Poorly fitted shoes can generate a slow build-up of damage. (Shutterstock)

Love walking for miles and miles? The good news is that you’re doing your body, mind and soul a world of good.

“Walking is an excellent exercise, and Indians have been walking to keep fit for almost four decades,” says Jayant Arora, director of orthopaedics, bone and joint surgery at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Mumbai.

But your feet might not be as thankful. While most footwear brands advertise specialised walking shoes – with model numbers, limited-edition materials and foam designed to keep you going – it’s possible to go wrong when buying a pair.

Your feet bear much of the brunt of your walks, and poorly fitted shoes – too tight, too loose, wobbly, not quite arched, not quite flat – can generate a slow build-up of damage.

“The biggest myth about walking is that walking more will make your knees hurt,” says Dr Arora. “This won’t happen if you pick walking shoes wisely. Flip-flops are an absolute no-no.”

Experts say you should consider your foot’s shape and pronation (its side-to-side rotational movement). You’ll get a good sense of how you walk from the wear-pattern of the shoes you already own. Does your sole flatten out at the heel, on the ball, inward, outward or more on one foot than the other?

Keep this in mind when you’re faced with a rack full of sports shoes. Here are a few basic styles you can consider:

Neutral shoes: These are meant for walkers whose feet move outward while walking (their footprints typically form a fragmented V shape). The shoes come with extra cushioning, sometimes as much as 50% more than traditional shoes, for shock absorption.

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Minimalist shoes: These are lightweight and have a heel drop (difference between the shoe width at the heel and at the toe) of 4-9mm. It’s like walking barefoot, but you still have some cushioning and flex. They’re a hybrid of sneakers and barefoot shoes.

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Barefoot shoes: These cater to the community that believes walking barefoot is best – but you need sole support when walking on concrete or hard surfaces. The shoes offer the same sensory feedback you get when your bare feet make contact with the ground.

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Motion control shoes: These are designed for flat feet. Their shape will prevent your foot from rolling inwards into the shoe when you walk long distances. Motion control shoes are stiffer and offer more support so as to keep your feet aligned as you walk. Keep in mind that they will be slightly heavier than normal sneakers.

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First Published: Oct 04, 2019 19:23 IST

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