The Best Walking Shoes of 2023: Staff Picks

Walking on sunshine: Here are eight of the best pairs of walking shoes picked by REI Co-op staff, Members and customers.

Heather Balogh Rochfort|Published March 27, 2023

7 reviews with an average rating of 3.9 out of 5 stars
Two people take a walk through the fall woods.


It’s not only an apple a day that can help keep you feeling your best: Research shows that daily walks are one of the most reliable ways to maintain good health. 

Walking regularly can lower bad cholesterol (LDL) while increasing good cholesterol (HDL) and helping to prevent high blood pressure. It’s also shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and several types of cancer. Plus, it boosts your immune system, can increase your metabolism, improve cognition and reduce anxiety. (Learn more about these health benefits in Exercise Walking for Fitness and Fun.)

Unlike a higher-impact activity like running or jumping rope, walking can be easier on bones and joints, and can help increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the cartilage in your knee joints. It can also increase your strength and endurance while promoting an active lifestyle and simply getting you outside. 

Although walking is a low-impact activity, it’s important to choose shoes that are supportive and comfortable enough for your intended use. 

How to choose the best walking shoes for you? Start here, with our list of REI Co-op Member and staffers’ favorite walking shoes. Whether you’re cruising around the block or ambling along a waterlogged sidewalk, we’ve got a pair for you available at REI. You can also read How to Choose Walking Shoes for more information.

Staff Picks
Check out our top picks here or scroll down for in-depth reviews.
Best Overall Walking Shoes
allbirds Wool Runner Sneakers
Best Walking Shoes for Traveling
adidas Terrex Voyager 21
Best Casual Walking Shoes
On Cloud 5
Best Walking Shoes for Wide Feet
Brooks Ghost 15 Road-Running Shoes
Best Walking Shoes for Urban Hiking
Merrell Bravada 2 Hiking Shoes - Women's
Best Vegan Walking Shoes
VEJA Dekkan Shoes


Best Overall Walking Shoes

If Goldilocks were looking for shoes instead of porridge, the Wool Runners from allbirds would be “just right,” as they hit the sweet spot between comfort and fashion, performance and versatility. An added bonus: The brand’s business model focuses on increasingly sustainable production, all of which adds up to the Wool Runners being a shoe-in for Best Overall. The upper is made from ZQ-certified merino wool (a certification process that considers environmental standards and animal welfare) and earns REI Co-op staff and member raves for being warm, cozy and roomy enough for a wider foot. 

The shoe features a proprietary SweetFoam® midsole, made from sugarcane-based EVA rather than fossil fuel–derived foam and offering a springy step with just-enough structure for long days pounding pavement. “I was walking 10 to 15 miles per day and my feet felt great!” reports one reviewer after a trip to Europe. Emily Alexander, a retail sales specialist with the REI store in East Hanover, New Jersey, wears the Wool Runners for 8-hour shifts and reports, “My feet aren't ‘feeling it’ at the end of the day.” Along with shoelaces made from recycled plastic bottles and insoles constructed with castor bean-based foam, the Wool Runners look good, feel good and have some of the most sustainable features on this list.

Best Walking Shoes for Traveling

If lightweight, breathable comfort on the go is what you’re after, then the Terrex Voyager 21 by adidas delivers. These übersupportive kicks are perfect for those who log countless miles, whether you're urban touristing or simply counting your steps. One reviewer says she “can’t go back to other shoes” for her 15,000-step days. The breathable synthetic upper fits like a glove thanks to one-pull bungee laces, and they can be worn without socks thanks to no-sew reinforcements and soft inner lining (one less thing to pack). The thin rubber outsole creates a slim-and-trim design. What’s that mean? Easily tuck these flexible sneaks into a suitcase and they’ll be ready to roll at your destination.

Best Casual Walking Shoes

With the word “cloud” in the name, you know they’ll be dreamy to walk in—and the On Cloud 5 delivers with their lightweight, springy and breathable design. These shoes are constructed with the brand’s unique tubular outsole, a series of pods beneath the foam midsole that compress upon impact before popping back into place. “It’s literally like walking on air,” reports one reviewer. But, the feel isn’t sloppy or structureless. That’s because On added a rigid plate into the midsole that propels you forward while adding needed stiffness. End result: a luxe fit without sacrificing the springboard-like performance you want from an active shoe.

Reviewers say the Cloud 5 runs a bit tight in the toe, so if you’re between sizes or you notice your feet swell considerably with activity, we recommend going up a half-size.

Best Walking Shoes for Wide Feet

In this latest version of the venerable Brooks road-running Ghost series, step-in comfort reigns supreme with minimal mesh overlays on the upper and a super-soft midsole composed of foam, rubber and air. It’s like a loosey-goosey pillow on your feet that feels great during walks and long standing stints. “I have had three knee surgeries on one knee and on surgery on the other and can wear them to work and am extremely happy in them,” says Hannah Booty, a sales lead at the REI store in Bend, Oregon. Of course, there’s a tradeoff: less lateral support. (“I switch to the Brooks Adrenaline when I need a touch extra support,” Booty says.)

Still, you won’t find a plusher pair of sneakers for long-haul strolls on even surfaces, as one reviewer notes after walking two marathons in Ghosts. The 12 millimeter heel-to-toe drop offers a middle ground for traditionalists who want to stay away from a maximum or minimum drop.

Best Walking Shoes for Urban Hiking

Take a walk through the streets in a pair of Bravada 2 hiking shoes and you’ll feel like you run this town: The low-cut Merrell hiking sneaker features a super-soft, recycled EVA midsole combined with a nylon shank in the arch. This makes these walking shoes cushy underfoot even on asphalt, but they're supportive enough to off-road on easy to moderate trails. The stretchy knit upper accommodates a variety of foot shapes, including wide sizes, and the roomy toe box even felt good for a reviewer with bunions.

Best Waterproof Walking Shoes

If you scour thru-hiker website, blogs and YouTube reviews, you might notice that Altra Lone Peak trail-running shoes are especially popular on the Appalachian Trail these days: A roomy, foot-shaped toe box, grippy outsoles and zero-drop platform make them a trail angel for your toes. For the ALL-WTHR Low 2 version, Altra beefs up the beloved shoe with a water-resistant bootie to help shed muck and moisture on sploshy days. 

The tradeoff: This weather protection makes the Lone Peaks warmer and less breathable than other shoes on the list. “I only use them in colder environments since it tends to warm my foot comfortably and keep my feet dry,” says Mimi Alvarez, a retail sales specialist at the REI store in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Hiked Whitney, Rim to Rim and all my high-altitude hikes in Altras and I never feel my feet tired.” Altra loyalists will recognize the same dual-density EVA midsole and 25 millimeter stack height found in other versions of the shoe. And of course, you can’t miss that extra-spacious toe box.

Best Vegan Walking Shoes

Not only are the VEJA Dekkan shoes free from any animal products, but they’re also constructed with sustainability features in mind. Similar to the allbirds Wool Runners, the Dekkans feature a sugarcane-based midsole instead of the usual petroleum-based foam. These considerate components are combined with top-notch performance to make a shoe that's worth the higher price tag. One New York–based reviewer notes, “I haven’t taken them off this winter. They keep my feet warm and dry and the traction works great.” The grippy Vibram® rubber outsoles provide just the right feedback to help you keep your steps nimble whether you’re on or off-road. Note: Dekkan recommends (and customer reviewers agree) buying one size up from what you normally wear.

Best Walking Shoes for Kids

Kids need quality walking kicks too, and the Speedcross J is one of our favorites when it comes to fit and functionality. (And your kid won’t mind the blazing-bright hues they come in, either.) Salomon uses the same adult-approved technology from its popular Speedcross line and shrinks it into big-kid sizes (1 and up). The brand’s unique Sensifit™ system—the colorful zigzag overlays on the side of the upper—works with the laces for a secure fit that doesn’t slip while kids are on the move. Thanks to that, along with quick-draw laces, even the youngest kiddos can cinch up and go. The proprietary rubber outsole and moderate-depth lugs stick to pavement and dirt, and the synthetic toe cap adds much-needed durability for kids who like to kick every stone in their path. 

“Easy on, easy off. My kids no longer worry about tripping over untied shoe laces or trying to undo tangled double knots to take the shoes off,” says one of our editors whose kids have gone through several pairs of the Speedcross over the years. “My boys are rough on sneakers but the Speedcross holds up to their nonstop scampering. They’re also lightweight and comfortable enough for long day hikes.”

Buying Advice

When you’re looking for a walking shoe, consider these factors:



You’ll spend a lot of time in these shoes, so it’s important to have the right level of lateral support for your needs. This means the shoe won’t bend or twist beneath your feet, which could cause injuries. Most shoes built for a specific activity, like road running (like the Brooks Ghost 15), trail running (like the adidas Terrex Voyager 21 and Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Low 2) or hiking, will have support built into the construction, but there are varying levels. For example, road- or trail-running shoes may have guide rails built into the shoe to curb pronation—the sideways motion of your foot as it propels you forward—whereas hiking footwear (like the Merrell Bravada 2) typically gets most of its support from the midsole and the wider base.

When in doubt, these tests can help gauge the shoe’s minimum stability:

  • Bend the shoe upward at the toe and heel. In a perfect world, you’ll see the shoe flexing at the ball of the foot and not a random lower point closer to the arch.

  • Grab the shoe at the heel and toe again, only twist this time. You should feel a moderate amount of resistance. If it bends easily and doesn’t “fight back,” that means the shoe won’t provide much lateral support.


Cushioning varies depending on the type of footwear you choose. In running shoes, you’re more likely to find a higher stack height beneath the heel to absorb shock. Often referred to as the heel-to-toe drop, this number (measured in millimeters) represents the difference between the amount of cushion beneath the heel and the amount beneath the toe. The Brooks Ghost 15, for example, have a 12 millimeter heel-to-toe drop (24 millimeter stack height). 

However, walkers typically prefer a more even, uniform platform with the same amount of cushioning throughout. The Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR 2 have a 0 millimeter heel-to-toe drop and a 25 millimeter stack.

The quantity of cushioning can vary and it really comes down to personal preference. In general, hiking shoes tend to have less cushioning than running shoes. If you like a plush ride, consider road-running or trail-running shoes. Read How to Choose Walking Shoes for more information.


Of the three primary factors to consider, fit is always going to be the most important. A good-fitting shoe is much less likely to bruise your feet, irritate your skin or cause you to lose toenails. When trying a shoe on, aim for a snug but not tight fit at the heel so that your Achilles tendon isn’t sliding up and down. Ideally, you also want a secure fit through the midfoot and enough room in the toe box to allow your toes to splay. 

Shoe volume is also another factor when considering fit. The volume of the shoe refers to the height (or thickness) of your foot. A shoe with a low-volume toe box may touch the top of your foot and cause irritation, whereas a high-volume shoe may allow for too much wiggle room. Shoes with flexible uppers like the adidas Terrex Voyager 21 and allbirds Wool Runner, and those with a wider toe box like the Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR 2 can be a better choice for those who need more space at the forefoot.


We polled REI staffers for their favorite walking shoes sold at REI Co-op. From there, we vetted their recommendations against verified online REI Co-op Member reviews. These are the top choices.

About the Author

Heather Balogh Rochfort

Heather is a freelance writer and author specializing in the outdoors and adventure travel, particularly as they apply to women and families. Her organization WildKind educates and empowers families to find their wild. REI member since 2008.