The Best Technique for a Powerful Walking Stride

10 tips to prevent overstriding

Best walking stride technique

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Walking is one of the best things we can do for heart health, but like any exercise, it's important to maintain good form. Overstriding while walking happens when we take longer steps in our gait in an attempt to increase our walking speed without running.

However, overstriding is an ineffective walking technique to increase speed, as it has the potential to lead to injury in the long term.

In fact, a 2014 study observed soldiers as they marched in cadence, and found that those who were shorter in height experienced more stress on their lower leg joints when they were forced to overstride in order to match the step rhythm of the group.

How to Stride the Right Way

The secret to a great walking stride is to use your natural stride length and to walk faster by taking quicker steps instead of longer ones. An overstriding walker tends to lead with their front foot too far in front of their body in an attempt to walk faster.

As a rule of thumb, instead of reaching with your front leg to cover more ground, simply aim for your foot to hit the ground closer to your body.

Fast walkers train themselves to increase the number of steps they take per second by maximizing the power of the back part of the stride. With each step, focus on pushing off your back foot and utilize the power of the muscles in your back leg.

When you push off your back foot, the muscles of your back leg are working to propel you forward. To get the most power out of the push, keep your back foot on the ground just long enough to allow for a rolling heel-to-toe stepping motion.

A powerful stride using the rear foot to propel you forward can also help you maintain an ideal walking posture. Be sure to practice proper walking arm motion, as well.

Overstriding vs. Correct Walking Stride

Amickman and Kzenon / Depositphotos

How to Practice a Powerful Stride

Practice makes permanent, especially when it comes to adapting a walking stride with good form. Just remember to stride naturally and build momentum slowly. In time, you'll retrain your muscles to stop overstriding.

When you're first starting out with this walking technique, you may need some visual assistance to determine whether or not you are overstriding. Even if you are on a treadmill with a mirror, it can be hard to see what you're doing while you're doing it, especially in a safe manner.

As an alternative, set up your smartphone or web camera to record yourself from the side while you're on the treadmill, or while you're walking on the sidewalk outside your apartment or home. Or, you might have a friend or workout buddy watch and observe you and take notes.

You've probably seen fast walkers use a side-to-side hip motion, but that comes naturally with a proper walking stride technique. There's no need to overemphasize this hip motion. Instead, allow your hips to move and rotate normally as you relearn how to stride the right way while walking.

The Takeaway

While this walking technique may feel somewhat strange at first, as you get into a rhythm you'll start to notice the power you get from the back foot. Practicing shorter strides and pushing off the back foot will help you walk faster and will eventually become second nature.

10 Tips to Prevent Overstriding

Learning to undo the habit of overstriding while walking takes time and practice. Here's a breakdown of the tips to help guide you along the way.

  1. Keep your natural stride length, but learn to use it powerfully.
  2. Visualize your stride being longer behind your body to prevent you from overstriding with your front leg.
  3. Keep your back foot on the ground a little longer so you can roll through the step and push off with the toes.
  4. Power your back leg by focusing on the full roll through the back foot before you push off.
  5. As you're stepping forward with your front leg, make sure the knee is driving forward but not up.
  6. Flex the ankle to land the heel to the ground close to the front of your body.
  7. As the heel strikes the ground, the foot rolls through the step and prepares to push off again.
  8. If you find that your feet are slapping the ground in front of you, it's possible that your shoes are too stiff and need to be broken in, or you may need to work on strengthening your shins. Not to worry—the shins will build strength with practice. But, you may want to look into getting a pair of flexible walking shoes.
  9. Your hips, meanwhile, should rotate with each stride front to back, not side-to-side. Avoid overemphasizing the hip motion at first—it will come naturally as you develop your walking stride.
  10. To increase speed, take smaller, more frequent steps rather than fewer, longer steps. Increasing your number of steps per second will, of course, lead to a lot more steps per day to help you reach your walking and fitness goals.

A Word From Verywell

Talking about walking technique can make something we do every day without thinking seem complicated. With just a little practice, though, the correct form will eventually become second nature. Whether you're out on your daily fitness walk or you're tackling a half marathon, walking with the right technique will help you get the most out of your workouts and prevent injuries to help you go the distance.

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  1. Murtagh EM, Murphy MH, Boone-Heinonen J. Walking: the first steps in cardiovascular disease preventionCurr Opin Cardiol. 2010;25(5):490-496. doi:10.1097/HCO.0b013e32833ce972

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