Test of best sneakers for walking

Good Housekeeping

After sizing up the new field of featherweight walking shoes, testers made the greatest strides in these pairs:

Easy Spirit Reinvent Walking Sneakers

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(Photo: Easy Spirit)

(Photo: Easy Spirit)


GHRI Rating: A

Pros:

  • Consumer testers found this sneaker comfortable and fairly supportive
  • Most consumer testers liked the fit of the sneaker
  • Consumer testers thought these sneakers cushioned their feet well
Cons:
  • A few consumer testers thought this sneaker ran a half size big
Easy Spirit's Reinvent walking shoes earned rave reviews from our consumer testers. These affordable sneakers "feel like slippers," said one enthusiastic reviewer, while another praised that they "fit well and felt like I had nothing on my feet." That's likely due to the shoe's minimal design; its mesh upper and stretch lining allows the shoe to "hug or conform to the foot," says Karen Langone, D.P.M., a specialist in sports and fitness medicine in Southampton, N.Y., who evaluated the sneakers.

Though it looks similar to a regular running shoe, the Reinvent is lightened by the omission of a rubber outsole. The flexibility of the shoe can help strengthen the muscles of the foot, says Paul Langer, D.P.M., of Twin Cities Orthopedics. He cautions though that, for some, it "can also increase strain." If you love the shoes but are worried, ease yourself into the pair by increasing your mileage gradually. And be cautious wearing this pair out in the rain — Langer says the lack of an outsole might mean reduced traction on wet surfaces.

Bottom line: While some testers complained that they don't offer a ton of arch support, this pair is plenty comfortable and testers liked the amount of cushioning. High marks in nearly every category from consumer testers made the Reinvent an easy pick for the best tested lightweight walking sneakers.

Colors: Black, Grey/Purple, Navy/Charcoal, Medium Grey/Light Grey, Wine/Off White
Sizes: 5-11
Weight: 6.2 ounces
Price: Starting at $64.99

Rockport TruWalk Zero Walking Sneakers

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(Photo: Rockport)

(Photo: Rockport)


GHRI Rating: A-

Pros:
  • Consumer testers found this sneaker comfortable and fairly supportive
  • Consumer testers liked the fit of the sneaker
  • Consumer testers thought these sneakers cushioned their feet well
Cons:
  • Some consumer testers thought the sneaker felt slightly unstable because of the rounded sole
  • Expensive
The priciest shoes in our test, the Rockport TruWalk Zero sneakers also received one of the best scores from our consumer testers for fit. The pair "felt like I was walking on air," commented one tester, and, with its high-tech appearance, another thought the shoe was "great for walking and looks good too."

The Rockports feature a thicker, slightly rounded heel, which works to reduce strain on the foot. However, some users found that it made them somewhat unsteady in the shoe. However, because these sneakers are higher in the heel (compared to the forefoot) than other pairs we looked at, they might be beneficial for walkers with plantar fascia or Achilles issues, according to Karen Langone, D.P.M., a specialist in sports and fitness medicine in Southampton, NY.

For their good fit and comfort, these shoes were an easy pick for runners-up for our favorite lightweight walking sneaker.

Colors: Black/Gull Grey/Lavender, Warm Grey/White/Salmon Pink
Sizes: 5-11
Weight: 6.8 ounces
Price: $90, 6pm.com

Ryka Dash Walking Sneakers

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(Photo: Ryka)

(Photo: Ryka)


GHRI Rating: A-

Pros:

  • Consumer testers found this sneaker comfortable and supportive
  • Consumer testers liked the fit of the sneaker
  • Consumer testers thought these sneakers cushioned their feet well

Cons:

  • On the heavier side for a lightweight walking sneaker
Not quite ready to make the jump into a really lightweight walking sneaker? The Ryka Dash offers a great compromise. While it was one of the heavier shoes in our test, at 8.5 ounces, it still won't weigh you down. Plus, for that extra heft, you get more structure than other lighter walking shoes provide. The thicker midsole and rubber outsole give it better traction, according to Paul Langer, D.P.M., of Twin Cities Orthopedics, who evaluated at all the sneakers in our test. Of the shoes in our sample, the Rykas "would be the best choice for someone who is prone to foot pain," he said.

Our consumer testers didn't mind the extra weight either, rating the shoe highly for fit, feel, support, and cushioning. The sneakers were "extremely comfortable from the start," praised one volunteer, and another said the shoes were "very cushiony and airy when you first put them on." While not all were fans of the sporty look, its great fit trumped all, making it a solid pick for a walking sneaker.

Colors: Chrome Silver/Bougainvillea/Steel Grey, Metallic Lake Blue/Chrome Silver/Steel Grey/White, Black/Purple Wave/Metallic Steel Grey, White/Chrome Silver/Meadow Mauve/Steel Grey
Sizes: 6-11
Weight: 8.5 ounces
Price: $50, amazon.com


New Balance 895 Superlight Superfresh Walking Sneakers

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(Photo: New Balance)

(Photo: New Balance)


GHRI Rating: A-

Pros:
  • Consumer testers found this sneaker comfortable and fairly supportive
  • Consumer testers liked the fit of the sneaker
  • Consumer testers thought this sneaker cushioned their foot fairly well

Cons:
  • Some consumer testers didn't love the look of the sneakers

The New Balance 895 Superlight Superfresh may be the best of both worlds: While this sneaker is light, it still offers plenty of support and cushioning. In fact, testers found this shoe to be among the most comfortable in our test. "Feels like I'm stepping on yoga mat," one tester stated, and another said it, "felt like walking on clouds!" Most testers weren't big fans of the look, however, with one commenting they reminded her of "old lady" shoes, and another saying she would only buy a pair if it came in more "subdued" colors.

Though the sneaker is flexible, be wary of wearing it in wet conditions or on uneven surfaces, says Paul Langer, D.P.M., of Twin Cities Orthopedics who reviewed all of the sneakers in our test; the shoe lacks a rubber outsole, so it doesn't offer great traction, he said. Nonetheless its good fit and lightweight support make it one of our top picks for a lightweight walking sneaker.

Colors: Silver/Grey, Black/Grey/Yellow, White/Pink
Sizes: 5-12
Weight: 6.3 ounces
Price: Starting at $79.95


Easy Spirit RealLife Walking Sneakers

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(Photo: Easy Spirit)

(Photo: Easy Spirit)


GHRI Rating: B+

Pros:
  • Consumer testers found this sneaker comfortable
  • Consumer testers liked the fit of the sneaker
  • Consumer testers thought these sneakers cushioned their feet well
Cons:
  • Consumer testers did not find this sneaker very supportive
Due to the strap fastening instead of laces, "easy to put on and take off" was one of the most popular attributes of this shoe among testers. Several testers compared these sneakers to slippers. One even went so far to say that they felt "like walking on pillows." Unfortunately, that soft, unstructured feel also led testers to complain that the shoes lacked the support they were looking for in a good walking sneaker. Most weren't big fans of the style either.

Easy Spirit eliminated the rubber outsole, which may mean less traction on wet surfaces, according to Paul Langer, D.P.M., of Twin Cities Orthopedics, who evaluated all of the sneakers in our test.

For the price, the shoes are a good alternative to lace-up walking sneakers, but if you're looking for a serious workout sneaker, you may want to look elsewhere, according to Karen Langone, D.P.M., a specialist in sports and fitness medicine in Southampton, NY, who also reviewed our test shoes. The Easy Spirits "could be a good shoe for casual wear," she said, "but may not suit all for fitness walking."

Colors: Blue Silver, Beige Gold
Sizes: 5-11
Weight: 6.5 ounces
Price: $55 at Amazon


Skechers GoWalk Walking Sneakers

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(Photo: Skechers)

(Photo: Skechers)


GHRI Rating: B

Pros:
  • Consumer testers found this sneaker fairly comfortable
  • Consumer testers thought these sneakers cushioned their feet fairly well
  • Extremely lightweight
Cons:
  • Consumer testers did not think this sneaker was very supportive
The number one comment from our testers was that the Skechers GoWalk sneakers were "comfortable." Our testers liked the "squishy" cushioned sole in these shoes too, but the lack of arch support left many wanting more. The sneakers come in a fun palette of bright colors, but a number of testers felt that these lace-less shoes definitely weren't their style. On the plus side, at 4.2 ounces, the Skechers were easily the lightest pair in our test, and they also came in at the lowest price. But you'll want to think twice before picking up this pair for serious workouts; the shoes are best for casual wear, not walking workouts, said Karen Langone, D.P.M., a specialist in sports and fitness medicine in Southampton, NY, who reviewed all the shoes in our test.

Colors: Aqua, Black, Pink, Navy, Purple, Gray
Sizes: 5-11
Weight: 4.2 ounces
Price: $59 at onlineshoes.com

Avia A9616W Walking Sneakers

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(Photo: Avia)

(Photo: Avia)


GHRI Rating: B

Pros:
  • Consumer testers found this sneaker fairly comfortable and supportive
  • Consumer testers thought this sneaker cushioned their foot fairly well
Cons:
  • On the heavier side for a lightweight walking sneaker
The Avia A9616W shoes feature a rounded sole for a "rocker" effect, but you'll want to be sure to stick to firm, flat surfaces on your walks, warned Paul Langer, D.P.M., of Twin Cities Orthopedics, who evaluated all of the shoes in our test. "Any uneven surface can increase the risk of falls" in this pair, he said. Testers also complained of feeling "off-balance" and "unstable" and wished the shoes offered more support for lengthy walks. These shoes were among the heaviest in our test, and our volunteers didn't love the look, but several consumer testers appreciated the breathable mesh upper and several commented on the shoe’s comfortable feel.

Colors: Chrome Silver/Zuma Pink/White, While/Bouganvilla/Chrome Silver, Black/Detox Blue/White
Sizes: 5.5-11
Weight: 9.0 ounces
Price: Starting at $33

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