Knowing how to walk with the correct form and good posture can help prevent injuries – here’s everything you need to know about overstriding and the most common walking mistakes to avoid.
We all know how to walk – most of us mastered this skill as one-year-olds. But since being faced with lockdown restrictions, more of us have taken up walking as a part of our daily exercise routines. How do we know we’re walking, well, correctly? And how can we strengthen our stance and stride?
“Walking with the right technique and posture has many benefits,” says Bente Rewse-Smith, biomechanics specialist and founder of Enertor – who produce shock-absorbing insoles for walking and running. “It can reduce unnecessary stress and strain on your muscles and joints, prevent back pain and muscle aches and reduce your risk of injuries.”
How to walk with better posture
“A good walking posture is: head up and your focus should be about 20 feet ahead of you. This way you will be able to see your path clearly, and having a good walking posture will also make your breathing easier. Walking with your head down creates a bad walking posture which can lead to pain in the neck, low back, and shoulder. Try not to look at your mobile phone as this forces you to look down,” she adds.
Simple tips to focus on when walking
1. Step from heel to toe
When walking, make sure your footwear reduces the impact during the landing phase. “Allow a soft landing as you roll from heel onto the rest of your foot,” says Rewse-Smith.
2. Keep your shoulders down and back
Lengthen your spine - don’t hunch while walking.
3. Keep your head up
“Keeping your eyes on the path in front will reduce pressure on your neck,” she says.
4. Gentle arm swing
Allow your arms to swing forward and backwards, “like a pendulum from the shoulders”.
5. Consider your stride width
Defined as the distance between your heels when each heel is at its lowest point during the stride (ie when your foot is on the ground) – not to be confused with stride length. “Studies have shown that a wider stride is associated with less stress on the tibia reducing injuries, where a narrower stride width creates more stress on the ITB and stress in the tibia, the discomfort will increase when you walk or run,” she adds.
The most common walking mistakes
Wearing the correct footwear for your activity is most important as it cuts down the risk of injuries, says Rewse-Smith. “If you already have shock-absorbing insoles, brilliant, you’re one step ahead, but always test the new footwear with them.
“Walking shoes should be flexible to allow your foot to roll from heel to toe. They should be larger than your normal shoes due to your feet swelling – you need to be able to wiggle your toes a little and make sure they don’t pinch or rub to avoid blisters. Leaving 1cm of room from the top of your longest toe to the end of the footwear allows for any swelling.”
Here are our suggestions for the best walking shoes.
Not drinking enough water
“Drink at least a glass of water every hour throughout the day to stay hydrated,” advises Rewse-Smith. “It’s a good idea to drink water ten minutes before your walk. During your walk drink at least a cup of water every 20 minutes and when finished drink again.”
A single step exerts a force twice our bodyweight; over a single day, our feet can therefore support the equivalent of hundreds of tons, explains Rewse-Smith.
“In the end, overtraining will put you off and you will lose interest or get injured. Consider shock-absorbing running shoes or insoles. Our brand new insole design transmits impact forces horizontally through the insole, greatly reducing shockwaves through the leg. The technology, endorsed by Usain Bolt, provides 89% more protection per mm. In comparison, standard insoles allow forces to be transmitted vertically through the shoe, creating shockwaves and trauma through the leg.”
This doesn’t make you walk faster, but it does change your gait – putting an additional stain onto your feet and your shins will hurt, says Rewse-Smith.
Walking flat-footed means you are not rolling through the step with your forward foot from the heel to toe, she says. “You’re flattening out prematurely and you land flat-footed with each step. Your feet hit the ground with a slap and you may develop shin pain or plantar fasciitis. The best solution is to wear flexible shoes that bend at the ball of the foot and choose an insole with a slight heel raise and midfoot support.”
Not Using Your Arms
“If you keep your arms down at your sides while walking it will slow you down,” she says. “You may also notice that your hands swell quite a bit while walking, especially in warm weather.”
“Your back should have a natural curve and strengthening your abdominal muscles through sit-ups and other exercises will allow you to hold yourself straighter and stronger for longer,” she adds.
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