Tricks of the Trade
Walking is a gentle sport, but you do need to pay attention to your form and protect your body from any strains or injuries. It’s not difficult — just follow these tips:
- When possible walk on a soft surface such as a running track, dirt road, or grass, instead of a hard sidewalk or road, to cushion the impact on your joints.
- Increase your mileage or time in small increments. In other words, don’t go from 0 to 5 miles in two days.
- Keep your arms bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Hold your body fully upright, with your shoulders pulled slightly back and pushed down, not rounded. (Try to squeeze or pinch your shoulder blades together.) Don’t thrust your head forward; keep your ears aligned with your shoulders. Your hands should be slightly clenched.
- Bring your hands no higher than shoulder height in the forward motion, and keep them by the side of your body in the backward motion. This is especially important if you’re using hand weights for added resistance. And stay away from ankle weights while walking; using them can throw off your natural gait, which may lead to injuries.
While you can walk in any pair of sturdy, comfortable shoes, you may want to invest in a specifically designed walking shoe for optimal comfort and safety. If you do, follow these tips:
Start with socks. While you’re at the shoe store, buy some new socks, too. Look for padded socks made of acrylic. Acrylic tends to wick away perspiration — which active feet can produce from 250,000 sweat glands at a rate of 4 to 6 ounces a day — better than cotton or wool.
Get the timing right. Try shoes on in the afternoon, since your feet swell enough during the day to affect your shoe size. Make sure to try them on with athletic socks.
Go for a three-way fit. The longest of your toes should clear the end of the shoe by about one-half inch (about the width of your thumb). The ball of your foot should fit comfortably into the widest part of the shoe. And the heel of your foot should fit snugly in the back without any slippage.
Replace shoes often. Trade in your shoes when you’ve walked 350 to 550 miles in them. If you’re logging about 15 miles a week (2 to 3 miles a day, five days a week), that means replacing them about every six months. Once your shoes have covered that much distance they will have lost their shock-absorption capacity and some of their stability. To see if it’s time for a new pair, place your shoes on a table and look at them from behind. Check for wear and tear of the sole. If they’re leaning to one side, the midsole cushioning is probably shot. The next time you’re in a shoe store, try on a new pair of the model that you are currently wearing. If the cushioning in your shoes feels dead in comparison, it probably is.