Picking the right pair of shoes before you begin walking is of great importance. A lot of time people wear shoes that are not the correct size or simply grab tennis and basketball shoes. However, you must note that walking shoes should be lightweight and flexible, while still providing support and cushioning. If the soles of your shoes are stiff, then you won’t be able to bend them at all while walking and that will make your feet uncomfortable.
Furthermore, if your shoes are more than a year or two old, it’s likely that their cushioning and support have already degraded. Ideally, you should replace your shoes every 500 miles (804 km). Also, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t wear shoes that are too small or too big. Wearing ill-fitting shoes while walking can lead to friction blisters, pinching in the toe box, and general foot pain.
Look for a shoe that has a well-padded heel and is light and breathable. It should also be water-resistant. You can easily find good models designed for walking these days.
While trying to walk faster, we tend to lengthen our stride. However, taking really wide steps, or overstriding, would mean that you are reaching out farther with your forward foot, leading to a clumsy and awkward walking posture. Reaching really far in front of yourself may make you feel a little off-balance and less stable. Also, since you are planting your foot so much in front of you, you’re almost restricting your foot's movement every time you land. This extra force that is being applied to your feet and legs can cause your shins to hurt.
The main strength of your walk comes from pushing with the back leg and foot. Hence, you should focus on taking on shorter, quicker steps if you have to walk fast. This will ensure that your spine is straight and in proper alignment and won’t cause extra stress on your back or hips.
3. Walking despite an injury
It’s not a wise idea to keep walking if you have some form of injury or pain on either of your feet. Even if the pain is mild or something you feel can be ignored, what we don’t realize is that we are vulnerable to stress fractures or other injuries with walking. For instance, you might have some soreness or discomfort in your calf or thighs, but you decide to muscle through it because you read that walking is beneficial for you. This would only put you at risk for a potential injury.
Fitness experts suggest that we should generally start off with an amount of walking that we can comfortably complete and only after we have become accustomed to the routine for a few weeks should we increase our distance and time. If you were primarily inactive for the past few months, then you should start slow and low to reduce the risk of any injury.
If you have some sort of pain in your feet, ankles, legs, or hips, or are experiencing any trouble while walking, consult a doctor first rather than simply pushing through the pain.
4. Picking the same route every day
Do you often find yourself getting bored while walking? Does your mind wander off and you lose focus as you are walking? Then maybe the issue is your route. Picking the same route for walking every day might make you feel bored or lead you to lose interest in the process.
When you see the same surroundings on your walking route on a regular basis, subconsciously you might feel as if you are stuck in a rut. Eventually, you might even give up the exercise. Thus, it would be good if you could change the route from time to time to keep things interesting. Moreover, it will also be beneficial for your mood and motivation. Try and keep switching between uncrowded lanes near your area or some parks with waterfronts for your walking route every once in a while to keep your interest in walking fresh.
5. Walking with a slumped stance
Many people develop a hunched posture from sitting at a desk or in front of a computer all day long. That posture might be brought over to your walking as well. A good posture for walking allows you to breathe well and also helps you walk faster and longer.
The right walking posture is to keep your chin up when walking and make sure that it is parallel to the ground. Your eyes should be forward and focus on the street. Meanwhile, your shoulders should be down and relaxed. As you walk, step your feet lightly from heel to toe and swing your arms naturally and freely.
6. Making it all about your lower body
Walking shouldn’t just be all about your lower body. Yes, your feet, ankles, and legs push you forward but your upper body, especially the core, is equally important. Strong and activated core muscles while walking will take some pressure off of your feet and toes. This will also minimize the risk of overuse injuries which impacts muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons.
While walking, tilt your torso slightly forward to keep your core muscles busy. You should also pull your belly button in toward your spine but make sure you don’t grip the muscles. Think of it like you're doing a small crunch but while walking.
7. Swinging your arms too much
While it’s important to use your arms while walking, it’s equally vital not to swing them too much or too wildly. Many feel that the wild arm motion will give the body the extra push while walking. That isn’t quite true. While you're walking, each arm tends to move naturally with the motion of the opposite leg.
However, the movement shouldn’t be so exaggerated that your trunk is moving back and forth erratically and is unsteady. Relax your arms and let them move naturally instead of forcibly while keeping your elbows close to your body. Not only will this motion look less silly, but it will also let you focus on strength from your rear leg without wasting motion in front of your body.
8. Walking without much intensity
Walking doesn’t need to be an intense workout session. However, if you intend to walk with the intention of losing weight or to boost your cardio, then it cannot be too low-intensity. To maximize the health benefits of your walk, a moderate-intensity walking routine would be appropriate for most age groups.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the range for moderate-intensity activity is 2.5 to 4 miles per hour (mph). However, you should choose your pace depending on your fitness levels. Generally, 100 steps per minute for adults under age 60 (about 3 mph) should be good enough.
9. Not drinking enough water
It is essential to stay hydrated while walking. Hence, you shouldn’t make the mistake of not drinking enough water before, during, and after the activity. Firstly, make sure to have a glass of water every hour throughout the day. This will ensure that you are hydrated when you are starting out.
Then, drink a glass of water 10 minutes before your walk. During your walk, you should drink a cup of water every 20 minutes or when you feel thirsty. Once you finish your walking routine, drink a glass of water as well. The key is to balance proper hydration with over-hydration.
Bear in mind, though, to avoid drinking any caffeinated beverages before your walk. They will make you lose fluids and make you feel thirstier. If you walk for two hours or more, carry an electrolyte-replacement sports drink with you.
10. Not stretching later
New walkers generally tend to avoid any stretching exercises after finishing their main routine. That, however, is a mistake. Your muscles and tendons need to ease out when the walking routine is done, or else they might get tight. The older you get, the more important it is to stretch after every exercise routine.
A gentle stretch when you're done with your walk should be good enough. Give your legs, particularly your calves, a decent workout. Don’t overdo it, though. Stretches shouldn’t hurt or cause discomfort.
Do slow standing lunges for about 2-3 minutes. Slowly bend at the waist with slightly flexed knees and bend forward. Hold each stretch for 10-20 seconds. For help with your balance, use a chair or a wall.
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