An inverse relationship has been shown between running and cycling exercise economy and maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max). The purposes were: 1) determine the relationship between walking economy and VO2max; and 2) determine the relationship between muscle metabolic economy and muscle oxidative capacity and fiber type. Subjects were 77 premenopausal normal weight women. Walking economy (1/VO2max) was measured at 3 mph and VO2max during graded treadmill test. Muscle oxidative phosphorylation rate (OxPhos), and muscle metabolic economy (force/ATP) were measured in calf muscle using 31P MRS during isometric plantar flexion at 70 and 100% of maximum force, (HI) and (MI) respectively. Muscle fiber type and citrate synthase activity were determined in the lateral gastrocnemius. Significant inverse relationships (r from -0.28 to -0.74) were observed between oxidative metabolism measures and exercise economy (walking and muscle). Type IIa fiber distribution was inversely related to all measures of exercise economy (r from -0.51 to -0.64) and citrate synthase activity was inversely related to muscle metabolic economy at MI (r = -0.56). In addition, Type IIa fiber distribution and citrate synthase activity were positively related to VO2max and muscle OxPhos at HI and MI (r from 0.49 to 0.70). Type I fiber distribution was not related to any measure of exercise economy or oxidative capacity. Our results support the concept that exercise economy and oxidative capacity are inversely related. We have demonstrated this inverse relationship in women both by indirect calorimetry during walking and in muscle tissue by 31P MRS.