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Cheap Walking Shoes Buying Guide

During our research into cheap walking shoes, we came across many e-commerce sites trying to sell us running shoes that were "perfect for walking, too." Don't fall for this trap. As NewBalance.com explains, the two activities put different demands on your feet and therefore require different kinds of shoes.

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So if you plan on walking, cheap walking shoes are your best buy.

High-end walking shoes cost upward of $325 and the mid-range falls around $80 to $200, according to some experts. About.com's Walking Shoe Guide says good cheap walking shoes cost $60 to $90, but we found that you can get a good pair of cheap walking shoes for $30 to $65. This price range may seem a little high for the Cheapism niche, but experts at WalkingShoeReviews.com stress that the health of your feet trumps price. Although there are some exceptions to the rule, going much lower than $30 may mean sacrificing comfort and risking injury. Walking shoes that sell for rock bottom prices don't provide much information about cushioning and support, which is the primary reason we don't include any super-cheap walking shoes among our top picks.

Choosing a pair of walking shoes is a personal thing. Everyone's foot is different, so a cheap walking shoe that feels comfortable on one person may not feel right on another. That said, there are several features any good cheap walking shoe must have. Flexibility in the forefoot is important because that's where the foot naturally bends when you walk. A lightweight walking shoe won't drag you down as you walk. Arch support and heel support help prevent injury to your feet, legs, and back, and a firm grip in the heel avoids rubbing and blisters. And finally, you want a cheap walking shoe with a heel that's not too thick and slants in slightly at the back, which lets your heel roll forward as you walk.

Under the banner of "best cheap walking shoe," we've placed the New Balance 760 Walking Shoe (starting at $60), which Fitness Magazine considers the "best walking shoe" for 2010. Available in both men's and women's versions, these cheap walking shoes garner strong reviews for comfort and stability -- they're lightweight and incorporate excellent arch support technology. The Avia A333 (starting at $38), also available in men's and women's styles, is a good cheap walking shoe that offers commendable arch support and impresses users with its comfort even after extended wear. Ditto for the Ryka Radiant (starting at $60), a cheap women's walking shoe that boasts good flexibility and traction in the forefoot and cushioning and stability in the heel. One budget walking shoe we're not sold on is the Propet 6027 Exo Walker Fashion Shoe, which garners some poor reviews for comfort and complaints that the fit seems way off in the width.

There are two other options to consider, both just outside our suggested price range. The Asics Gel-Tech Walker Neo (starting at $75) comes in men's and women's sizes, sports a memory foam heel that molds to your foot, and gets a hearty thumbs up from users for comfort. At the opposite end of the price spectrum is the men's ProSpirit Jacorey Athletic Shoe (starting at $20) and the women's ProSpirit Rene Athletic Shoe (starting at $20), both of which find favor with walkers for comfort. Although the $20 price tag certainly seems enticing, the limited number of reviews and scant information about build technology was enough to keep these two ProSpirit models from being top choices.

A few final words of advice: Always try on cheap walking shoes before you buy. Check them out with the type of socks you'll be wearing when you go walking. Shop near the end of the day because feet are often a bit swollen by then. Make sure the heel is snug and isn't slipping around. The sides of your feet should have a bit of wiggle room and your longest toe should be about a half inch from the front of the shoe. Last but not least -- the shoes should be comfortable from the moment you put them on; if they feel tight, don't count on them stretching out.

Walking Shoe Features

Walking Shoe Weight.

Like running shoes, cheap walking shoes should be lightweight so they don't weigh you down as you walk. And, like running shoes, the lighter the better. The lightest cheap walking shoe we found is the New Balance 760 Walking Shoe, which weighs between 8.5 and 10.5 ounces, depending on the size. Specifications for the women's Ryka Radiant put its weight at nine ounces and the stated weight for the Propet 6027 Exo Walker Fashion Shoe is 11 ounces, but note that actual weight may vary with the size. We were not able to find a weight for the Avia A333.

Walking Shoe Flexibility.

Any cheap walking shoe should let the ball of your foot bend with each step. Without this kind of flexibility your ankles and shins fight the shoe, resulting in tired feet and legs as well as potential injury. Experts advise that you perform a flex test on cheap walking shoes you're interested in: twist and bend them to be sure they fold at the ball of the foot and not in the middle. No one particular design or build technology is considered tops for flexibility, but the best cheap walking shoes do trumpet this feature. Specs for the New Balance 760 note the forefoot flex grooves and the arch support that keeps the midfoot from flexing; the Avia A333 Walking Shoe and Ryka Radiant sport flex grooves and molded insoles. The Asics Gel-Tech Walker Neo features gel cushioning in the forefoot that allows movement in multiple planes. The description of the Propet 6027 Exo Walker and ProSpirit Jacorey and ProSpirit Rene doesn't mention flexibility.

Walking Shoe Support.

You need good support in cheap walking shoes to help prevent over-pronation (excessive inward rolling of the foot that can cause pain and injury). Experts say to look for inside cushioning and arches that are high enough to touch the bottom of your foot's natural arch when walking or standing still. Some cheap walking shoes feature specific and proprietary arch support systems, like the Stability Web in the New Balance 760 and the Archrocker in the Avia A333, both of which are specifically mentioned in user reviews. Other cheap walking shoes don't say much about arch support but do stress the overall support the shoe provides. The Ryka Radiant, for example, uses special foam for lightweight cushioning and support, which users say wears comfortably for long stretches. The Asics Gel-Tech Walker Neo sports a proprietary technology for support and stability, and the Propet 6027 Exo Walker features a rigid stability brace for additional overall support.

Walking Shoe Heels.

The heel on cheap walking shoes is one of the most defining features that distinguish walking shoes from running shoes. Experts say the heel on cheap walking shoes should be low (maximum one inch higher than the sole under the ball of the foot), and should not flare out (running shoes have a flared heel for more stability). Another good design feature is a heel that tapers slightly in the back for efficient forward stepping. A supportive heel cup provides stability and minimizes excess sideways movement as you walk. The Asics Gel-Tech Walker Neo leads the cheap walking shoes pack for heel technology; this model boasts two layers of memory foam inside the heel collar that mold to your foot. The New Balance 760 has a special heel cushion for added support and the Ryka Radiant also has heel cushioning and heel stability technology. The Propet 6027 Exo Walker has some unspecified internal heel control system, and specs for the ProSpirit models don't mention the heel at all.

by Raechel Conover (Google+ Profile)

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