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What is the Difference Between Running and Walking Shoes? – Stop Buying the Wrong Type of Shoes for Your Kid


Editor’s Note: This post has been updated and revised for accuracy on April 2022 and reflects up-to-date information on what is the difference between running and walking shoes?

I have noticed how several families allow their kids to practice sports and high-impact activities wearing casual/walking shoes instead of good supportive sneakers.

Your kids walking and running shoes look very similar, but they serve two very different purposes. When we look closely at the two activities and the impact that they place on your kids’ feet and their footwear, the two are really quite different. These differences affect the requirements and designs of two very different types of shoes.

This doesn’t mean you need to get your child two different types of shoes, since a running shoe —which is a multi-purpose type of shoe— can be used for everyday walking and high-impact activities as well.

Running shoes can easily be mistaken for walking shoes, and the other way around. Keep in mind that your kids’ feet impact the ground differently when walking and running, and your kids’ shoes must accommodate this difference.

Running is a high-impact activity. There is a huge difference in the impact of the ground on your kid’s feet when walking rather than running. Did you know that when walking, kids impact the ground with 1.5 times their body weight? However, when they run, they impact the ground with 3 times their body weight.

Certain running shoes are better than others in terms of support, comfort, flexibility, and durability, and these are the types of running shoes that I will describe shortly.

What is the Difference Between Running and Walking Shoes?

Let’s take a look at the image below which shows the difference between a pair of walking and running shoes. Do you notice how the walking shoe has a flatter outsole compared to the running shoe?


Let me explain to you the main difference between walking and running shoes: Running shoes can be used for both walking and running, while walking shoes are meant for everyday walking but not for running or high-impact activities.

When children are walking, their body weight is distributed more evenly on the foot than when they are running. Walking shoes tend to be more flexible than running shoes and they also tend to have better arch support to protect the foot where the impact is heaviest.

On the other side, running shoes tend to have more cushioning and support around the heel —the main point of impact when running for most people— and less protection through the ball of the foot. When we are running, our feet tend to sweat more, which is the main reason that running shoes have more mesh than walking shoes – to keep the feet cooler during exercise.

I always recommend parents to provide their children with one good pair of running shoes, that way they can wear them as their everyday shoes. Now that we know what is the difference between running and walking shoes, let’s figure out how you can find out your child’s exact foot size from home. This is going to be helpful if you tend to buy your kids’ shoes online.

Are You 100% Sure of Your Child’s Foot Size? – Let’s Find Out!

I always recommend parents to take their kids to be properly fitted for shoes at their local shoe store that they trust, where a shoe fitter can properly measure their feet and find shoes that fit.

Not all parents have a good fitting children’s shoe store in their area. That is the reason why I decided to create a resource where I describe the best fitting children’s shoe stores by state:

The Best Kids’ Shoe Stores in the United States – Where to Go for Proper Fittings!

How to Retrieve Your Child’s Exact Foot Length and Shape

If after looking at that resource you still can’t seem to find a kids’ shoe store in your area, then proceed to read an article I created where I describe the simplest, yet most effective way to figure out your child’s foot size from home:

How to Measure Your Kids’ Foot – 2 Simple Steps to Determine Foot Length and Foot Width

In that article I help parents determine their child’s exact foot size and whether the child has narrow, medium, wide, or extra wide feet. I also will be able to tell you whether your child has a high instep or not.

Now that you know what is the difference between running and walking shoes and how to figure out your child’s exact foot size from home, you are ready to take a look at a selection of the best running shoes for kids.

I only write reviews of shoe styles that I have fitted before, otherwise, I wouldn’t know how well-made they are, the amount of support that they provide, and how they fit.

The Best Running Shoes for Kids ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The running shoes I recommend below can fit children with narrow or medium feet.

The running shoes below can fit children with medium (M), wide (W), or extra wide (XW) feet.

What Shoe Size You Should Order?

In each of the descriptions of the shoes I indicate whether you need to order a half a size or a whole size bigger than your child’s foot size to provide the correct amount of growing room.

I always recommend parents to provide their children with shoes that come with shoelaces instead of velcro closure, since shoelaces provide more support and stability for your child.

If your child doesn’t know how to tie his or her shoes yet, I wrote a post where I describe the simplest, yet most effective way to teach a child how to tie his/her shoes. Go to the link below:

How to Teach a Child to Tie His Shoes – Follow these Easy Steps

Walking shoes have good support and require less cushioning, but they tend to be heavier than running shoes. I would not recommend walking shoes for kids, since they don’t offer the support they need for their everyday activities. Remember that kids are always running around.


Did you know that your kid’s feet tend to swell up over the day due to the long hours of walking and standing that their feet endure? Make sure you have them try on their shoes at the end of the day to ensure they will be comfortable throughout.

The socks your kids wear when trying on a pair of shoes should also be the same type that they would normally wear with their everyday sneakers.

Wearing the right type of socks plays a huge role in keeping your kids’ and legs healthy. Socks act as a barrier between your kids’ feet and the shoes, preventing the formation of bacteria. The socks need to be seamless since this feature allows your kids’ toes to freely move and prevent your kids’ toes to overlap one another.

I wrote a post where I describe the best seamless and breathable socks for children. Go to the link below:

The Best Seamless Socks for Girls – End your Morning Battles with Seamless Socks

The Best Seamless Socks for Boys – End your Morning Dressing Battles with Seamless Socks!

Now that you know the difference between walking and running shoes, you can make the most informed decision. I recommend that you get your children a pair of good, supportive, running shoes so they can walk, play and run around all day without hurting their feet or legs.

Are Any Other Shoe Choices Available?

Do not hesitate to contact me directly at my e-mail if you have any further questions or if you need a different pair of shoes for your child. My e-mail address is:


Have you tried a particular shoe style that has worked well for your child’s feet? Please share your findings below so other parents can benefit from your experiences.


I created this webpage to help parents understand the importance that shoes have in healthy foot development and how they can prevent foot problems in the future.Join the rest of the parents who are taking care of their kids feet and get my guide for free: 10 Mistakes Parents Must Avoid When Buying Shoes for their Kids.

Do You Buy Your Kids’ Shoes Online?

Subscribe and get my personalized shoe size chart for free to help you find what size to order online.

Shoe Sizing Chart

13 Comments on What is the Difference Between Running and Walking Shoes? – Stop Buying the Wrong Type of Shoes for Your Kid

  1. Your site is truly amazing!

    I admire your devotion to helping other parents choose the right kind of shoes for their children. It is very important to have the proper shoes to keep our child’s balance and give them good posture because the feet carries all the weight of the body.

    With improper or inappropriate shoes, our children’s body may not properly develop.

    • Providing our children with the right type of footwear is extremely important. Some parents do not realize the role shoes play in a healthy life for children. My goal is to inform them so they can make the most informative decision when getting shoes for their children.

  2. I’m glad you mentioned that I don’t have to invest in two different types of sneakers for my kids as I’m on a budget! We do a lot more walking than running so I guess walking shoes will be my priority. The only problem with buying shoes online is the fit as we can’t try them on personally. Any suggestions on this?

    • Yvonne,

      Is there a local shoe store in your area you can take your kids’ to have their feet properly measured? it is hard buying shoes online if you don’t know what you are looking for. If there is a particular style you like, I can tell you how the shoe fits (long, short, narrow, wide…) Please let me know if you have any other questions.

  3. Since the feet of our kids are growing and forming, the proper foot protection is important and crucial. My son has the widest feet, so I ordered the New Balance pair. He loved it, he said its the most comfortable shoe he has ever worn!! Thank you! Besides children, this post is good for adults too.

    • Billy,

      New Balance tends to make the widest shoes, with the roundest toe-boxes. Saucony also makes shoes in wide and extra wide widths. I am glad your child is happy about his new shoes!

  4. Very interesting article to be conscious about our children health.

    I never took the time to think what kind of shoes were my kids wearing. I just buy them the ones they like. Now that I read this I think I’m doing something wrong..

    My child has a very wide feet do you know which shoes will fit him better?

  5. I got my son the pair of Aiscs you recommend and he loooves it! He runs so much and is involved in track. He always complained about his feet and legs hurting after doing exercise. Now he doesn’t anymore!

    You are a life saver! I am bookmarking your website! Thank you!

  6. So so important to get your kid’s shoes right. I never ever skimp on shoes. I make sure I have the good running shoe for my kids to wear to school. One of my 14 yr old twins has a size 15 so it is really important he has the right shoe for whatever activity he is doing. I even bought basket ball shoes that he can only wear on the wooden boards.

    And they also have their good black shoes for school. There is nothing worse that seeing a kid with oversized runners or the wrong footwear for running and playing!!!

    • I agree Sharon! I am sure you find it hard to find shoes for your son… I haven’t met a lot of children with that shoe size!And maybe, he is still growing… Good luck with that!
      Please let me know anytime you have questions about a particular shoe style.

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