Running Shoes vs. Walking Shoes: What's The Difference?

Published/Updated on:
September 8, 2023
Footwear Design
Have you ever wondered why running shoes look different from walking shoes?

While both types of shoes may appear similar at a first glace and designed for foot comfort and support, there are significant differences between these two types of shoes with different purposes in mind. If you are a fashion enthusiast who is looking to design and make your own shoes, you need to know that designing and developing the perfect shoe for each activity requires a deep understanding of the unique demands placed on the food by running, walking or even sprinting. 

No matter if you are making a shoe for a marathon runner or a leisure walker, here are some differences you should know about running and walking shoes. 

1. Cushioning

When it comes to cushioning, the difference between walking shoes and running shoes is significant. Running shoes typically have more cushioning than walking shoes because running is a high-impact activity that places a greater strain on the feet, knees, and joints. The extra cushioning in running shoes helps to absorb shock and reduce the impact of each footstrike, protecting the feet and joints from injury. 

In contrast, walking shoes tend to have less cushioning because walking is a low-impact activity that places less stress on the feet and joints. These shoes are designed to provide adequate support and stability while also allowing for natural movement and flexibility and the preference for cushioning depends mostly on the shape of your feet. 

Do keep this in mind in your sneaker design course at when you design a shoe that provides your wearer with the ultimate comfort. 

2. Height of the heel

As runners and walkers impact the ground differently, the heel height for the shoes they wear will need to differ too. Most walking shoes do not require a higher heel height since walkers strike the ground with their heel first, before rolling through the step. However, most runners may feel more comfortable in running shoes with a higher heel height since they strike the ground with different parts of their feet. 

A higher heel height provides more stability but this still boils down to each individual’s preference; some runners may prefer a lower or higher heel-toe drop depending on their needs. 

Hence, it is always advisable to do loads of research and survey your target audience when designing athletic shoes. 

3. Heel flare

A flared heel has become increasingly popular and is seen in more shoe designs nowadays but it does not just serve aesthetic purposes. The heel flare refers to the outward curvature of the heel of the shoe, which helps to provide stability and support during the foot's impact with the ground. In walking shoes, the heel flare is generally less pronounced than in running shoes because the foot has less impact on the ground when walking. This means that walking shoes can focus more on providing cushioning and support to the midfoot and forefoot areas. 

Running shoes, on the other hand, have a more pronounced heel flare to help absorb the impact of the foot with the ground during the running stride. This helps to reduce the risk of injury and provides a smoother transition from heel to toe during the gait cycle. As a shoe designer, understanding the importance of heel flare is crucial in designing shoes that provide the right level of support and comfort for different activities.

It is essential to take note of this while designing athletic footwear as it can greatly affect the wearer’s comfort and performance. 

4. Flexibility

Both running and walking shoes require great flexibility but the part that requires the highest flexibility differs for each shoe. For instance, most running shoes need more flex at the arch or midfoot for runners who strike the ground with different areas of their foot but walking shoes should not bend at the arch. Instead, walking shoes that bend at the forefoot will be way more comfortable since walkers push off each step with their toes. 

Such concepts will usually be taught in a sneaker design course so you can always clarify any doubts you may have. 

Enrol in bespoke shoe-making courses in Singapore today

Ready to try your hand at designing and making your own athletic footwear? Get started with’s bespoke shoe-making courses! 

Our sneaker design course is specially curated to help you understand the different types of athletic shoes, components that complete them, types of adhesives to use and more. 

From footwear pattern-making to handmade shoe-making courses, we have everything you need to kickstart your passion. 

Find out more about our footwear design courses today!

Nicole Toh

Hi! I'm Nicole. I am a Junior Marketing Executive in Look forward to more blogs and content coming up from me! I love a good cup of tea, some light exercise and listening to music! I am always open to a thought provoking conversation, so hit me up if you've something you want to debate on! 

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