Walking the right way can give you better health, fitness, and attitude. It can help you walk faster and more smoothly.
Walking the wrong way can lead to wasted effort or even injury, not to mention ridicule. Here are the 10 walking technique mistakes to avoid.
You will see many, many examples of people who think they are doing a great power walking stride when, in fact, they are doing themselves no good at all. For example, our model above is walking with straight arms and overstriding. These do her no good and we’ll tell you why.
When walkers try to walk faster, a natural inclination is to lengthen your stride in front, reaching out farther with your forward foot. This leads to a clumsy, ungainly gait, striking hard with the feet. Your shins hurt and you really don’t get any faster.
All of the power of your walk comes from pushing with the back leg and foot.
The result will be faster feet and a longer stride where it does you some good – in back.
Not all “walking shoes” are good for walking. If this describes your shoes, you are setting yourself up for plantar fasciitis, muscle pulls, and knee problems:
Get fit for the right shoes at a technical running shoe store in your area. The athletic shoe experts will make sure you get the right shoe for overpronation, flexible enough for walking, sized right for the swelling everyone’s feet have while walking.
Instead of rolling through the step with your forward foot from heel to toe, your foot is flattening out prematurely and you land flat-footed. Either you are fighting stiff, heavy shoes or your shins are too weak to let you roll through the step.
Get flexible shoes that bend at the ball of the foot. A pair of running shoes with a low heel is best.
To strengthen your shins, ankle, and lower leg:
It’s a walking mistake to keep your arms still at your sides while walking or swing them without bending them.
It is natural to move your arms while walking to counterbalance your leg motion. But if you keep your arms stiff and straight at your sides, they act like a long pendulum, slowing you down. You can add power and speed by using your arms effectively and more naturally, by bending them and letting them swing naturally forward and back as you walk.
If you keep your arms straight down at your sides while walking, you may notice that your hands swell quite a bit while walking, especially in warm weather.
Bend your arms 90 degrees and swing them naturally back and forth opposite the leg motion.
Walking Arm Motion
You’ve been told it’s a mistake to not use your arms when you walk, but you’re doing it wrong.
Our model here is doing two of those – she has a straight arm on the back swing and her hand is coming up too high in front on the forward swing. She is also overstriding.
Keep your elbows close to your body and swing your arms mostly back and forward, as if reaching for your wallet from a back pocket on the backstroke.
As they come forward, your hands should not cross the center line and should come up no further than your breasts.
This arm motion will give power to your walk. Your feet generally move only as fast as your arms.
This motion lets you concentrate on power from your rear leg without wasting motion in front of your body. It also looks far less silly.
You are always looking down, hanging your head and staring at your feet. Or, you may be engaging in distracted walking, checking your mobile phone often (or continuously) while walking.
Good posture for walking allows you to breathe well and provides a long body line to prevent problems with your back, neck, and shoulders.
Chin up when walking – it should be parallel to the ground.
Your eyes should focus on the street or track 10 – 20 feet ahead. You’ll avoid doggy doo-doo, find cracks in the sidewalk, spot potential muggers, and still collect the occasional coin.
While our mobile phones provide a wealth of information and keep us connected, it’s best to keep them securely in a pocket while walking. Get bluetooth earbuds that allow you to control your music and take or make calls while walking without needing to manipulate your mobile phone.
Somewhere you read to lean forward when walking. Or, you may be leaning back on your hips. Leaning forward or backward or holding your back swayed can all result in back pain and do not contribute to speed or good technique.
The Cure for Leaning While Walking
Our model here has great walking posture as well as keeping her head up and good arm motion.
Mistake: Yes, clothes matter when you take a walk. Here are some common mistakes with choosing your walking clothing.
The Cure – The Right Walking Clothes
For walking comfort, dress in layers. The inner layer should be of a fabric such as CoolMax or polypropylene that will wick sweat away from your body to evaporate – not cotton, which holds it in next to the skin. The next layer should be insulating – a shirt or sweater easily removed if you warm up. The outer layer should be a jacket that is windproof, and waterproof or water-resistant in wet climates.
How to Layer Your Clothing
Dressing for Hot Weather Walking
Be visible at twilight, dawn and night: To prevent becoming a hood ornament, wear a mesh reflective safety vest bought at a local biking or running shop or put reflective strips on your night-time walking outfit. Many running shoes have reflective elements, but studies show it is best to have several reflective elements on to be seen from all directions.
Top Picks for Night Walking Gear
Hats are essential equipment. They insulate you so you warm up faster. They shield the top of your head from the sun – an area where it is hard to apply sunscreen unless you are bald, but still burns. Hats with visors also shield your face from sun exposure.
Dress for walking success at work. Sitting still for long periods is associated with major increases in health risks, even if you manage dedicated workouts. Dress in clothing that you feel comfortable in for sneaking in short walks every hour, even if it is marching in place in your cubicle. Switch to comfort shoes or bring along comfortable shoes you can slip on to walk during breaks and lunch.
You don’t drink enough water before, during, and after walking.
The cure: Drink a glass of water every hour throughout the day to stay hydrated. Ten minutes before your walk, drink a glass of water.
During your walk drink a cup or more of water every 20 minutes.
After you finish, drink a glass or two of water.
Avoid caffeinated beverages before your walk, they cause you to lose fluid, making you thirstier as well as making you take inconvenient stops along the way.
On walks over 2 hours, use an electrolyte-replacement sports drink and drink when thirsty.
On long distance walks, drink when thirsty and be sure to replenish salt with a sports drink rather than drinking only water.
More: Drinking Advice for Long Walks
You walk and walk and walk. But you have lost your enthusiasm. You feel tired, irritable. You always have aches and pains. You may be overdoing it.