on the soft cushioned bottom with no hard insole board in between, allowing maximum flexibility. Slide your fingers inside the shoe and you find the Soft Spots cushiony sole with molded arch support.
Our tester has narrow feet and she loved the adjustability of the straps. “The shoe is padded in all the right places, too, even the toe box, which made these more comfortable than other work shoes. I’d walk to work in these any day. They’re casual but feminine looking.”
Price: $59. Colors: black, white, camel, taupe. Shopping information:(800) 468-4684.
B. The Reebok BOKS Lincoln Park is a fashionable, casual shoe with all the Reebok athletic technology. A pair would be great for a guy who has to be on his feet all day. The upper is part nubuck leather and part canvas, with hooks for easy lacing. The tongue and heel collar are padded for comfort, and the rugged sole is designed for traction and flexibility. This shoe is tough enough to go from a classroom to an outdoor field trip. Our tester thought they were as comfortable as his pricey athletic shoes. “I was pleasantly surprised. I would never have expected that kind of comfort from just looking at these shoes.”
Price: $70. Colors: off-white and brown, brown, black, sand, olive. Shopping information: (800) 843-4444; ask for consumer relations.
C. The Sears Carroll is a full-grain leather flat from Sears’ “I Love Comfort” line. Besides being soft and flexible, with a low heel, it has a rubber sole with a molded EVA heel pad and lots of traction.
Our tester wore it on a busy day at work. “It was very comfortable and soft, and I didn’t slip on the linoleum floors like I do in some of my other dress flats. Made a quick trip downtown, too. The sole is flexible and bends with my foot, unlike some flats.”
Price: $26. Colors: bone, black, white. Shopping information: Contact local Sears stores for availability.
D. We loved the lime-green Nike i.e. Lisa at first sight. This perky woman’s flat with the tumbled nubuk upper comes in seven colors, ranging from gulf blue to passion (a hot pink). With the Nike-Air cushioning system in the heel, a padded sock liner and a polyurethane-foam midsole, this cutie keeps your feet peppy. “There was lots of room in the toe box, so the shoe did not rub or pinch anywhere, even though I have bunions. The nubuk is so soft, and it’s stain-resistant, too. The styling is so elegant, I would wear this shoe for dressy as well as casual occasions. I prefer more arch support, but as a dress shoe, this was very comfortable for walking.”
Price: $60. Shopping information: (800) 722-9050.
E. The Nike i.e. Gramado Tie II is a lace-up version of the Lisa. It comes in eight colors of soft nubuk. Four are pastels, such as shell pink and sesame, and four are earth tones, such as Spanish moss and cognac.
Of course, the lace-up style fits the shoe more snugly to your foot, making it a better shoe to walk in. It’s just more casual looking. “I’d be happy to wear these to the office or on an all-day shopping spree or sight-seeing tour,” said our tester. “The toe box was roomy, and the sole didn’t stick to the carpet or slide on slick surfaces. And if I lived close enough, I’d be happy to wak to work in these.”
Price: $60. Shopping information: (800) 722-9050.
F. The Ecco City Walker went to Philadelphia with our tester. “I traipsed around all day and found these sandals for plantar fasciitis surprisingly comfortable. I’m used to wearing an athletic shoe in the city,” he said, “But I didn’t notice any discomfort in these. They’re semi-casual –look great with dress slacks, jeans or khakis.”
The upper is made of water-repellent, vegetable-tanned Buff-calf leather. The sole is molded polyurethane with an extra shock absorber in the heel so the City Walker can take a pounding and not transfer it to your back. The outsole is nonslip, and the inside has a 100 percent cotton lining in the toe for added comfort.
Price: $130. Colors: Black and rust. Shopping information: (508) 475-1040.
G. Reebok BOKS Trading Post for women is a classic oxford made out of soft nubuk leather. Nothing fits as snugly as tied shoes, but sometimes they look clunky. This style is streamlined, and the rubber sole has lots of grip without looking like a tire tread.
Our tester loved the soft leather feel. “I felt like I was putting on a pair of fine leather gloves. I hated to take these shoes off at the end of the day. In fact, I didn’t. I took my dog for a nice long walk, and these shoes felt great!”
Price: $60. Colors: Sahara, black. Shopping information: (800) 843-4444; ask for consumer relations.
H. Grasshopper by Keds/Niagara is a less pricey version of a streamlined oxford, designed for walking, shopping, and casual work environments where sneakers just won’t do. Our testers found it very comfortable, with a wide toe box and cushion feel. They both, however, found that the leather squeaked when walking. “I liked the look,” said one tester, “because it was smooth, not chunky-looking with a lot of overlapping bulk. I’m a home-health aide, and I found this shoe made me feel more dressed up than sneakers, but still gave my feet stability and a good grip on the floor.”
Price: $40. Colors: black, white. Shopping information: (800) 428-6575.
I. The Florsheim Bryan wingtip kilty is a tassel loafer, dressy and sophisticated. The leather is specially treated to be water resistant, a plus when you’re dodging raindrops on the way to the train. Inside is the full Comfortech insert, which includes a spongy, energy return insert under the entire forepart of the foot. The midsole is a soft, supple, upper leather, rather than the traditional hard material used in this type of shoe.
“The rubber bottoms were a real asset when walking,” said our tester. “And the interior cushioning made this dressy office shoe feel more like an athletic shoe.”
Price: About $95. Colors: black, white and tan. Shopping information: (800) 654-5608.
J. The Rockport Boston W5800 is another classic pump style, made of Italian calfskin and nubuk. A Technolite plug is placed in the heel and has been proved to reduce heel-strike shock. A cushioned heel cup and footbed cradle and support the foot. The outsole is polyurethane, which adds more shock absorption and resists slipping. If you have no love for heels, chances are no amount of technology is going to make you fond of them. But if you wear heels often, you’re sure to find added comfort in these.
“I think the effect of the heel plug is subtle,” said our tester. “You don’t really notice it at first, but after a whole day, you begin to appreciate the edge it takes off your walk. The rubber sole gives a nice, stable gripping action, and it’s so thin, it’s indistinguishable from a fine leather sole.”
Price: $79. Colors: classic colors of navy, black, taupe, red and putty. Shopping information: (800) 343-WALK.
K. The Dexter Bennett is a traditional wingtip oxford, redesigned for comfort. A heel cup absorbs shock, while the Aerolon Energy Return footbed both cushions the forefoot and reflects exterior heat and cold. There’s a skid-resistant rubber insert added to the leather sole for extra grip and flex.
Our tester is a busy person who rushes from one professional meeting to another, often through crowded airports. “This shoe was great!” he said. “I like to walk as much as I can, whenever I get the chance, and with my schedule, I can’t always be slipping into sweats and sneakers. The Bennett let me get those impromptu walks in comfortably.”
Price: $92. Colors: black, burgundy and tan polished leather. Shopping information: (207) 924-5444
L. The Hush Puppies Prelude is a 1 1/2-inch, heeled pump that comes in classic colors. The leather is water-stain- and scuff-resistant. The sole is designed to flex with your foot, making walking easier. There’s plenty of cushioning, too. Now, no one really expects you to walk to work in a shoe like this. But its comfort features should increase your comfort level. Our tester has to go up and down two flights of cement steps numerous times a day. “I really noticed the cushioning on the ball of the foot. My feet seemed less tired at the end of the day.”
Price: $50. Colors: white, bone, red navy and black. Shopping information: (800) 433-HUSH; in Canada, call (616) 866-5500.
M. The New Balance MK907 is a classic wingtip for men, but with athletic-shoe technology. There’s Drilex inside to wick away moisture, removable charcoal-activated inserts to reduce oders and a shock-absorbent heel construction. The soles are grooved for flexion and traction.
Our tester was impressed. “My father always wore wingtips to work, but I felt they were too stiff and strait-laced. Well, these still have that strait-laced look, but they were so flexible and comfortable. If I had my eyes closed, I’d never guess they were dress shoes.”
Price: $110. Colors: black, cordovan, nubuk. Shopping information: (800) 253-SHOE; in Canada, call (617) 783-4000 and ask for customer service.
N. Looking for a classic pump? The Easy Spirit Infatuation with a one-inch heel is classic in style without the pinched toes. It comes in 23 colors and many widths, so you can really fit your foot. Shock-absorbing features are built in, with extra padding in the heel area. The sole is flexible, which makes walking in these shoes easier and more comfortable. Our tester found them great for the office, and she wore them shopping, too. “They were a little slippery on the bottom at first. But walking on the sidewalk helped to roughen up the smooth bottoms. As far as looks, these sandals for bunions could go just about anywhere.”
Price: $72. Shopping information: available through department and specialty-shoe stores.
O. The Rockport Linda W1060 is a sleek-looking flat that our tester felt was dressy enough for the office, especially with slacks. Made of soft nubuk, it comes in five colors. The footbed has a pigskin wrap, which helps keep the shape and cradles the foot. A foam heel plug absorbs shock, and the roomy toe box lets those piggies spread naturally. “Compared with other dress shoesI own, this was extremely comfortable,” remarked our tester. “I could walk for blocks in these. They did not cramp or irritate my feet in any way. They had enough traction to feel stable and safe, I didn’t think elegance and comfort could go together so well!”
Price: $72. Colors: red, blue, olive, black, taupe. Shopping information: (800) 343-WALK.
SUPER-DUPER COMMUTER SHOES
For people who spend a lot of time walking to and from work, a fitness shoe may be the answer. That’s especially true for women, whose dressier, heeled shoes may have less support and comfort than men’s dress shoes. The shock absorption, flexibility, traction and support of a real fitness walker mean super comfort on a long, brisk walk. You may want to do your feet a favor if you have more than a 15-minute walk (more than a mile) ahead of you. Pop your comfortable daytime shoes into a tote and lace up your fitness walkers.
Our testers stepped out in new versions of many tried-and-true fitness brands: Propet’s 365Walker (800-852-8668; in Eastern Canada, 800-267-7502; in Western Canada, 800-267-2146); Etonic Trans Am Walker (800-334-0008; in Canada, 508-583-9100); K-Swiss Renna (818-998-3388; in Canada, 416-828-6150); Saucony Speedwalker (800-365-7282; same for Canada). We’ve shown you these high arch running shoes in past reviews, and their new testers felt just as happy to give them a whirl this time around. They’ve got the kind of comfort, stability and durability that makes walking in them a pleasure. They’re not new but they’re tried and true.
The new kids on the block are the high-power fitness walkers with stretch appeal:
- Avia Archrocker 385 Plus has a stretchy neoprene upper that holds your foot snugly in place. “It looks like a shoebut it feels like a glove,” says our tester. “The cantilever sole really stabilizes your heel, while the Archrocker seems to propel you forward. It’s a shoe that makes you feel you should be moving when you have it on. I walk several miles every day at lunch. This shoe almost made it seem too easy! I love it!”
Price: $70. Shopping information: (800) 345-AVIA; in Canada, call (800) 263-8272.
- The NaturalSport TriWalker, built to accommodate several fitness activities, also has an inner sock made of neoprene, customizing support and fit. Again, our tester loved the snug feel. The high-top shoe has an added support strap at the ankle, which makes this a great shoe for aerobics, but our walker found that the ankle strap also helped make the shoe more snug fitting and stable for walking. “This shoe is fantastic and so lightweight! I found it very comfortable and supportive from day number one!”
Price: About $75. Shopping information: (800) 766-6465; in Canada, call (613) 267-2000.
- The Reebok Weathermax has a sock with a slightly different twist. It’s totally removable and washable, and its purpose is insulation more than snug fit. When worn, the colorful, reversible Lycra-and-Coolmax liner can be seen through the white mesh upper. This shoe is built for people who enjoy a brisk workout that might heat up their feet, or who walk regardless of cold or wetness. It’s very well cushioned for support and still has great flexibility. Our tester removed the liner when indoors to stay cool and replaced it when walking in wintry temperatures outdoors. “These shoes are very comfortable, with plenty of room to wiggle my toes and no rubbing anywhere. They were so well cushioned, I had to get used to the feeling that I was walking on air!”
Price: $89.99. Shopping information: (800) 843-4444) ask for consumer relations.