Walking comes naturally to all able-bodied people, but we hardly pay attention to how our feet land when they hit the ground.
Normally, the heel strikes the ground at the beginning of each step.
Some people tend to glide or drag their feet, walk on the balls of their feet, flop their whole foot on the ground or stomp them.
Some of us may walk funny due to deformities or conditions that cause our bodies to compensate in a certain way, e.g. those with flat feet, knock knees, scoliosis or arthritis.
Others may develop issues because of the way they walk.
This includes walking with their ankles over-pronated (flattened arches) or supinated (weight distributed more on the outer edges of the feet).
When there is discomfort, the brain automatically restrategises our walking pattern, e.g. by putting less pressure on the painful foot or alternating the foot’s position while walking to limit discomfort.
If you have walked improperly for years, the effects will eventually catch up and manifest as heel, ankle, knee, hip or back pain.
Each one of us is structured differently and there is no one proper walking gait that suits everyone; however, here are some general tips to help you walk better to minimise joint strain.
Before you start, lift your shoulders up to your ears and let them fall back down to relax.
Do this a few times as it will help relieve the tension and lighten the burden that so many people carry on their shoulders.
Stand tall without leaning forward or backward, press your shoulders down and avoid bunching your upper back.
Keep a long neck (as if someone is pulling your head upwards) and tuck your chin to keep it parallel to the floor.
Keep the chest lifted, but don’t stick it out.
Don’t look down as that might strain the back of your neck.
Focus your eyes 3-6m ahead of you – your head will follow where your eyes are looking.
Tighten your abdominal muscles, which will take the pressure off your lower back.
Your toes should be pointed forward, but depending on your anatomical structure, a slight angle outwards or inwards is acceptable.
Strike the ground gently with your heel (don’t dig it in).
Then roll through the step from the heel to the balls of your foot to your toes.
Once your front foot is flat on the ground, push off with the toes of your back foot and bring that leg forward.
To gain speed, the key is to keep the rear foot on the ground longer, then push off with more power, instead of taking bigger strides with the front leg (overstriding), which a lot of people do.
This puts more stress on your lower leg joints and it doesn’t give your stride power.
If you observe fast walkers, they all take small steps and shorter front strides.
Speedy walking has nothing to do with how long your legs are, but is an art that needs practice.
When you walk without shoes, you can feel how your feet hit the ground and adjust accordingly, so it’s best to retrain your walk by going barefoot first.
With shoes, you can’t see what the feet are doing inside.
Record your walk while barefooted, and if there is a problem, fix it.
If you’re going for a long walk, be sure to wear shoes that fit well with room to wriggle the toes, have a good arch/heel support and are well-cushioned to absorb the shock when your feet hits the ground.
Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nourish her soul. For more information, email email@example.com. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
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