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How to Walk

Walking the right way can help you stay physically and mentally healthy. Walking the wrong way can lead to wasted effort and injury.


Here are 10 tips to help you walk well:

Take short strides

If you want to go faster increase your pace not your stride length. Lengthening your stride can lead to striking the ground hard with your heels and possible injury to your feet and shins

Wear the right shoes

Not all "walking shoes" are good for walking. They need to be lightweight, supportive around your instep and ankle, plus flexible under the ball of the foot where your toe-joints bend. They should generally be at least a finger's width longer than your longest toe. And fasten firmly across the top of your instep. Get your shoes fitted at a dedicated hiking shoe shop where they have the knowledge and experience to help you buy the right shoes. Some walkers find special shock reducing and supportive foot-beds help to make their feet more comfortable, or if you have a mechanical foot problem a custom made orthotic device from a musculo-skeletal podiatrist will help you walk pain-free.

Start Slowly and Warm-up

Your muscles are like chewing gum. When they are cold they are stiff and not very elastic, but when they have warmed-up they become pliable and able to cope with physical exercise much better, helping you avoid injury.

Walk Briskly

To get the maximum benefit you need to speed your walk up to about 3-4 miles an hour. At that speed you will get a little warmer and your breathing quicker, though it should never be laboured. You should still be able to talk when walking.

Use your arms

Bend your arms slightly and swing them naturally back and forth opposite to your leg motion adding power and speed to your walk. Keep your arms close to your body to avoid "chicken-winging."

Look up

Good posture allows you to breathe well and helps to protect your back, neck and shoulders. It also allows you to enjoy the beautiful scenery you are walking through. Try to keep your eyes focussed about 10-20 feet ahead so you can avoid pot holes, and other hazards on the ground.

Walk tall

Try to walk upright instead of leaning. Think, "Suck in my Gut, and Tuck in my Butt". Your back should have a natural curve, do not force it into an unnatural sway shape.                      

Wear correct clothing

Consider the weather you will be walking in to avoid getting too hot or cold. It's often best to wear layers that you can remove or add as you need to. Avoid cotton next to the skin as it absorbs perspiration and makes you feel uncomfortable. Modern wicking fibres like polypropylene or polyamide work better. Wear waterproof outer clothing for our British weather, and if you walk at night high-visibility waist-coat or reflective strips on your clothes to make you visible to traffic.                       

Drink plenty of water

Most people don't drink till they are thirsty, by then they are dehydrated. It's a good idea to drink before, during and after a walk. And avoid caffeinated drinks as they dehydrate you.                       

Take it easy and enjoy

It's always easy to do too much too soon out of enthusiasm. Rest occasionally. Take a day off to allow your body to repair, build up muscle and store energy to get you back on the road again.                    

Courtesy of Stephen Bloor, Musculo-skeletal Podiatrist at the 'Runright Stepfree Clinic'.