Tips for buying walking shoes September 06, 1999 NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -- Walking offers a host of health benefits, according to several recent studies. To help consumers buy the right walking shoes, the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons has issued some selection tips. The first step in a good walking experience? Select proper fitting shoes, according to Dr. Melanie Sanders, a foot and ankle orthopedic specialist in Indianapolis, Indiana. "Approximately 43.1 million people in the US have foot problems and many of these injures come from improper fit," said Sanders in a statement issued by the Association. "The basic construction of some shoes can sometimes be harmful. Bunions, corns and calluses can get irritated if decorative seams on the upper part of the walking shoes rub against a person's foot or toes." Walking shoes should have a few features not seen in other shoes, including the following: -- they should have outsoles that are somewhat rounded, which encourages you to move off of the heel and onto the toes as you walk. -- they should have a wider heel landing areas than other sports shoes. -- the heels should be about a half inch high to reduce over-stretching of the Achilles tendon. -- they should be light and flexible and immediately feel comfortable. Walking shoes should not need a "breaking in" period. -- they should have a soft upper portion, unless you are having a problem with the ball of your foot. In that case, a slightly stiffer design is suggested to reduce stress on the foot. In addition, the Association recommends trying both shoes on at the same time, preferably late in the day when feet are their largest, and while wearing the socks you plan to wear when walking. Re-lace the shoes when you try them on, and make sure there is enough room in the toe box of the shoe for your toes to wiggle around, according to Sanders. "The rule of thumb is to allow about one-half inch between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe," she said.