Fitness Articles

How to Walk with Proper Form and Technique

The Art and Science of Fitness Walking

1.6KSHARES
Walking comes naturally to humans. It’s one of the earliest skills we develop, long before we learn how to talk (or invent excuses to avoid walking). And given good, basic health, it’s something you can do throughout your life without worry about overdoing it. Prior to the last century, walking was the primary mode of day-to-day transportation for most people, and often involved much more time and distance than most of us spend at it today.

So if you’re wondering whether walking is challenging enough to keep you fit, don’t. Fitness walking (as opposed to leisurely walking to do everyday tasks) can build endurance, strengthen your bones, improve your health profile and help you manage your weight. And many people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off over time have made fitness walking the foundation of their fitness routines. But like anything else, the more walking you want do, the more important it becomes to do it right. By the time many of us get to adulthood, especially if via the sedentary route, we may have developed some postural quirks and bad habits that can make even simple walking a source of aches and pains.

So, here are some walking basics that will help keep your walking workouts safe and effective by building your walking technique from the ground up.

Think "Heel to Toe"
Comfortable and efficient walking begins with a good foot strike, which allows your ankle to move through its complete range of motion. Here's how to do it properly.
  1. Step forward landing squarely on the heel of your foot.
  2. Roll forward onto the ball of the foot.
  3. Raise the heel and push off with your big toe.
As the heel of your front foot is striking, you are being propelled forward by your back foot, pushing off the ground. Unlike a running stride, your feet should never lift off the ground completely when walking.

To get an idea of how this heel-to-toe motion should feel, try sitting on a chair with your legs extended straight out in front of you, toes pointing straight up to the ceiling. With your left foot, bring your toes back toward you so your heel is extended and your foot is flexed; with your right foot, push your toes forward as if pushing on the air with the ball of your foot and big toe. Then slowly reverse the positions of your feet, moving back and forth several times for one minute. This is the ideal motion for walking. But because most of us don't walk perfectly, you may feel some burning or tension in your shins or calves. This means that those muscles (where you feel the soreness) are underused, and you may need to do some strengthening and stretching exercises so that walk as close to perfect heel-to-toe form as possible.
Continued ›
Page 1 of 3   Next Page ›
1.6KSHARES

Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

More Great Features

Connect With SparkPeople

Subscribe to our Newsletters

About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • I am a long time walker. I still learned things from the article I did not previously know and was refreshed on others. Good article. - 12/27/2013 1:05:16 PM
  • YEs the water walking can be great a adds resistance. As weather is in 90s here in usually cool Maine. My walking will probably be in the water this weekend - 7/6/2013 5:13:49 AM
  • Dr. Sholls has an insole for heel pain relief made for people with plantar fasciitis--it looks like 3/4 of an insole giving both heel padding and arch support, available in Walmart for $11.00. Worked wonders for me, but it took awhile for the condition to heal totally. In the meantime they gave enough symptom relief so that I could walk. Doing heel stretches on a book or stair step after my calf raises, plus losing weight were also of much benefit, but I needed the insole to be able to walk far enough to lose the weight--there's good info on plantar fascitis in the SP Health A-Z section. I still use the insoles as a preventive measure, even though the pain is gone. - 6/26/2013 7:34:51 AM
  • LETICIA75
    I have plantar facitis in my left foot...i was wondering if anyone knew of or could recommend a good walking shoe?? thanks - 6/19/2013 1:31:24 PM
  • I agree water aerobics is really great for walking without stressing my neck and spine.
    But when I walk in the mall I walk normally. But I can do 3 to 4 miles in an hour depending o n the person with whom I am walking... On a treadmill I try to do the motion you suggest. - 5/8/2013 5:53:04 PM
  • I've taken Chi-Walking and Chi-Running classes. In Chi, they teach to land full-foot, that landing heel and pushing with toe is a major cause of injury. With Chi, I can walk and walk and walk for mile and have no pain. without using Chi, I walk max 1-2 miles and hurt. - 5/7/2013 1:55:58 PM
  • I do a lot of walking and have done a lot most of my life. It looks like I've been naturally doing what is recommended in this article, except for bending my arms at 90 degrees, which I'm not going to do no matter how important it might be; I'm sorry, but I'm just not going to make myself look that silly. If I was going to do that I might as well also be wearing a clown suit.

    I like to mix a little fast running in with long walks, usually toward the beginning. And I like to walk over various terrains. I've also found that it works better to do walking one day, maybe bike riding the next, karate the next, and so on, with a lot of gardening mixed in this time of year, instead of doing the same thing every day. Plus weights 3 days a week. Variety improves exercise for a number of reasons.

    I'm curious about how carrying extra weight, like if you walk to the grocery store or library and carry a backpack to bring the things you get home. These days I'm carrying about 30 pounds of extra weight in fat, due to poor diet discipline (which I need to work on). Presumably that increases the amount of work my muscles do. - 5/7/2013 10:26:04 AM
  • I walk a lot but not particularly mindfully. going to think about it next time I'm out and about. I've never heard of chi walking but I'm going to find out more. thanks all! - 5/7/2013 6:30:20 AM
  • JGMARIE80
    Very good information. I've been walking a lot and it' s good to know that I'm doing some of it right. I do have to correct some mistakes that I made . Thanks. - 4/30/2013 3:48:56 AM
  • JWAITE3
    I try to walk a hour a day with some jogging how long does it take to lose any weight I am trying to lose 10 to 15 pounds any advise help I am trying - 11/12/2012 12:41:27 AM
  • This is great! I'm doing more walking out necessity at the moment (injured foot in the healing process) so until I can run again this article has provided some very useful tips.
    Thanks! - 11/10/2012 3:06:11 PM
  • I'm sorry, but if I have to think about all those things to walk, I'm just not going to do it. Just took all the fun out of it! - 11/10/2012 10:38:15 AM
  • Thanks for sharing. Very informative. Wasn't wlaking properly. - 11/10/2012 9:12:50 AM
  • LILYGREEN3
    How fantastic to see someone exercising who looks over 50! This women looks in great health and is a motivator for me. It really helps to see diversity in age, gender and ethniticity. - 11/10/2012 5:42:11 AM
  • Great article. When you walk as a form of exercise you need to be more aware of form. I learned this after some incorrect walking that has landed me in physical therapy. I am now restarting my walking as a from of exercise again, slower for now but I hope to increase my speed eventually. At 60 years old with plenty of arthritis in my spine, I may never jog but i can still lose weight thru walking. Treking poles are a help too. - 7/22/2012 11:12:07 AM
Popular Calories Burned Searches: Treadmill: 20 km/h (3 minutes per km)  |  Treadmill: 15 km/h (4 minutes per km)  |  Treadmill: 12 km/h (5 minutes per km)

x Lose 10 Pounds by October 9! Get a FREE Personalized Plan