Your choice of walking shoes will rely, in part, on where and when you'll be doing most of your walking.
If you walk to and from (or during) work, for instance, you may want to check out some of the dressier styles of walking shoes. If you'll be doing a lot of walking on uneven ground, such as on grass or gravel, you may want to look into high-topped walking shoes or hiking boots that offer greater stability and will protect your ankles.
When you shop for walking shoes, take your time. Examine each shoe carefully. Run your fingers along the inside of the upper to be sure there are no protruding seams that can cause blisters in the toe area. Poke your fingers into the insole and the heel area to be sure they're soft yet firm.
When you try on a style, put both shoes on and lace them up. If you'll be wearing two pairs of socks when you walk, wear them both when you try on your shoes.
Be sure to walk around in the shoes -- on both concrete and carpet. And remember to ask about the return policy on the shoes. Some stores will allow you to return or exchange shoes after a short trial period -- as long as you haven't worn them outdoors.
The bottom line on walking shoes: Pick walking shoes from an athletic brand that you find comfortable. Wear them around the house, then on some short walks, before switching over to them completely.
Once you've found a pair you like, consider buying a second pair right away, especially if you walk outdoors in inclement weather or your feet tend to perspire; that way, you can give one pair a day to dry out thoroughly while you wear the other pair.
And finally, when a pair is worn out, replace it! Do not keep walking in shoes that no longer provide the support and protection your feet require.
Unlike fitness walking shoes, racewalking shoes can be harder to find -- mainly because there are far fewer styles produced.
Designed specifically for maximum speed in competitive racewalking, these shoes are very lightweight. Racewalking shoes have less cushioning in the sole and heel than do freestyle walking shoes, however, so unless you're a dedicated, competitive racewalker, stick with a fitness walking shoe.
Find out how to choose the proper hiking equipment on the next page.
To learn more about walking, see: