Archeologists working in Armenia recently said they had discovered what might be one of the world's oldest shoes. That shoe, estimated to be 5,500 years old, shares many features with today's walking shoes: a leather outer, laces, and cushioning, according to news reports.
More modern technologies and materials are used in the 25 shoes in our latest tests (available to subscribers). Some sport innovative designs, and a few are specialty shoes with unusual soles that are supposed to help tone your legs, glutes, and other muscles.
Shoes known as toners have alternative soles that change your gait or posture. They can be unstable but are supposed to activate muscles, which compensates for those changes. You might not like the way toners feel, so check comfort before buying.
The first rule of shopping for shoes is that fit counts more than anything else. To improve your chances of buying walking shoes that fit right, shop late in the afternoon, when your feet are their largest, and wear the kind of socks you'll wear for walking.
Most walking shoes are bought at department, discount, and family-footwear stores. But at an athletic-footwear store, salespeople are more likely to measure your feet and have knowledgeable answers to your questions.
If you walk a lot at work, you might want a style that combines the comfort and support of a walking shoe with something dressy enough to wear at the office.
Feel around the inside for seams, bumps, and rough spots, and walk in them for several minutes on different surfaces. The shoes should feel good right out of the box, without breaking them in.
The 250,000 sweat glands in your feet can produce a lot of sweat even during a routine walk. The quicker it dissipates, the better. Check the breathability Ratings (available to subscribers) for how well the shoes perform this chore. If you're walking in cold weather, you may want a shoe that is less breathable to help keep out the cold drafts.
If your feet get sore from walking, you might be tempted to try orthotics, custom-made shoe inserts that take the place of insoles. But orthotics may reduce a shoe's cushioning. Consider whether your problem could be solved just with new shoes