How to Walk Faster: Form, Stride, and Building Speed

Brisk walking woman with good walking form
What do you need to know to boost your walking speed?. Sri Maiava Rusden/Taxi/Getty Images

Do you want to speed up your walking pace? Why might it pay to boost your speed? Using these tips will help you walk faster and more efficiently, turning more of your exertion into speed. Good technique can make it feel easier and more fluid to walk, even though you are going faster.

The following techniques borrow good posture, proper stride, powerful arm movement, foot motion, and other elements from racewalking, but without the hip motion.

Benefits of Walking Faster

Before talking about the techniques for walking faster, it's good to mention why you may wish to do so! A few great reasons to speed up your pace include:

Shorter Workouts

Finish your walking workout faster at a set distance. If you walk the same route every time, you will be done sooner. If you walk for a set period of time, you'll be going farther and therefore burning more calories.

Increased Intensity

Get your heart rate up to the level of moderate-intensity or even vigorous-intensity exercise. This will bring you a better fitness boost from your walking workout and improve your cardiovascular health.

Burn More Calories

Increase the calories you burn during your walk by being able to walk a longer distance in the same time or by increasing speed which engages more muscles.

Improve Pace

Finish walking races and charity walks in a better time and may be able to outpace your walking friends and loved ones.

How to Walk Faster

Begin increasing the pace of your workout gradually over time and by taking the proper steps to ensure you're doing so safely and injury-free. To help you walk faster, start by upgrading your shoes, addressing your form, and fixing your stride. You also should measure your baseline so you know where you are starting and build speed into your workouts. Here is how to address each of those things.

Measure Your Baseline

Take some baseline measurements to see how fast you are now and to see what your heart rate is when you are walking at top speed. To measure your baseline mile time, can use a cell phone app, smartwatch, or fitness tracker. Many smartwatches are able to calculate mile time and heart rate simultaneously.

As an alternative, you can time yourself over a measured mile.  You can use a local track, or you can measure out a mile or kilometer to walk using tools such as a bike odometer, car odometer, or GPS. Warm-up with a walk of five to 10 minutes so you are ready to walk at your top speed. Time yourself two or three times over this mile to get a good average. Take your pulse to see what your heart rate is at the end of a mile.

According to the CDC, a moderate-intensity walking pace is usually considered 3.0 miles per hour or 20 minutes per mile to 4.3 miles per hour or 15 minutes per mile. Faster walking speeds would be considered vigorous intensity.

Upgrade Your Shoes

Your shoes might be slowing you down. You need to make sure you have the right shoes to walk faster. These need to be flexible and lightweight. The amount of cushioning you need will depend on the distance you will be walking (more cushioning for longer walks). To be sure you have the best ones, you should learn how to select the right shoes for faster walking.

How to Address Your Form

Ensure proper form and positioning by following a few key best practices.

Arm Motion

Using your arms more can boost your walking speed. However, some arm movements can slow you down.

Proper Arm Movement

  • As your arm comes forward, don't raise it up past the level of your breastbone.
  • As your arm comes forward, keep it moving straight forward rather than crossing your body. It is like extending for a handshake. You might also think of a choo-choo train motion back and forth. Swinging your arms across your body is wasted energy and can slow you down.
  • Bend your elbows at 90 degrees.
  • For the backward arm motion, exaggerate it slightly so as your arm goes back your hand comes to your hip like you're reaching towards your back pocket.
  • Don't over exaggerate the backward motion of your arm to the point of leaning.
  • Keep your elbows close to your body as they swing forward and back. Don't let they wing out to the sides.
  • Relax your hands. Then close them into a partially closed curl, not clenched tightly. It is best not to carry anything in your hands.
  • Your arms will work opposite of your legs. Your right arm is back when your right foot is forward. Relax and let your arms assume this natural motion at first.

Head and Torso Position

How you hold your body is very important to walking comfortably and easily. With good posture, you will be able to breathe easier and you will avoid back pain.

Proper Head & Torso Position

  • Do not lean back or sit back on your hips.
  • Don't lean forward (this was recommended by some coaches but most walkers end up leaning too far forward).
  • Keep your eyes forward, looking 20 feet ahead.
  • Keep your chin up and parallel to the ground.
  • Shrug once and let your shoulders fall and relax, with your shoulders slightly back.
  • Keep your abdominal muscles engaged and firm.
  • Stand up straight.
  • Think of being tall. Do not arch your back, but allow the natural curves in your spine.
  • Your head should remain level as you walk.
  • Your hips will rotate front to back as you walk. Avoid side-to-side swaying which is wasted motion.

Foot Motion

Your feet will take an active role, using your heel and ankle to roll through the step and push off powerfully at the end of your stride.

Proper Foot Movement

  • Your heel should hit the ground first, before the rest of your foot.
  • Keep your ankle flexed as your foot comes forward and land on your heel.
  • As your foot rolls through from heel to toe, it passes underneath your body.
  • Once your heel lands, your foot rolls through the step from heel to toe.
  • The power portion of your step is the push off in back when your foot is behind your body. As you push off with the back foot, your opposite leg is forward with your heel striking the ground.
  • The power and speed in your step will come from getting a good push off with your rear leg.

Why Your Stride Is Important

To walk faster, you will be taking more steps in a shorter amount of time rather than taking unnaturally long steps. Many people make the error of over-striding when trying to walk faster. Instead, you will keep your natural stride length but learn to use it powerfully.

  • After pushing off, your rear foot passes under the body and your knee flexes, driving the leg forward but not up. Then, your ankle flexes and your knee straightens so your heel is ready to contact the ground on your forward stride. You might imagine you are showing the sole of your shoe.
  • Fast walkers take more, smaller steps rather than longer steps.
  • Your heel should strike the ground close to the front of your body. At the same time, your rear leg is rolling through the step and preparing for a powerful push-off with the toe.
  • Try to keep your rear foot on the ground longer to give a full push-off with your toes.
  • Your hips should naturally rotate with each stride front to back, not side-to-side. As your right leg comes forward your right hip will follow, and then your left hip will follow your left leg. It's subtle. Don't try to add more hip movement.
  • You want your stride to be longer behind your body, with your toe pushing off. It should be shorter in front of your body, with the forward foot landing closer to your body rather than over-striding.

How to Build Speed

Put your fast walking technique to work during your walking workouts. Build your time incrementally as you get used to a new way of using your body posture, arms, feet, and legs. A good starting point would be to practice the technique for 10 minutes at a time after warming up.

You can lengthen this time after a few days if you don't have any new aches or pains. Shin pain is common when you change your walking technique, so take it easy at first.

Once you have built your fast walking time to 20 to 30 minutes and you are used to the new technique, you can begin to use it with speed workouts. One workout to include is the economy workout.

Economy Workout for Speed

  1. Warm up for 10 minutes at an easy pace.
  2. Walk as fast as you can for 30 seconds or 200 meters (two city blocks in most cities).
  3. After 30 seconds, drop down to an easy pace for 2 minutes.
  4. Repeat the 30 seconds speed/2 minutes rest 8 to 12 times.
  5. Cool down with a 10-minute easy pace walk.

In addition, you will want a variety of workouts to develop your aerobic capacity and endurance workouts so you can maintain a higher walking pace for a longer time. And remember that easier and rest days in between are important to prevent injury and burnout. Three speed workouts a week is a good goal. Don't do more than four.

A Word From Verywell

There are a number of reasons why boosting your walking speed can be good for your health, but before putting on your shoes, make sure they are the right kind, and figure out your baseline walking speed. Taking time to review your posture, your arm motion, and what you are doing with your feet is a good investment of time before you begin our speed-building walking workouts.

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Slaght J, Sénéchal M, Hrubeniuk TJ, Mayo A, Bouchard DR. Walking cadence to exercise at moderate intensity for adults: a systematic review. Journal of Sports Medicine. 2017;2017. doi:10.1155/2017/4641203

  2. American Heart Association. Your health: how to measure your pulse.

  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  4. American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. Walking and your feet.

  5. Harvard Medical School. Perfecting your walking technique.

  6. Peacock L, Hewitt A, Rowe DA, Sutherland R. Stride rate and walking intensity in healthy older adults. J Aging Phys Act. 2014;22(2):276-283. doi:10.1123/japa.2012-0333

  7. US National Library of Medicine. Shin splints - self-care.

Additional Reading

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.