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Lace Up: The Best Walking, Toning, and Hiking Shoes

We sweat-tested our way through more than 70 sneakers. Find out which walking, toning, and hiking shoes were our top-rated picks.

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Michael Kraus
Avia i-Burn
Michael Kraus
Michael Kraus
Michael Kraus
Michael Kraus
Michael Kraus
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The Best Toning Shoes

Winner: Reebok EasyTone Grace

Word on the Street: Thanks to mini podlike balls on the sole, "these made walking fun!" The cushioning was "just right," and the smooth-seamed upper was "supercomfy." Testers felt added toning in their abs, hips, thighs, and calves -- even after just a 30-minute walk. "You have to work harder to find your balance," and "the extra spring and bounce motivate you to walk longer than usual." ($125, reebok.com)

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The Best Toning Shoes

Runner-up: Avia i-Burn

Word on the Street: Designed with a double rocker technology that causes your heel and forefoot to sink and rise as you walk, the shoe "feels like walking at a five incline on the treadmill." "You feel every muscle in your lower body engage with each step," especially the outer thighs and calves, testers say. Because "they're so comfortable," one flat-footed tester was able to walk farther. ($120, avia.com)

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The Best Walking Shoes

Winner: Ryka Radiant

Word on the Street: Because they have "great arch support," a breathable, "keep your foot cool" upper, and "a satisfying combination of cushioning and support," these sneaks "feel like buttah." Multiple flex grooves in the outsole make for a more natural, heel-to-toe walking stride, while the sneak's comfy sock liner means "no blisters, no discomfort, no rubbing." ($70, ryka.com)

The shoe fits if:

  • you walk for exercise
  • you need more arch support than casual shoes provide
  • you spend tons of time on your feet

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The Best Walking Shoes

Runner-up: New Balance 615

Word on the Street:
This "sleek" shoe is just right for the power walker. With "the perfect amount of supportive cushioning," guide-your-stride flex grooves on the outsole, and an arch-stabilizing post in the midsole, you're guaranteed steady, "not stiff at all" footing. ($65, newbalance.com for retailers)

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The Best Hiking Shoes

Winner: Vasque Opportunist

Word on the Street:
"Just an all-around good shoe," this hiking-multisport trekker has a rugged rubber outsole that gives you a "great grip on smooth rocks and slippery surfaces." The "extremely comfortable" design also includes a waterproof upper, an EVA foam midsole that provides "plenty of shock absorbency as you walk," and an integrated plastic plate for added stability. They are "not too heavy or bulky, but not skimpy either." ($90 to $110, vasque.com for retailers)

The shoe fits if:

  • you hit the trails regularly
  • you're primarily a day-trip hiker
  • you don't hike through severe weather or changes in altitude

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What You Need to Know About Walking, Hiking, and Toning Shoes

Q. What should I do with all my old sneakers?

A.
Donate 'em! If your sneaks are just lightly worn, connect with One World Running (oneworldrunning.com), a nonprofit organization that collects low-mileage running shoes, cleans them up, and sends them to impoverished areas all over the world. Or, if your kicks have already paid their dues, take them to a Nike Reuse-A-Shoe drop-off location (nikereuseashoe.com) to be put through the grinder and magically reborn as new athletic surfaces, such as running tracks and gym and basket­ball-court floors. To find local places to donate, go to recycledrunners.com.

Q. What is the best way to clean mud-caked hiking shoes?

A.
"First scrub the outsides of your boots or shoes with a bristle brush to remove the dirt [Tip: For stains, use mild detergent on a damp cloth], then air them out somewhere that isn't dark and damp," says Lace Thornberg, an editor for the bimonthly magazine of the Washington Trails Association, a pro-hiking organization in Seattle. Once they're dry, dust the insoles with baking soda or baking powder, she says. "Regularly reapply a water­proofing solution, such as Nikwax [about $8.50, rei.com], to your boots to prevent them from getting too wet when you're outside," she adds. Whatever you do, don't stick them in the washing machine!

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, October 2010.

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