What Is the Difference Between Running Shoes & Walking Shoes?

By Kimelia Sachs

Running and walking shoes might look similar at first glance, but they are two different types of shoes with different types of purposes. They both support the feet, but feet need different forms of support when running and walking. Knowing the differences between each and knowing what to look for when shopping can prevent you from choosing a pair of ill-fitting shoes that may cause an injury.


The difference between running and walking shoes is found in the sole of the shoe. Runners need more cushion for their feet, more stability for impact absorption and a wider tread grip. Walkers don’t have to worry as much about shock absorption or a wider tread, so these type of shoes are generally lighter than running shoes. However, walkers do need to support their feet.


Running shoes must cushion the bottoms of the feet. Soles must be thicker and more rigid than walking shoes. Running shoes have outsoles, upper, mid-soles, medial post and shank. The outsole is the very bottom of the shoe and the mid-sole, which provides the bulk of support for the foot. The mid-sole is the most important part of the shoe, according to American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, and it is made of EVA, foam that works like a shock absorber. The medial post is a device in the mid-sole that is more rigid than the mid-sole, usually made of thermoplastic urethane carbon fiber.

Walkers’ heels strike the ground first, so their shoes need to have heels with increased stability. They need stability to roll the foot ahead and push off with the toe. Walking shoes also have soles constructed of different densities of EVA.


Running shoes are available in many types, including trail, street and track running. Each of these styles conforms to the needs of the feet when running, such as providing extra support for pronation or supination.

Walking shoes enhance walking while providing support with rounded heels, flexible soles. A good pair of walking shoes will compensate for people who walk with overpronations.


Stability is an important aspects of both kinds of shoes, reports the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, They protect against pronation and lesson the risk of injuries, such as sprained ankles.

Look for soles that match the bottom of your foot, recommends Prevention. The bottom of a running or walking shoe can be flat, curved or semi-curved. The best fit will mold to the shape of the bottom of your feet.


When shopping, wear the kinds of socks you intend to wear with your running or walking shoe. A shoe should never feel tight on the sides of your feet. Women with wide feet may find better fitting shoes in the men’s or boy’s departments. Shop later in the afternoon after you’ve been on your feet, when they are swollen to their largest size, according to Mayo Clinic.

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