Few activities feel as natural and stress-relieving as walking. It’s a simple activity that doesn’t require any special equipment or expertise, and it can be done almost anywhere. But for some people, walking isn’t always easy. If you struggle with walking, you may find it challenging even to take a short stroll across the room without feeling out of breath or experiencing pain in your legs.
Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to walk properly. Walking incorrectly can put stress on the knees and other parts of the body, which over time may lead to serious joint problems such as arthritis.
Thankfully, there are ways to improve your walking technique so you can enjoy this activity without worrying about your long-term health.
Walking is a form of exercise, so it’s important to think about it as such. Trying to “correct” your posture while walking won’t do much to improve your gait, but it may put unnecessary stress on your joints. It may sound counterintuitive, but try to keep your head and shoulders as upright as possible while walking. You don’t want to hunch over and put unnecessary pressure on your lower back. One way to make sure you’re walking upright is to check in with your head.
As you walk, imagine that a string is pulling your head up and back towards the ceiling. Keeping your head upright will help you keep your entire body aligned and reduce stress on your knees, ankles, and hips.
Bend your knees
If you’re walking with your knees bent, you’re less likely to come down hard on your feet with each step. This is recommended for people who have knee pain. But whatever your knee pain situation, bending your knees while walking can improve your overall gait and reduce the risk of injury.
Bending your knees also reduces the pressure on your heels and toes, which can help prevent foot pain. Bending your knees while walking is not only good for your knees but it’s also recommended for people with existing knee pain or injuries.
Keep your core engaged
If you want to walk with confidence, you need to be comfortable in your skin. To ensure your posture is as upright and confident as possible, walk with your core engaged. This means tightening your abdominal muscles and letting them do the heavy lifting instead of your back or shoulders.
Letting your core do all the work as you walk will help you maintain a strong, upright posture and reduce stress on your spine.
You can walk with a straight back and an engaged core by tightening your abdominal muscles as if you’re trying to hold in a sneeze. You should feel this action throughout your entire torso, from your upper abdomen to your lower back.
If you’re wearing high heels, walking is more challenging than if you were wearing running shoes or sneakers. Although high heels do have their place and are incredibly fashionable, they’re terrible for your posture and can cause a lot of problems for your knees, ankles and feet.
If you’re going out for a walk, it’s best to wear comfortable shoes with a low heels or opt for a pair of walking sandals. Not only will they make walking easier, but they’ll also make you look fashionable without compromising your health.
Move your feet and legs together
You might be tempted to walk with your feet wide apart, but this can put a strain on your hips and knees. Instead, try to walk with your feet and legs closer together. Doing this will help reduce stress on your joints and make walking easier. It also makes walking more efficient, so you can cover more ground in less time.
If you find yourself walking with your feet too close together, try to walk with your feet and legs a little farther apart. You want to walk with your feet and legs close enough together that you feel comfortable, but not so close that you feel restricted or struggle to walk.
Don’t drag your feet or cross them
It’s tempting to drag your feet when you’re walking, but this is harmful to your knees and joints. Crossing your legs while you walk can also put undue pressure on your joints, so it’s best to keep your feet parallel to the ground.
Keeping your feet parallel to the ground and your legs uncrossed will help you walk with proper form and reduce stress on your knees. Keeping your feet parallel to the ground, but not touching, will help you walk more efficiently and will take less effort. Keeping your feet parallel to the ground is recommended for everyone, but it’s especially important for people with knee pain.
Not Stretching Afterward
You may be tempted to skip the stretches after you finish a walk, especially if you have knee pain and are eager to get back to normal activity. But failing to stretch your muscles after walking can make knee pain worse over time. Stepping up your walking routine without stretching your muscles beforehand can lead to tightness, which can exacerbate existing knee pain. Failing to stretch after walking can also cause lower back pain.
To reduce knee pain and prevent lower back pain, make sure to incorporate some stretching into the end of your walking routine. There are a few different kinds of stretching that are recommended for walking, including side lunges and walking knee hugs.
Check-in with your body after walking
When you finish a walk, it’s important to check in with your body and see how you feel. If you have knee pain, try walking with your feet parallel to the ground. If one knee hurts more than the other, walk with your feet slightly turned out. If you have foot pain, try adjusting the stride length of your gait so that your feet land underneath your hips. If your calves or ankles hurt, slow down your walk or take shorter steps.
If your hips or back hurt, try walking with your core more engaged. If you experience pain in your hips or lower back after walking, you may need to walk at a slower pace or walk up and down hills rather than on a flat surface.
Walking is a low-impact activity that can be enjoyed by almost anyone at any fitness level. While walking can be beneficial for your health, it can also cause or exacerbate knee pain if you don’t walk in the proper form.
These common mistakes can be avoided by keeping your head and shoulders upright, bending your knees, engaging your core, keeping your feet and legs together, keeping your feet parallel to the ground, and including stretching in your post-walk routine.