Fitness Articles

How to Walk with Proper Form and Technique

The Art and Science of Fitness Walking

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Take to the Hills
There’s a natural tendency to lean forward when walking uphill and lean backward when walking downhill. However, leaning can put a lot of strain on your back, and should be avoided when possible. So what's a walker to do? Remember your cues for posture and form. Maintain your posture as upright as possible, especially on mild and moderate hills. Steep declines may require slight leaning, but be careful not to put too much weight in your heels, which can cause your feet to slip out from under you on loose terrain. When walking up an incline, push upward and forward with your toes, pumping your arms to help you. When walking downhill, relax your knees a little bit to absorb some of the extra impact.

The 8 Keys to Proper Fitness Walking
And you thought walking was simple! There are a lot of things to keep in mind. This quick list summarizes the info above so you can get out there and put one foot in front of the other!
  1. Stand tall, with your shoulders back, head and neck aligned with your spine, and abs pulled in.
  2. Push off with the toes of your rear foot, and land squarely on the heel of your lead foot.
  3. Roll through the entire foot, from heel strike to the ball of your foot to the final push off with your toes, allowing your ankle to more through its full range of motion.
  4. Avoid over-striding. Increase the number of steps per minute to increase speed.
  5. Bend elbows at a right angle, and swing your arms from the shoulder, keeping elbows close to your sides.
  6. Avoid clenching hands or over-swinging your arms.
  7. Minimize leaning on hills.
  8. Don’t neglect stretching and strength training, especially if you experience burning or tightness in shins or calve muscles.
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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

  • Reading thru some of the comments, I can agree with the others. The speed rate is not the same for everyone. I am 5ft 3, and I normally, according to my app, walk at a rate of 2.4, which is the average for me. I have pushed it to 3. But I just feel that everyone is different and shouldnt be expected to walk the same. Longer strides, shorter strides. I have foot issues and sometimes i have to really slow my pace to avoid pain. But the biggest issue I have is learning how to walk heel to toe. I have tried this and cannot be sure I am walking as instructed. I find myself paying too much attention to what my feet are doing and not enjoying my walk. So, my advice to everyone, walk the way that suits you, find the stride you are comfortable with and push just a little beyond that, but not to the point of exhausting yourself too soon, or injuring yourself. I have been an avid walker for 3 years now, and I love to walk. It is my hour to myself, my thinking time, my sorting things out in my head time, my finding time to speak to a higher power time. But most importantly, it is my chosen form of exercise and I have to focus on getting heatlhy and staying injury free. So everyone do what is best for your body. - 7/21/2015 9:25:53 AM
  • I never could walk very fast but now I've learned to take shorter, quicker steps it is much easier. Walking is a challenge for me because of degenerative joint disease and old injuries but I am walking much more now. The more weight that comes off the easier and farther I can walk. Some days I still can't stay on my feet long but the days I can I really push it to the max.
    - 3/8/2015 8:49:05 PM
  • LEEGYRL
    For a website that's supposed to motivate, today's article failed miserably. I'm 25 pounds into my 75 pound weight loss goal. I've been so proud of myself for reaching a 25 minute mile, during which I am in the medium to high portion of my heart rate range. Learning that this pace doesn't even fit into the "slow to moderate" category is quite disheartening. - 2/13/2015 9:18:35 AM
  • Good information. I am 5' tall with short legs (I hate that part), so the speed listed isn't accurate for me. I am walking very fast at 3 mph and need to break into a jog at 3.5. Still, the reminders about posture are good as I am working to improve mine overall. - 2/11/2015 9:38:36 AM
  • 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

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