Fitness Articles

What to Wear When You Walk

Clothing, Shoes and Gear for Walkers

Rain or shine, warm or cold, walking outside can be a year-round activity. But before you head out, you’ll want to make sure you are dressed for the elements. It can be a very uncomfortable walk if you don’t have on the right gear! Here are some tips to help you stay cool, dry and comfortable, no matter what Mother Nature throws at you!

Feet First
Next to shoes, socks can be your most important piece of walking gear. Choose socks that are made of a breathable material. Again, you want your feet to stay dry, so cotton isn't usually the best choice. High-performance socks, including wool, can help with comfort, breathability and blister prevention. Steer away from thin socks, which might not provide enough cushioning. A thick sock might be better—just make sure it's not so thick that your shoes fit too tightly.

Your feet are your foundation, so shoes are very important ! They strike the ground thousands of times during every walk, and every step you take affects every joint in your body. The right walking shoe will provide cushioning that reduces the impact when your foot strikes the ground, as well as support for the ankles, which helps you avoid injury. Look for walking-specific shoes that are lightweight, breathable, have a thick, flexible sole and good arch support. After you've found the right shoe, keep track of the number of miles you walk. One pair of walking shoes should last about 300-600 miles, assuming you only wear them for walking and not other activities. For more tips on buying the right shoe, click here.

Bring on the Layers
At certain times of the year, you'll need more layers. Layering is great because it keeps your body temperature comfortable. It allows you to add layers (to stay warm as needed) and remove layers (to cool off) at any time. In general, these three layers will keep you comfortable in most conditions:
  1. A base layer should be light and breathable. Choose a high-performance fabric that will draw sweat away from the skin so it can evaporate and cool you without making you feel wet. Stay away from cottons, as they retain moisture (sweat), which can keep you cold in the winter and hot in the summer. A good cold-weather material is polypropylene; in warm weather, wicking clothing like CoolMax or Dri-FIT works well.
  2. An insulating layer goes on top of your base layer. It adds warmth and provides temperature control. This layer should be easy to remove in case you get too warm.
  3. A protective outer layer goes on top of your insulating layer to protect you from elements like wind, rain, and snow. Choose waterproof fabrics that are made of breathable materials (so your sweat can evaporate).
Last but Not Least
With so much focus on your feet and body, don't neglect these other parts! A ventilated and/or brimmed hat can protect your head from the sun during the summer. A winter hat will help regulate your body temperature, since one quarter of your body heat escapes through your head. Gloves also help regulate your body temperature. And lastly, be sure to protect your skin (and eyes) from damaging rays. If you'll be outside longer than 15 minutes, you should wear sunscreen, even in the winter. Sunglasses are a good idea, too.

Following these tips should keep you outside comfortably all year long!

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Member Comments

  • I go to a running store to buy my shoes for walking and doing the Walk Jog Challenge. They know how to measure size and evaluate if need narrow, regular or wide and other factors for choosing the correct type of shoe.
    Good article, the only thing to add is for those who walk in the pre-dawn, or dusk...PLEASE wear bright clothing, and some form of can get armbands, headlamps, 3M reflective vests and wrist/ankle straps. BE SEEN!!!
  • Does anyone have any suggestions about a scarf to wear? I have asthma and I've avoided problems by not going out in the cold. But I've started walking every day and I don't want to stop just because of the weather.
  • Great article. Keep in mind that the clothing doesn't need to be expensive. Look for clothes at end-of-the-season sales.
  • Nice article! I think I have it nailed about the hat and other clothing except for the shoes. I have spent tons of money on different shoes and socks and have tried all kinds of anti-chafing potions, but I still get tons of painful blisters and the overhang of scar tissue under the balls of my feet cause me to limp all the way home. I am OK for the first 4 miles but after that I know trouble is coming. I even tried changing into dry socks halfway through. Walking would be so much more fun if I could find a solution for this.
  • Great Article! Thanks.
    If you should be wearing good walking shoes, the. Why does every store want to sell you running shoes, when you tell them your a walker. I just don't understand this.

  • Thanks for the article! I would appreciate a bit more detail about fiber contents other than just "not cotton."
  • Good ideas, particularly about wearing a hat.
  • Great tips! thanks!...
  • Thanks for the new articles as well I run out of them. Ihad to laugh at the title right away I thought " CLOTHES- I don't want to be picked up by the cops" !!!
    In addition to water, I bring a microfiber cloth for wiping perspiration and tissues just in case. Living on the Gulf coast it's windy, so sometimes I find it necessary to cover my ears. The little individual pop-on type earmuffs work great.
    Just wanted to know if those sauna suits were good to work out in?
  • As a regular runner, I find this article extremely important. Many crucial points are brought up. First, wear breathable clothing, pure cotton is nice but not practical. Wear cotton blends or technical fabrics. Wearing the right shoes is probably most important. A good bet would be to go to a specialty running store. Quite often, the workers in these stores are specially trained in shoe fitting. As for cold weather, my biggest problem is my hands; they get cold very easily. So, when I dress for running, I dress so that I'll be a bit cool when I start. But my hands? They have to be toasty warm from the get-go.

About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, medical exercise specialist and behavior change specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

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