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Walking shoes
Get a good fit to stay fit

You donít have to buy special shoes to stay fit and burn calories by walking for exercise. But some high-scoring walking shoes we tested will cushion your feet while letting them flex properly.

Three of the highly rated shoes in our tests cost just $60 and were judged to be CR Best Buys.

Part of the cushioning in a walking shoe comes from the squishy material in the midsole. Part also comes from your footís ability to roll inward and thus reduce the impact on bones and joints. A shoe that combines both kinds of cushioning while providing adequate stability is, well, a step ahead of shoes that donít. If the shoe is also lightweight, flexible and breathable, so much the better.

Lab machines did some of the work as we flexed and pounded shoes. But we also had a test panel of six men and six women. Avid walkers, they logged more than 2 million steps (more than 1,000 miles) in checking 120 pairs of shoes.

The good news: Most of the 10 womenís and 10 menís shoes we tested scored at least very good overall. The choice should come down to fit, cushioning, and flexibility. The differences were noticed more by our women panelists.

A dress-style womenís shoe got lower scores for cushioning because the panelists found that it emphasized dressiness over comfort. Among the menís shoes, the two lowest-scoring ones lacked flexibility (see the Ratings, available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers) but scored well otherwise.

You can walk in just about any shoe that fits right, including running or cross-training shoes, both of which also provide cushioning and stability. See Types, available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers, for the recommendations about walking in the three different kinds of athletic footwear.

How to choose

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 youíll wear for walking.

Decide where to buy. 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.

Decide on dressy or sneaker style. 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. But the dressier shoes that we tested didnít score as well overall as the ones that look like sneaks.

Make sure the shoes are comfortable. 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.

Just breathe. 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 for how well the shoes perform this chore.

Think twice about orthotics. 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 shoeís cushioning. Consider whether your problem could be solved just with new shoes.

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