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When Is It Time To Replace Your Walking Shoes

By: Sheryl Cannes
Updated on: February 02, 2024

Even if you feel you’ve gently used your walking shoes, you might be surprised by how soon you actually need to replace them. Chances are it’s long before the tread is worn down, and the upper gets riddled with holes. Wearing worn-out shoes looks bad, but it’s what’s happening on the inside that’s the real reason they need to be replaced. The cushioning and support of a shoe often break down long before visible signs of wear appear. We’ll identify what makes walking shoes walking shoes, and discuss when it’s time to look for a new pair.

Walking Shoes vs. Running Shoes

Walking and running shoes often look the same, but shoes made specifically for walking have key differences from running shoes. The most noticeable difference is cushioning. Running produces far more shock and impact on the body. For that reason, walking shoes don’t need the heavy cushioning of a typical running shoe.

Another big difference lies in the sole’s flexibility. A running shoe midsole offers greater flexibility because the foot lands midfoot and needs to spring forward in a flexed position to maintain the gait. Walking shoes have a stiffer midsole to support the muscles used to move the foot from heel to toe. Of course, you can wear running shoes for walking, but your feet may get tired quicker because the flexibility of the sole makes the foot muscles work harder.

Finally, while walking shoes can have many of the same support features that running shoes have, like medial posts and guardrails, they often don’t. Walking doesn’t put as much stress or pressure on the foot, so aggressive support that corrects overpronation (inward rolling of the foot) or supination (outward rolling of the foot) isn’t as necessary. However, there are walking shoes that support over or under pronation, usually in the form of built-in orthotics or an insole that follows the foot’s natural curve.

Good Walking Shoe Fit

Shoes that fit well will last longer and feel better while you’re wearing them. A good fit includes:

  • Adequate Cushioning: An appropriate cushioning level prevents your feet from getting sore. Walking shoes tend to have slightly less cushioning than a running shoe because walking doesn’t compress the foams as much as running. However, some people need more cushioning than others. Issues like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and shin splints often need a softer footbed. Long-distance walkers also need more cushioning to protect the feet as they get fatigued. Try to match the cushioning level to your personal comfort and the distances you normally walk.
  • Heel: The heel pocket should snuggly cup your heel so that the heel cannot slip in and out as you walk. If you have trouble with heel slippage, shoes with internal or external heel counters can help hold the foot in place with each step.
  • Forefoot: The shoe’s toe box should fit snugly but leave a little wiggle room so that you maintain blood flow and the sides of the shoe don’t rub your foot. If you have a wide foot, look for wide width sizes. For those with narrow feet, there are certain shoe brands, like Saucony and Asics, that make shoes with a narrower forefoot.
  • Tread: The shoe’s tread should match the types of surfaces you walk on most. If you’re a hiker, you’ll need deeper lugs to maintain stability. If you’re walking on the pavement, most standard treads will do.
  • Uppers: The upper is the portion of the shoe that covers the foot. Casual walking shoes often have leather, vinyl, and other less breathable materials. If you’re using the shoes for exercise, you’ll need breathable mesh or something similar so that heat and moisture can escape.
  • Motion Control and Stability: Motion control and stability features help correct issues like overpronation or supination. Medial posts, guardrails, and the insole’s arch support should accommodate the shape of your foot and your natural gait.

When It’s Time for New Shoes

The rule of thumb for athletic shoes and sneakers—running, walking, basketball—is that the shoes need replacing every 300 to 500 miles. How fast you reach that mark depends on how the footwear is used. A daily walk of three to four miles five days a week will wear the shoes out in about six months. If you take long daily walks and use the shoes for general wear, you could reach the 500 mark in three months. Estimate your weekly miles and use that to calculate an approximate replacement time.

Factors that Affect Shoe Life

A number of factors can lengthen or shorten that 300 to 500-mile window. Take them into consideration when you’re deciding if it’s go-time on a new pair of shoes.

Your Weight

The more you weigh, the more the cushioning and support foams compress. The extra compression wears the shoes out faster. A larger person will, therefore, tend to work through their shoes faster than a petite person.

Where You Walk

Different surfaces wear down the shoe’s tread at different rates. Hilly trails, for example, eat through tread faster than pavement or a beach. Exposure to water and mud may also affect the shoe’s longevity.

Your Gait

Supination and overpronation can cause uneven wear on the shoes, decreasing the time it takes for you to burn through the shoes. If you have gait issues, it’s important to wear a sneaker that supports those problems both for your comfort and to extend the life of the shoe.


Injuries like plantar fasciitis, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, and stress fractures can keep you off your feet. Of course, when you do start walking again, you may need extra cushioning to support the injury. Some foot issues like bunions aren’t due to injury, but you may be more comfortable in a wide width shoe that doesn’t rub on the bunion.


Should I buy and alternate using two pairs of walking shoes?

Runners often have two pairs of sneakers, so they can wear each pair every other day. That gives the shoe’s foam and support system time to recover from extended compression. Doing so also lets the shoes air out for more than just 24 hours. Most people don’t need more than one pair of walking shoes. However, if you’re on your feet all day or are a long-distance walker, a second pair of shoes can be a way to make sure your feet get the maximum support and cushioning every time you lace them up.

Can I machine wash and dry my shoes?

A general rule of thumb is to avoid machine washing if possible. The heat and forces of a machine often loosen glues and adhesives, breaking down the integrity of the shoe. However, it depends on the kinds of materials used to make the shoe. Some materials, like leather and faux leather, won’t survive machine washing. Other shoes are specifically designed for machine washing. Read the manufacturer’s recommendations and follow them to maximize the shoes’ life.


Walking shoes can take you the distance for roughly 300 to 500 miles. A few other factors affect their longevity, but if you follow that rule of thumb, you’re likely to get the cushioning and support you need to keep your feet moving.


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