Running vs Walking Shoes: Body Mechanics and the Right Shoes

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Before making any decision on the kind of shoe to buy, determine the activity that you intend to use it for. Do you anticipate running in it? Is it for walking? If you are undecided, then you are at a crossroads, deciding between running vs walking shoes.

Using the appropriate shoe is vital for maintaining correct body posture and natural body movement. It helps reduce the tension on the part that absorbs it the most.

Having the right shoe for a specific activity prevents minor foot pain and long-term injuries, as well. However, with the overwhelming number of shoes today, choosing the best pair could be challenging. For that, you can rely on us.

The Body Mechanics When Running or Walking

To have a better understanding of the differences of each footwear, let us look at the two activities and the demands they place on the foot and the shoe.

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Running

Most animals land on the balls of their feet; humans are the exception. Only humans land on the heels of the foot while running. This movement gives us longer virtual legs or leg extension that enables us to move faster than running on the balls of the feet.

Running puts uneven tension on the foot. The outer heel absorbs the most impact before it distributes the body weight through the foot up to the toe. As each stance puts either foot off the ground, running requires the support of two to three times our body weight.

The pendulum effect can explain this movement from the heel through the toe. The feet are the stationary pivot while the body swings up and over. The human body looks like an inverted pendulum as it moves while running.

Walking

Walking, on the other hand, distributes body weight evenly. The pressure moves from the heel through the ball up to the toe. This gentle motion necessitates the foot to absorb at least one to two times the weight of the body on each step.

Although it looks natural and simple, the body mechanics while walking are complex. Aside from the feet, the hips, arms, shoulders, spine, and the head move across the ground, too.

It usually begins when the feet are positioned forward apart. The weight of the body is then transferred to the forward foot. As the weight goes to the forward foot, the knee bends to absorb the tension. Then, the knee straightens out and lifts the body. At this point, the weight-bearing foot transfers the pressure at the ball of the foot.

Running vs Walking Shoes

At first glance, these two types of footwear seem very similar, which is why many people often use the wrong kind of shoe for a specific activity. Sometimes, they wear shoes with less cushioning for running, while others walk in stiff shoes. This leads to muscle pain, blisters, and other foot pains.

Running vs walking shoes have different characteristics. This means that runners should not run in walking shoes because they are too stiff and don’t flex. On the other hand, fitness walkers should not walk in running shoes because they are too light and have less cushioning.

Differences Between Running and Walking Shoes  

To help you understand running and walking shoes better, we will list some of the top differences between the two, the different types they come in, and even the differences in their cost.

Cushioning

Running shoes tend to be cushioned very well, have good support, and a fit that is comfortable. This is because runners need that extra support and cushion to protect them against the constant beating that occurs when they run. Walking shoes will have lesser cushioning but can either have lesser support or, surprisingly, will have more support.

Flex

Other than the extra cushion, running shoes tend to have lesser flex. This is mostly near to the ball of the foot. This is partly because of the added material that is used in the extra cushioning. However, it is by design, too. A runner does not typically need this much flex as they would need in a walking shoe. The foot of a runner will go through a lesser motion range.

Soles

In addition, you will notice that the soles in a running shoe are flared outwards when you look downwards. All this also adds more cushioning along with protection to your shoe.

Ventilation

Lastly, since runners obviously work much harder than a walker, they generate higher levels of heat, which means that the shoes need to be more breathable. As such, they have thinner uppers made of mesh, which allow air to flow through the shoes.

Style

When it comes to style, walking shoes will mostly have subtle colors, such as white or black. Running shoes, on the other hand, will have bright colors with vibrant patterns.

Walking shoes will have a good amount of cushion but lesser than running shoes. The soles will mostly have no flare, and the ball of the foot will have more flex. Certain walking shoes will typically be made out of a breathable mesh similar to running shoes. However, on some models, you will also find uppers with synthetic leather.

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Types of Running and Walking Shoes  

All of us are different and unique, so it’s no surprise that even our feet differ from each other. Some shoemakers have adapted to this idea and made different kinds of shoes for different feet types.

When walking or running, you are landing on the outside of the heel, and the foot will roll inwards towards the big toe. This is known as pronation. If the foot excessively rolls in, it is known as overpronation. If the foot rolls on the foot’s outer part, then it is called supination.

As a runner, it is essential that you wear the right shoe that matches your foot structure. If you run in a shoe that isn’t right for you, it could be uncomfortable and may cause injury.

Since there is a lesser force that is placed on your legs and feet when you walk, walking in an inappropriate type of shoe will definitely not be comfortable, but it will also not lead to serious injuries.

For a Runner

For a runner, the running shoe will most likely be placed in the following categories:

Neutral

These types of shoes are made for runners who don’t overpronate. There aren’t any features that are built into it that add more stability. These are also perfect for runners who supinate or pronate.

Guidance

These types of shoes are for people who tend to overpronate a bit. These shoes will slightly correct the foot to a neutral position as you run.  

Stability

These types of shoes are for people who overpronate. On the inside arch, it comes with a stiff piece of foam that will help the runner from preventing their foot from rolling towards the inside excessively.  

Motion Control

These types of shoes are made to be stiff and to keep the foot aligned in a neutral position. These shoes are relatively heavier but offer good support from the toe to the heel. This shoe is great for runners who tend to overpronate heavily.

For a Walker

For a walker, walking shoes will be categorized similarly but will be less nuanced than running shoes.

Neutral

Similar to running shoes, these shoes will allow the walker for a natural walking stride and will not come with any components that will correct the stride.

Stability

These shoes are created for walkers who overpronate, just like running shoes.

Motion Control

These types of shoes tend to be stiff and are made to keep your foot in the right position. These shoes also tend to be heavy but allows for a nice head-to-toe roll while you walk.

Walking shoes are available in lesser types of pronation control. This is mainly because the element of injury is much lesser when you walk rather than when you run.

Cost Differences Between Running and Walking Shoes  

There is quite a bit of design and research that goes into running shoes. This is partly due to the fact that running puts a lot of force on our bodies. As such, brands that make running shoes are continuously trying to manufacture the lightest, most protective, and most durable shoes they possibly can to outdo each other. 

While there is indeed a ton of research and development that goes into these shoes, the construction of it also makes it expensive. Walking shoes, typically speaking, will offer more value for its money.

With that said, it’s important to remember that with most shoes, you will get what you’re paying for. An inexpensive pair of running shoes will not feel as comfortable nor will it last as long as an expensive pair of running shoes.

Features for Specific Body Mechanics

Now that you have a clearer understanding of the body mechanics while walking and while running, we go forward to the qualities of each type of shoe. We will look into the shoe characteristics and features that are more appropriate for particular sets of body mechanics.

running vs walking shoes

Cushioning

Runners experience impact three times their body weight, while fitness walkers get only 1.5 times. Therefore, runners need extra cushioning in the heel and front foot than walkers do. More cushioning is also required when you intend to run more than six miles at a time.

Walkers need little cushioning, just enough so that the legs and feet don’t feel battered from the tension on the ground. Cushioning adds more weight, which is not suitable for a walking shoe. Less cushioning and weight enables the walkers to run or walk faster.

Flexibility

Both walking shoes and running shoes should be flexible. One of their differences is where flexibility is incorporated. Most running shoes are flexible on the midfoot or arch. Some flex most at the front foot. The placement of flexibility in running shoes depends on the wearer’s pronation.

On the other hand, walking shoes flex at the front foot because fitness walkers push off with their toes. Unfortunately, many shoes marketed as fitness walking shoes don’t bend at all. Some of them flex at the arch, which doesn’t lay out the platform needed for walking.

Heel Height

The proper heel height varies according to the individual runner. Runners may strike the ground first on the midfoot, front part of their heel, or the ball of their foot. This body mechanics is called the heel-to-toe drop, which can be addressed by the heel height of a shoe.

For fitness walkers, they need shoes that have the minimum difference in height from the heel through the toe. It is the so-called heel drop that comes in millimeters. Fitness walking shoes should have a heel drop of less than eight mm, preferably four mm or less.

Heel Flare

Fitness walkers do not need heel flare because they strike the surface with their heel. Otherwise, it will only hinder the motion of rolling forward through a step, causing foot pain and leg muscle ache. Ideally, a walking shoe should have an undercut heel.

On the other hand, running shoes need a flared heel for added stability. It is especially true for runners who strike the ground first on their front foot or midfoot. The flared heel design is often seen in trail running shoes.

The Lifespan of Each Type of Shoe  

Both walking shoes and running shoes tend to have a different lifespan. Let's briefly discuss each of them.

Running Shoes

Running shoes witness the most amount of wear and tear since you exert much more energy while wearing them. In most cases, a running shoe is great to last only between 350 and 500 miles of running.

With that said, make sure you are examining your running shoes thoroughly. Its outsole should not be worn out nor should the heel counter be out or tilted.

Walking Shoes

Walking shoes tend to last much longer, but it also depends on how often you use them. Ideally, they can last anywhere between six months to a year.

In terms of the miles, if you are walking around five miles a day, your walking shoes can easily last around 1,200 to 1,500 miles of walking.

Conclusion

Understanding how your body moves while you walk or run helps you identify the appropriate shoes for you. What do we mean by this? It is quite simple, actually.

Does your midfoot strike the ground first? Then it would help if you had extra stability running shoes. Do you walk long distances at a time? If yes, it would be best if you had more flexibility in your fitness walking shoes.

The information contained in this article empowers you over the hundreds of shoes in the market. You will no longer be misinformed by marketing campaigns that present the best shoes for your particular fitness needs. Whether it’s a running shoe or a walking shoe, remember that it should fit well and support the natural motions of your foot as it pushes you forward.