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Sole Searching

You don't have to pound the pavement looking for walking shoes. Here's a guide to the best.

April 06, 1998|MARK FENTON and TOM BRUNICK and CAMELA ZARCONE | WALKING

The Rating System

Using information from the dedicated wear testers at the Athlete's Foot R&D Center (whose comments appear with each review), along with our internal evaluations, we've made more Editors' Choices this year than ever. They're followed by other real standout shoes, but all that we reviewed here are viable choices; it's a matter of matching your needs and wallet to the right shoe. That's why each shoe is graded on seven qualities (many, of course, perform well in more than one category):

Speedsters are lightweight, with mesh uppers and a flexible, low-profile midsole for fast walking.

Pounders offer durable cushioning for heavy-gaited walkers who crush midsoles.

Fit shoes offer at least two widths; we mention if more.

Overpronators have firmer cushioning or hard plastic posts under the inside of the heel to slow excessive inward roll.

Bargain Hunters offer good performance for the price, especially for walkers without special support or cushioning needs.

All-Day Wear shoes have a good mix of walking comfort and support.

Walk / Run shoes have adequate cushioning for occasional runs, up to five miles per week.

--WALKING

*

Buying a pair of walking shoes gets easier all the time. Demand from walkers has made walking the biggest category for many shoe manufacturers. Sporting-goods stores are carrying more styles. It's great news for consumers: There's something for everyone--as long as you know what you're looking for. That's where we come in. This comprehensive shoe guide will help you find the best pair at the best price, whether you're a casual strider or a race walker, hard on shoes or easygoing, blessed with a perfect gait or a total biomechanical disaster.

$85 AND ABOVE (Editors' Choices)

NEW BALANCE 840

$100

Especially Good for: Speedsters, Fit (three widths), Overpronators, Walk / Run

* Still one of the best performance shoes on the market; good blend of support, cushioning, flexibility and speedy profile.

* Built on the SL-2 Last, which many women like for the additional volume through the forefoot and arch area. Solid support for overpronators with a graphite roll bar on the medial (inner) side.

Comments: "Very comfortable, exceptional support in the upper." "Cushioning was very good." "Especially liked the support in the heel area." "Shoes held up quite well."

ADIDAS EQUIPMENT BAREWALK

$85

Especially Good for: Speedsters, Overpronators, All-Day Wear, Walk / Run

* Sports Adidas' new Feet You Wear design, to mimic the natural motion of the foot; wear testers felt it lived up to its billing.

* A sculpted dual-density C-EVA midsole is cupped around the heel for support against mild overpronation. Very flexible up front, supportive through the midfoot and arch. Brings you closer to the ground than many other designs, ideal for speedier walking.

Comments: "The cushioning is good, but not too much--feels like you are walking barefoot." "Wow." "Great support. My feet overpronate, and the arches are nice and high."

$85 AND ABOVE (Other Standouts)

NIKE AIRSORB

$85

Especially Good for: Speedsters, All-Day Wear

* Innovative air cushions are built right into the removable innersole; allows for an ideal low-profile midsole for walking with a flexible, well-cushioned ride.

* Well-beveled heel and forefoot flexibility are great for speed.

Comments: "You can feel the air. . . . One of the most comfortable shoes I have." "Cushiony but supportive, especially under the arch." "Good for fast workouts."

REEBOK DMX RUN / WALK

$100

Especially Good for: Speedsters, All-Day Wear, Walk / Run

* A distinctively cushioned ride: DMX-10 air pods in the sole transfer air between the heel and forefoot as your weight shifts.

* DMX-10 makes for great cushioning, but adds a little to weight and stiffness.

* Great athletic styling; spiffy see-through out-sole may not wear quite as well as black rubber.

Comments: "I love the sole thing!" "Cool and comfortable."

NIKE AIR SERTIVE MAX II

$95 (men's also)

Especially Good for: Pounders, All-Day Wear, Walk / Run

* PU midsole surrounding heel and forefoot air bags provide great durability for midsole crushers, but add weight and stiffness.

* Ample cushioning for occasional running.

Comments: "Style is very clean and simple. Support is excellent."

NIKE AIR MAX RACEWAY II

$110

Especially Good for: Pounders, All-Day Wear, Walk / Run

* Nike's maximum-cushioning shoe, with two air units and a combo EVA / PU midsole for durability; great for midsole crushers.

* Lighter athletic upper, with synthetics.

* Tongue design could bother wide feet.

Comments: "Very sturdy and had great traction." "Feels like you're walking on an air mattress."

$70 to $80 (Editors' Choices)

WILSON TW4040 CS

$80

Especially Good for: Pounders, Fit (three widths for women, two for men), Overpronators

* Solid, supportive shoe, with a one-year guarantee on the Goodyear Indy 500 Plus out-sole; ideal if you wear through out-soles fast.

* A hard plastic insert will add midsole durability and a firm feel, but also a bit of weight.

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