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  • Writer's pictureJulia Lizbano

The Best Walking Shoes for Urban Explorers: Conquer City Terrain with Ease

The city is your playground, but to truly own those sidewalks, parks, and urban trails, you need the right pair of walking shoes. New York City is a walker's paradise, but its diverse terrain—from cobblestone streets in SoHo to the rugged paths of Central Park—requires footwear that offers both comfort and durability. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into what makes a shoe perfect for city terrain and recommend our top picks for all types of urban adventurers.

Top Picks for City Walking

After doing extensive research and considering various factors like comfort, durability, and style, we have put together a list of the top walking shoes that can tackle the urban terrain. Here are our choices:

Best Overall

  • Brand and Model: New Balance 990v5

  • Key Features: This shoe offers unparalleled comfort with its cushioned midsole, excellent durability due to its high-quality materials, and a versatile style that can go from casual to semi-formal.

  • Price Range: $175 - $200

Best Budget Option

Brand and Model: Skechers Go Walk 5

  • Key Features: Don't let the budget-friendly price fool you; these shoes come with impressive arch support and are quite durable for their price point.

  • Price Range: $50 - $70

Best for Arch Support

  • Brand and Model: ASICS Gel-Contend 7

  • Key Features: These are designed specifically for those who require additional arch support. The shoe comes with a cushioned midsole and a sock liner that can be removed to accommodate orthotics.

  • Price Range: $65 - $80

Most Stylish

  • Brand and Model: Adidas Originals NMD_R1

  • Key Features: If style is a priority, these shoes offer a sleek, modern design without sacrificing comfort. They feature a responsive Boost midsole for energy return.

  • Price Range: $130 - $160

Most Durable

  • Brand and Model: Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator

  • Key Features: Built like a hiking shoe but styled for the city, the Moab 2 offers superior durability, excellent traction, and enough comfort for all-day wear.

  • Price Range: $100 - $120

The Importance of Choosing the Right Shoe

Why it matters for long-term foot health

When you're navigating the urban jungle, the right pair of shoes isn't just a fashion statement—it's a necessity for long-term foot health. Footwear that doesn't provide proper support can lead to a variety of issues such as plantar fasciitis, blisters, and even more severe conditions like stress fractures over time.

How the right shoe enhances your walking experience

Choosing a shoe that fits well and provides ample support is like investing in a reliable travel companion for your city excursions. The right footwear can make the difference between enjoying a comfortable, effortless walk and ending up with sore feet after just a few blocks. Good walking shoes improve your posture, distribute weight evenly, and reduce the impact on your joints, making your urban treks more enjoyable.

In cities like New York, where walking is a primary mode of transport for many, the quality of your shoes affects not just your comfort but also your overall quality of life. A well-crafted, supportive shoe can even encourage you to explore more, whether that means taking the scenic route home or embarking on longer journeys to discover hidden gems in the city.

Factors to Consider

When it comes to choosing the perfect pair of walking shoes for city terrain, a myriad of factors come into play. It's not just about style; it's also about substance. Here's a deep dive into the essential elements you should consider.

Material and Construction

  • Leather vs. Synthetic: Leather offers durability and a classic look but may lack in breathability. Synthetic materials are usually lighter and more breathable but may wear out faster.

  • Stitching: Look for double-stitched seams and other signs of quality construction. This ensures your shoes will withstand the test of time—and sidewalks.

  • Insole and Midsole: Materials like memory foam or gel provide extra cushioning, while a good midsole can offer additional shock absorption.

Arch Support

  • Low, Neutral, High Arches: Your arch type will heavily influence the kind of support you need. Shoes with appropriate arch support can prevent fatigue and injuries.

  • Orthotic-Friendly: Some shoes have removable insoles to accommodate custom orthotics, providing tailored support for your feet.


  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: This measures the difference in cushioning between the heel and the forefoot. A lower drop may encourage a more natural walking gait.

  • Responsiveness: Some shoes offer springy cushioning that returns energy as you walk, effectively reducing fatigue.


  • Outsole Material: Rubber is often the go-to for durable and grippy soles, but some brands also incorporate other materials for specialized traction.

  • Tread Pattern: Deep grooves offer better grip on uneven terrain, but can trap debris. Shallow grooves work well on flat surfaces but may slip on gravel or cobblestones.


  • Mesh Panels: Look for shoes with mesh uppers or panels that allow for good airflow, especially if you plan on walking during hot summer days.

  • Moisture-Wicking Linings: These pull sweat away from your feet, keeping them dry and comfortable.


  • Casual vs. Athletic: A casual shoe offers a more versatile look but may lack some technical features. Athletic shoes often provide better performance but can be less stylish.

  • Color Options: While a neutral color may be more versatile, vibrant hues can add a dash of personality to your walking attire.

Challenges of City Terrain

Navigating the bustling streets and hidden corners of a city like New York is no simple feat. Each type of terrain presents its own set of challenges that require specialized attention when selecting your walking shoes.

Concrete and Hard Surfaces

  • Impact on Joints: Cities are primarily made of concrete, asphalt, and other hard surfaces that can put extra stress on your joints. Choose shoes with good shock absorption to mitigate the impact.

  • Wear and Tear: The abrasive nature of concrete can quickly wear down lesser-quality shoes. Opt for footwear made from durable materials and with robust construction to ensure longevity.

Slippery Conditions

  • Rain and Snow: Cities like New York experience all kinds of weather, including rain and snow that can make sidewalks slick. A shoe with a grippy sole and water-resistant features is invaluable in these conditions.

  • Urban Obstacles: Think of oil spills, puddles, or even spilled beverages; cities are full of slippery surprises. Traction is your friend here, so don’t skimp on it.

Varied Textures

  • Cobblestones to Grates: From charming cobblestone streets to subway grates, city terrain is incredibly diverse. Shoes with a flexible sole can adapt to varied surfaces, while a more rigid sole offers stability on uneven ground.

  • Indoor to Outdoor: Many city dwellers find themselves transitioning from indoor spaces like malls or museums to outdoor pathways. A versatile shoe with moderate cushioning and support can handle these rapid transitions effortlessly.

The Night Factor

  • Low Visibility: As the city lights come on, visibility decreases. Shoes with reflective elements can provide an extra level of safety during night walks.

By being mindful of these challenges, you can select a pair of walking shoes that not only look good but also perform exceptionally well on the diverse terrain that is emblematic of urban life. With the right footwear, every street becomes a runway, and every pathway a new adventure waiting to unfold.

Types of Walking Shoes

When it comes to city walking, not all shoes are created equal. Depending on your needs, lifestyle, and the challenges of your specific urban environment, different types of walking shoes might be better suited for you. Let's break down the categories. Running Shoes vs. Walking Shoes

  • Running Shoes: Designed for forward motion and quick foot turnover, running shoes often have thicker heels and less flexible soles. While they can be used for walking, they may not provide the best support for a casual stroll.

  • Walking Shoes: These are engineered for the unique biomechanics of walking, which involves a different kind of foot roll and a more even distribution of weight. The soles are usually more flexible to allow for a greater range of motion.

Casual vs. Athletic

  • Casual Shoes: These are your everyday, go-to shoes that can be dressed up or down. While they often prioritize style, many modern casual shoes incorporate ergonomic features for added comfort.

  • Athletic Shoes: Designed for performance, these shoes usually offer the best in cushioning, support, and durability but may have a sportier look that isn't as versatile style-wise.

Specialized Shoes

  • For Rain: Water-resistant or waterproof materials are a must. Look for Gore-Tex or similar technologies that keep water out but still allow your feet to breathe.

  • For Cold Weather: Insulation is key. A lining of Thinsulate or shearling can provide added warmth without too much bulk.

  • Orthopedic or Health-Focused: These are shoes specifically designed to address foot conditions like plantar fasciitis or diabetes. They offer high levels of support and cushioning.

On-Trend Picks

  • Sneaker-Boots: A hybrid between a boot and a sneaker, these offer the comfort of athletic shoes with the added ankle support and style of a boot.

  • Retro Revivals: Think classic brands and styles that have made a comeback. They offer a blend of nostalgia and modern comfort technology.

Understanding the nuances between these types of walking shoes allows you to choose footwear that isn’t just a fashion statement but a functional tool that supports your city-walking lifestyle to the fullest.

Maintenance and Care Tips

Proper care can extend the lifespan of your shoes, saving you money and ensuring consistent support and comfort. Here's how to keep your walking shoes in tip-top shape:

Regular Cleaning

  • Canvas and Mesh: These materials are generally machine washable. However, to preserve the integrity of the shoe, consider a gentle hand wash with a mild detergent.

  • Leather and Suede: These require special care products like leather conditioner or a suede brush. Avoid using water as it may cause staining or warping.

Rotate Your Shoes

  • Avoid Daily Wear: Wearing the same pair of shoes every day can degrade the cushioning and support more quickly. Consider rotating between two or more pairs to give each time to "recover."

Inspect and Replace Insoles

  • Wear and Tear: Over time, even the best insoles can lose their cushioning. Replace them annually, or more frequently if you notice a decline in comfort.

  • Custom Orthotics: If you use custom insoles, make sure to swap them into your new shoes and regularly check them for wear.

Weather Protection

  • Waterproofing: Many sprays and creams can add a layer of water resistance to your shoes. This is particularly useful for leather and suede.

  • Sun Exposure: Prolonged exposure to the sun can fade the color of your shoes and degrade the material. Store them in a cool, dark place when not in use.

Regular Inspection

  • Sole Check: Look for signs of uneven wear on the soles, as this can affect the shoe's balance and your walking posture.

  • Material Check: Keep an eye on the upper part of the shoe for any cracking, splitting, or loss of shape. These can be early indicators that it's time for a new pair.

By following these maintenance and care tips, you can maximize the lifespan and effectiveness of your investment, ensuring that each step you take on the city streets is as comfortable and supported as possible. And there we have it! That wraps up our comprehensive guide on the best walking shoes for city terrain. How does this final section look to you? Shall we proceed to the conclusion, or are there any changes you'd like to make?

What's On Your Feet?

We've walked you through the ins and outs of choosing the perfect pair of shoes for city terrain, from understanding the unique challenges to considering various types and even maintaining your prized footwear. Now, we want to hear from you!

  • Do you have a go-to brand or style when it comes to walking shoes?

  • Have you encountered any unexpected challenges with city walking that you'd like to share?

  • Any maintenance tips or tricks you've found to be particularly effective?

Your experiences and insights could be invaluable to other city walkers in our community. So go ahead, leave a comment below and let's keep this conversation going. Your next perfect pair of walking shoes might just be a comment away!

Happy walking! 🚶‍♀️🚶‍♂️👟

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