At first glance, walking and running seem similar. However, the two activities are different, as are the demands they place on your feet and your footwear. These differences affect the need for, and design of, two different styles of shoes: walking and running.
As you walk, your body's weight is distributed more evenly on your feet than when you run. When walking, your weight rolls from the heel, through the ball and continues to the toe in one foot after the other. This gentler, rocking chair-like motion requires your feet to absorb the shock of only one to two times your body weight with each step. When walking, there are points where both feet are firmly on the ground, dividing the amount of weight your feet support. Running, on the other hand, requires the support of at least two to three times your body weight, and each stride has moments with neither foot on the ground. With each step, the outer heel absorbs most of the impact before distributing weight through the foot in an S motion through toe off. What does this mean to your shoes? Basically, it's the old axiom of having the right tool for the job.
Walking shoes are designed with the specific body mechanics and strike path of walking in mind. They are constructed to be more flexible through the ball of the foot to allow for a greater range of motion through the roll of the forefoot. They also have greater arch support to protect where the force is heaviest on the foot.
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Running shoes, in contrast, have more cushioning in the heel–the point of impact–and less protection through the ball of the foot. The amount of heat generated in the running motion is greater, so running shoes also are made with a higher amount of mesh to keep feet cool during exercise.
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Trainers offer additional ankle support for both forward and lateral movement. These shoes are designed expressly for the gym enthusiast, with a seamless transition from jogging on a treadmill, lifting weights or doing step aerobics. While not intended for use in long races (ie, half marathons and marathons), shoes in our training category can be used in shorter runs (ie, mile races and 5Ks).
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