Gear Guy

Montrail CTC shoe     Photo: courtesy, REI

Q:

What’s a good walking shoe for a former runner?

I stopped running at age 50 because my knees just couldn’t take it anymore. I now walk daily and need a good shoe for fast walking. What is your opinion of Ecco’s Performance shoes? Donna Plano, Texas

A:You and millions of others. I quit running a decade ago, after a dozen marathons and other events, when I was out for a light morning jog on flat pavement and something in my left knee made a gentle “pop" sound. It was cartilage. My orthopedic surgeon advised me to give up running, and I did in a heartbeat.

That said, I still wear running shoes a lot and much prefer them to so-called “walkers," which to me seem clunky. Ecco’s Performance line of shoes, on the other hand, are really a running shoe and look pretty cool, maybe even a little too “out there," design-wise. But I like them. The RXP 3040 ($110; www.eccousa.com), for instance, has breathable mesh, lots of cushioning, and grippy outsoles for traction. Whether it fits better than anything else really depends on your foot. European shoes tend to be narrower and lower in volume than those for fatter American feet, to put it bluntly. Some people can wear them, some can’t.

So called “approach" shoes also make good walking shoes because they’re sturdy and offer excellent support and traction, plus they look tough. Asolo’s Lunar ($95; www.asolo.com), for instance, has leather and polyester uppers, midsole support that is a little firmer than a straight running shoe, and knobby outsoles that work well on trails or wet roads. Nice shoes. I also like Montrail’s shoes as they’re built on a last (the mold used to form the shoe) that seems to fit lots of people. Its CTC Cross-Training shoe ($95; www.montrail.com) has synthetic uppers that resist moisture well, plus a rubber rand that extends around the shoe for extra protection. The outsoles actually are based on rock-climbing shoes, so they offer a tenacious grip on most surfaces.

One last suggestion would be something like New Balance’s 809 ($85; www.newbalance.com), which is more of a pure trail-runner. New Balance shoes always are rugged and well-made, with excellent details such as superior cushioning in the forefoot without giving up support and protection. They come in regular and wide, so the odds of getting the right fit go up.

The votes are in: Check out the winners of Outside's 2006 Gear of the Year awards, including the year's hottest trail-runners.

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