A pair of the best cushioned walking shoes and trainers will take you the distance in ultimate comfort
Below, you’ll find our pick of the best cushioned shoes for walking. We’ve put in countless miles over varied terrain to discover the most comfortable and supportive pairs for a wide range of activities including traditional hiking, dog walking, commuting and even mooching to the pub.
There are so many pairs of trainers available with squishy soles designed for comfort, however, in this article we’re sticking to the brands and models that have been engineered for walking and trail running. You’ll be amazed by how much engineering has gone into the latest cushioned walking shoes, and trust us, they really will make a difference if you love to spend time on the move.
Read on, and we’ll explain how to choose the best cushioned walking shoes whatever your needs.
How to choose the best cushioned walking shoes for you
What type of cushioned walking shoes are available?
There are three main types of shoes that are good for walking: traditional running trainers, hiking shoes and a hybrid of both, the trail running shoe.
Road running shoes: Made for pavements and hard surfaces, these lightweight shoes can be good for walking at a brisk pace (such as on your daily commute). They’re also good if you want one pair of shoes for walking and running.
Hiking shoes: These are a solid option for paths in urban parks and walks on uneven surfaces, everything from muddy paths and gravel to cobblestone streets. They tend to be great for stability and durability.
Trail running shoes: Another option for non-paved surfaces, they offer a compromise between the performance of road running trainers and hiking shoes. These are popular at the moment as fashion shoes, and are extremely supportive and comfortable.
How much cushioning do I need?
Traditional walking boots and shoes had little more than a layer of rubber for cushioning. The stiff soles are excellent when carrying a heavy pack or tackling difficult climbs, but technology has now created a better way.
The latest designs from brands such as Adidas Terrex, Hoka and On Running use a deep stack of cushioning to absorb the impact on a trail. More foam essentially means more protection for your feet and legs as you get tired.
But if you’re walking over uneven terrain, a combination of stiff rubber soles (Vibram is hard to beat) and cushioning will help keep you stable. Some people find a big pillow of foam a little wobbly underfoot, so it’s always worth trying a few pairs to compare the difference.
What is heel drop?
More typically used to describe features on running shoes, heel to toe drop is also important for walking. This is the difference, stated in mm, in height between the heel and the forefoot. In a shoe with a drop of 7mm, your heel will sit 7mm higher than your forefoot. Shoes with a lower drop tend to place more load on the ankles and are generally better for people who tend to strike on their mid and forefoot when they move. Shoes with a higher drop tend to place more load on the knees and hips and are generally better for heel strikers.
If you’re not sure what sort of walker (or runner) you are, we suggest you go for a gait analysis at a footwear specialist such as Runners Need or do it online at sportshoes.com. Their experts will assess your walking style on a treadmill and pinpoint any particular issues, as well as suggest suitable footwear.
How we test cushioned walking shoes
At Expert Reviews, rigorous testing means we can provide an accurate assessment of what you can expect from each pair of cushioned walking shoes.
In this instance, we test each pair for comfort, their ability to absorb impact and their durability. We’ve tested a cross-section of designs, from those specifically tailored to hiking and off-road activities, to trainers designed to make you as comfortable as possible when walking on pavements and paths.
We test cushioned walking shoes by, well, walking in them a lot. Instead of cycling the 2.5km to our office each day, we walked each way. Our reviewer also has a dog who needs exercising twice daily, so clocking up the steps wasn’t difficult.
We also took the more robust hiking-style shoes to the Lake District, where they were worn on a series of wet, slippery hikes. Across all walks we consider a shoe’s fit, feel, performance, outsole grip and durability on first wear, as well as when the kilometres racked up.
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The best cushioned walking shoes you can buy in 2024
1. On Running Cloudnova: Best cushioned walking shoes for urban living
Price when reviewed: £150
It’s been a rapid rise from obscurity to the high street for On Running, but over the past few years the company has gone from strength to strength with fantastic running, walking, tennis, hiking and everyday shoes based around its unique CloudTec Soles. And for our money, the Cloudnova, with 27 colours (15 for women and 12 for men), is the perfect all-day cushioned sneaker for comfort and style.
The large tongue spreads the pressure of the laces evenly while making them super easy to pull on, and the fit is true to size and sumptuously comfy straight out of the box. There’s a large amount of flex, the heel is cut quite high but is very soft, and the webbed sections over the forefoot help you feel secure.
Instead of a full rubber sole, rubberised sections in key areas help with stability, rather than having you simply bouncing around on the foam. Stuff does occasionally get stuck in the ridge on the base, but that’s only a minor gripe.
Key specs – Weight: 269g; Drop: 14mm; Sole: CloudTec with rubber reinforcements; Midsole foam: CloudTec
2. Evadict MT Cushion 2: Best budget cushioned walking shoes
Park your preconceptions for a moment, because Decathlon’s latest trail running shoes are seriously impressive, and despite the low cost can keep pace with far pricier competition. Designed for varied mountain terrain, they have 22mm of soft-but-stable Kalensole foam at the heel (this reduces to 18mm under the forefoot), and rubber soles with deep, well-organised 5mm lugs that offer grip in wet and dry conditions.
They also look great, especially the women’s chocolate truffle and beetroot colourway. They also feature a woven fabric called Matryx, which is exceptionally light, breathable and durable.
As a trail shoe, whether walking or moving faster, they’re comfortable and considered. And while we acknowledge that £90 isn’t cheap, given the tech, comfort and performance, they’re better value than anything else.
Key specs – Weight: 282g; Drop: 4mm; Sole: Rubber; Midsole foam: Kalensole
3. New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7: Best cushioned walking shoes for sneaker lovers
Price when reviewed: £145
Hierro is New Balance’s trail running shoe collection, each of which features a superbly comfortable and cushioned Fresh Foam X midsole. Featured on a host of its serious road running shoes, this cushioning is plush and responsive, and oh-so comfortable for all-day wear. Combine this with the best-in-class Vibram Megagrip rubber sole and whether you’re running up mountains or walking to the shops, you’re in for a treat.
They’re light without feeling delicate, the wide base is noticeably more stable than many traditional road running shoes and, while by no means the most important factor, they look stylish, with plenty of design flourishes. The woollen-style laces and eyelet detail are particular highlights, making them ideal casual shoes, and not just for ageing hipsters.
Key specs – Weight: 319g; Drop: 8mm; Sole: Vibram Megagrip; Midsole foam: Fresh Foam X
4. Altra Paradigm 7: Best natural fit cushioned shoes for walking
Viewed from above, the Altra Paradigm 7’s bulbous toe box shape looks a little bit orthopaedic, but that’s because the shoes are foot shaped, rather than tapered. The theory is that it gives the wearer’s toes a chance to splay naturally as you walk or run. The shoe has a zero drop, which took a little getting used to, but after a few days we were smitten. Unlike traditional “barefoot”-style footwear, there’s loads of cushioning and support on offer, and the freedom in the toe box was something of a revelation.
They’re designed for road running, but we would urge anyone who suffers with sore toes or has particularly wide feet to take them for a walk. They’re not the prettiest, but sometimes comfort and practicality is more important.
Key specs – Weight: 293g; Drop: N/A; Sole: FootPod; Midsole foam: Altra EGO MAX
5. Salomon Elixir Gore-Tex: Best cushioned walking shoes for hiking
While the price is high, once you get these hybrid trainers on your feet, you’ll soon understand where the money has been spent. These hiking shoes are built from tough, durable materials and have the added benefit of a Gore-Tex lining for comprehensive waterproofing.
They’re specifically designed for walking, with a reverse camber-style sole (an outwardly curved shape) that has the positive effect of propelling you forward. It sounds like a gimmick, but it’s genuinely innovative, though you may feel like you’re tottering a little when standing still. The rubber sole and thick, foam midsole means your feet remain protected, even over sharp rocks, roots and gravel, while there’s a huge amount of padding around the foot for extra support. They’re not featherweight as a result, but you will feel secure.
Key specs – Weight: 385g; Drop: N/A; Sole: Rubber; Midsole foam: Energy Foam
6. Inov-8 RocFly G 350 GTX: Best cushioned walking shoe for difficult terrain
Price when reviewed: £160
Cumbrian outdoor specialist Inov-8 has taken the technology used on its award-winning trail running shoes and created a sensational hiking shoe hybrid that’s supportive and completely waterproof. If you’ve only ever hiked in hefty old boots, you’re in for a treat.
They’re expensive, but the combination of the unique Graphene-infused G-FLY foam – which is proven to deliver 25% greater energy return – and hefty a rubber sole will give you a huge amount of confidence over any terrain.
There’s also a clever Adapter-Flex Groove across the sole in front of the heel that flexes over tricky obstacles – in our case, slippery rocks in the Lake District – giving more grip and stability when you need it most. Add in a Gore-Tex membrane and, as long as you don’t step in deep puddles, your feet will remain dry whatever the weather.
Key specs – Weight: 350g; Drop: 6mm; Sole: Graphene G-GRIP rubber; Midsole foam: G-FLY
7. Hoka Skyline Float X: Best alternative cushioned walking shoes
When Hoka launched, its bulbous over-cushioned soles were met with derision and suspicion. But then people tried them and realised just how comfortable hiking footwear could be. The Skyline Float X is a supportive, comfortable, eco-friendly vegan option, with the midsole made from 30% sugarcane. The plate, the part that helps the shoe feel responsive and make you want to walk further, is made from 89% castor oil, and there’s loads of recycled polyester used throughout.
If you enjoy long walks or find yourself on your feet all day, the Skyline Float X is an impressive option. They’re stiff compared to the On Cloudnova, but the Vibram sole and deep tread, combined with responsive cushioning and swallow tail heel, mean you’ll happily walk for hours. Yes, they’re a bit bonkers looking and they lack waterproofing, but remember that fugly footwear is on trend right now, and comfort never goes out of style.
Key specs – Weight: 423g; Drop: 5mm; Sole: Vibram XS Trek; Midsole foam: Dual-density 30% sugarcane EVA