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Walking is mankind’s original exercise. It is easily one of the best ways to exercise. It does not require any special skill or special equipment. Additionally, it is low impact, low cost, and can be done either indoors or outdoors. In America it is estimated that this type of exercise is five times more popular than running.
This exercise is also easy on the budget. However, it is important to wear the proper shoes when you plan this exercise. Most shoe manufacturers have designed shoes to meet the demands of long distance exercise.
what to look for in a shoe
THE FIT- The first thing to look for in a walking shoe is the fit.
- I generally recommend to my patients to purchase their shoes at the end of the day when their feet are the most swollen.
- Make sure your heel rests comfortably in the shoe and does not pop out when you walk.
- Make sure the ball of your foot (the widest part of the foot) corresponds to the widest part of the shoe. Not all foot structures fit into all shoes.
- Make sure your toes do not hit the end of the shoe. This can be a particular problem if you are going to be doing a lot of down hill walking, because the constant jamming of your toes into the end of the shoes will cause problems to both yours toes and the nails.
THE WEIGHT of the shoe is also important; the lighter the better. Most shoes designed for exercise are noticeably lighter than regular laced shoes.
THE SOLE Make sure the sole or underside of the shoe is reasonably flexible but not too flexible. Both a rigid shoe and a shoe that is too flexible will cause foot and leg strain and will ultimately limit your ability to walk, especially long distance.
ORTHOTICS Since shoes are designed for the “average" foot but many people do not have average feet in spite of buying a good walking shoe, some people may have to supplement their purchase with an orthotic. An orthotic will redistribute body weight throughout the foot making walking more comfortable and therefore more enjoyable.
Additionally, an orthotic prevents the muscles of your feet and legs from over working and for that reason, your legs will not fatigue as quickly.
You can certainly try a store bought orthotic, however, if your feet continue to hurt you may have to consider a prescription orthotic. Click here for more information on orthotics.
SOCKS If you plan to walk long distance then the type of socks you wear will also be a consideration. If the socks are too tight they cause constriction and cut off the return blood flow from your feet back to your heart. If the socks are too loose they can bunch up and irritate your feet and may cause blisters.
I generally recommend cotton socks and do not recommend nylon socks as they tend to retain moisture. White socks are better. For those who have sensitive feet you may look for socks that have padded bottoms. There are also socks made with seamless ends for those who have a senstivity in their toes. Click on the picture below to take a look at great walking socks.
other walking considerations
Before you start your walk it is always a good idea to warm up beforehand. Two reasons; first to loosen up your stiff joints (yes, even walking can create injuries) and to increase the flow of blood to your muscles in order for them to be more efficient when they are called up to propel you.
Lastly, walk in a heel to toe gait at a comfortable pace. To better understand the gait cycle, click here. It is estimated that each stride of an adult places 900 lbs. per square inch of pressure on the bottom of the foot, so it is important to walk at a "good" pace.
In order to maximize your workout try to vary your terrain particularly by walking up a low incline hill instead of just walking on level terrain.
Pay attention to your posture. The American Physical Therapy Association recommends the following when walking: stand up straight and look forward, not down. Keep your head erect, your chin pulled in toward your neck, your back straight, and you stomach and buttocks tucked in. Do not lean forward except when walking uphill as leaning forward increases the risk of back strain.
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