What Essentials Do You Need for Walking to Work?

Walking to work is a simple, fun and health way to get to work but there are quite a few points to think about to help you do this often as part of your working week.

What essentials do you need for walking to work a few times a week? Good, comfy shoes which will support you and not cause pain. Appropriate clothing for all weathers throughout the year, with waterproofs essential. An appropriate bag for your daily items (more on this below) and a few other tricks will help you to walk most working days of the year.

So now let’s look at the points above in more detail to help you identify everything that you need for walking to work.

The Right Shoes

Thoughts on Formal Shoes

Let’s be clear: formal or ‘work’ shoes might look nice and might well be essential for most you in your working environment, but the vast majority of these kinds of shoes are not made for walking in!

Formal shoes can lack support and flexibility which, when walking in them for even a short period of time, can cause you pain in your feet and other parts of your body.

You may also find that the soles of these kinds of shoes do not offer enough grip when walking outdoors, especially in wet or icy conditions. Many formal shoes come with extremely smooth soles as they are designed for indoor (think ‘office’) use. This lack of grip can cause you to walk in an unnatural way that might add to your pain and even slow you down on your commute.

brogue shoes in leave
These kind of formal shoes are likely to be quite painful and have very little grip on wet days outside!
[Image Credit: Angelo Pantazis on Unsplash]

Good Shoes for Walking to Work

Now that we know what bad shoes look like, it’s time to think about what good shoes for walking to work are.


You should find shoes that are comfortable above all. By this, I don’t mean comfortable when sitting! Test them out and see how they feel when moving. A recent pair of shoes for work I bought that felt comfortable on my foot actually turned out to be painful and hard to walk in for anything more than a few minutes, for which reason I’ve since stopped using them.


Find shoes which fit well and are not too loose in any parts of the foot. I’ve found that some of the more formal shoes, which have rigid shapes that are quite different to any other kinds of shoes, cause rubbing, chafing and general discomfort when it comes to movement. I have also noticed that the strange fit has caused the shoes to slide around on my foot, making for a more painful and disconcerting walking experience.


The grip on the soles should also be textured and suitable for outdoors. This might be slightly more difficult to find in formal shoes but if you keep searching, no doubt you will find some that have this.

When looking at the soles on these kinds of shoes for walking to work, ask yourself the following two questions:

  • How much grip would these shoes provide on wet days?
  • How long will the soles last?

The second question above relates to many of the new types of soles for shoes on the market which have a synthetic foam sole.

These should be avoided as they quickly wear down and lose much of their traction, which will  Although these new soles look appealing, they are more for fashion than function!

Weatherproof Shoes

It’s unlikely that you will be able to find shoes for your walking commute that will be good in all weathers, but at least think about the kind of weather you will be walking in most often.

Generally, you want shoes that will naturally have some kind of protection against rain, with leather uppers a good bet here.

I find that low-top shoes cause my socks to get wet very quickly when walking in the rain so would recommend going for a mid-top shoe that is at least at ankle height.

You could also get waterproof shoe covers but this might not be necessary in your part of the world.

What to do if you can’t find formal shoes suitable for walking to work?

Worried that you can’t find any shoes that fit the bill for walking to work? Fear not. You can try a couple of things to get around this.

The first is to look into using a comfortable and supportive pair of shoes that you would not wear for work.

If you do this, you can then either leave your work shoes under your desk (or somewhere equally discreet) or you could carry them in a shoe bag with you on a daily basis.

Obviously, carrying shoes every day isn’t ideal but it will be a lot less painful than walking in most formal shoes!


[Image Credit: Craig Whitehead on Unsplash]

Waterproof Jacket

Carrying a packable, breathable and light waterproof jacket is a must on most days of the year in many places.

Clearly you can decide when you won’t need to carry one but I like to carry this packed away in my bag every time I walk to work.

If it is packable, that means it won’t take over your bag and make it hard to find anything else you might need!

Waterproof Trousers

Having waterproof trousers on your walking commute is a great idea as they provide peace of mind not only for the rain, but also for knowing that you won’t need to worry about your legs, pants or skirt will be wet for your day at work!

As with the waterproof jacket above, look for something that packs down easily. I’d recommend waterproof ‘overtrousers’ as these go on top of your work clothes and can be slipped in case of a quick shower or downpour on your commute.

Summer Essentials

Sun protection

A good sunhat that offers protection for your scalp and ideally the back of your neck is recommended for those of you walking in direct sunlight.

Getting a lot of sun exposure during a walking commute can sap you of your energy and reduce your productivity both at work and home.

Added to this, having this happen repeatedly over a longer period can also cause severe problems for your skin later on.

You might also want to consider putting on high factor sunscreen lotion as this will not only protect you on your journey to work (when the sun might not be that strong), but it will also protect you during the day and on your way home, when the UV rays could be quite a lot stronger, depending on your working hours.

Winter Essentials

So, obviously winter wear for walking to work will be similar to what you would wear just about any other time you are outside in the cold.

This usually means a hat and gloves, but a scarf or other kind of neck warmer will be particularly helpful as you might find that your work clothes are open around the neck, thus letting in cold air. Putting on a scarf should stop this kind of chill getting to you.

Thermals are also a great option as many work clothes will be thinner than what you would wear outside of work so this can make things colder than you’d expect.

Light Bag

You will also want to have a bag that is light for your walk to work. I say light in the two senses: light in terms of its weight, and light in terms of the contents you carry in it!

You should look to avoid carrying any unnecessary items as these can take a toll on your back over time. Leave anything that you can at your office, or simply don’t take some things you that you don’t need every day!

Also always use a bag with two shoulder straps as having it only on one can potentially cause you back, shoulder or posture problems in the long term.

If you can’t use only a backpack, try a bag with wheels (or ‘trolley bag’) to reduce strain, or look at getting a small bag to carry in one hand (although the heaviest weight should not be carried in this way).


OK, so this is clearly not something you can ‘take’ with you, but is definitely something that will make a walking commute a lot easier.

Practice Run

The first bit of timing I’d suggest is doing a practice run, simply to go through the motions and find out how long it takes.

You can use a stopwatch on your smartphone or wristwatch. My preferred option is using the Strava app (set it to ‘walk’, not run!) as the free version gives you a map of your journey with the time taken. Record your journey on the way to and from work to get an idea of overall journey time, and any differences in them. For instance, you might be going uphill on your way to work, which can take a lot longer than going downhill!

Noting Time Barriers

You might also have to cross some extremely busy roads, which can add minutes onto your journey if the traffic is particularly bad.

You might also find that wet weather slows you down as you might need to stop to put on waterproof clothing or simply have to walk more slowly to avoid slipping.

Either way, tracking your journey time over several journeys in different conditions should help you to plan this properly and avoid any mishaps on your walking commute.

Related Questions

How can I walk without working and sweating?

You should look wearing light, breathable clothing made from natural materials and avoid synthetics like polyester where possible. Cotton is the best for me as it is natural, breathable and extremely soft on the skin, the only catch is that it can be a little more expensive.

Have a look at your existing wardrobe of work clothes and decide which are the most comfortable when walking. After doing this, check the label to see what materials they are made from and look to getting more formal clothes like this.

You should also try to avoid carrying a heavy bag on your bag as this can quite easily lead to a sweat patch forming quite quickly, potentially leaving you with a smelly shirt!

Alternatives to this include leaving more things at the office overnight or finding a bag that has wheels. Why a bag with wheels? Because messenger bags, along with other types, that are carried on one shoulder or in one hand are likely to be more of a strain for you when walking and are also to be avoided.

The last tip is to give yourself enough time to go slowly as this will make sure that your body temperature doesn’t get too hot.

What to wear when you walk to work?

As mentioned above, comfortable shoes that do not cause pain and have good grip. Breathable clothes that don’t cause you to sweat quickly and excessively, a light bag on your back or with wheels with minimal things in it should all work. 

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