How to Improve Your Walking Posture

Two athletic people walking outside together on a trail

Erik Isakson / Getty Images

How you hold your body is an important factor in being able to walk comfortably and easily. Proper walking posture will make it easier to breathe easier and walk faster and farther. If you've had problems enjoying walking because you feel aches and pains afterward, the first thing to check is your posture and how you carry your head and shoulders.

As a bonus, improving your walking posture will make you look longer, confident, and more fit. It's an instant upgrade for zero cost—just a little practice and mindfulness. Improving and maintaining good posture will come in handy whether you're walking outside or on a treadmill at the gym.

7 Steps to Proper Walking Posture

Set yourself up for the right posture before you begin walking. Spending the first 15 seconds of your walking session focusing on good posture will give you a much better workout. But it doesn't end there. Periodically check in with yourself and make sure you're implementing the necessary steps to achieve proper posture until it becomes a habit.

  1. Stand up straight. Visualize being tall and straight, like a tree. Don't slouch or arch your back.
  2. Don't lean forward or back. Leaning puts a strain on the back muscles as you walk, and you should avoid leaning except when on a hill. When walking uphill, it's alright to lean slightly forward (never backward) from the ankles. Walking downhill, you can also lean slightly forward or maintain a straight back. In both situations, you want to avoid leaning back or too far forward so that you don't fall off balance.
  3. Keep your eyes forward. Avoid looking down. Your focus should be about 20 feet ahead of you. This way, you will see your path and anything coming at you from the side.
  4. Keep your chin up (parallel to the ground). This reduces strain on your neck and back. A proper chin position will also allow you to look ahead rather than down at your feet.
  5. Let your shoulders be back and relaxed. Shrug once and allow your shoulders to fall and relax, slightly back. Loosening up the shoulders will help relieve tension and put them into a position to use good arm motion while walking. You can also do this at intervals during your walk to ensure you are keeping your shoulders relaxed.
  6. Tighten your core. Your core muscles can help you maintain good posture and resist slouching and leaning. Keeping your stomach pulled in slightly (while still taking deep, full breaths) can help you maintain a good walking posture.
  7. Keep your pelvis neutral. You want to make sure your hips are not tilting forward or back while you're walking. Practice sticking your butt out, tucking it in, and then finding a natural middle. The middle is where you want to be. This will keep you from arching your back.

Walking Posture on a Treadmill

Treadmill walking posture is not too different from your outdoor technique. Obviously, you won't be looking 20 feet ahead of you while on a treadmill, but you still want to look ahead rather than down. All of the other principles of good walking posture still apply.

A common mistake when walking on treadmills is the tendency to hold onto the handrails. Gripping handrails can misalign your posture and prevent you from building good balance. If you feel the need to grab the rails, you may need to lower your speed or incline until you can handle walking without the extra support.

How Devices Cause Walking Posture Problems

Resist the urge to engage with your smartphone or activity monitor while walking, or you will end up looking down and losing good posture. Each time you look down at your phone or activity monitor, mindfully regain good walking posture. Otherwise, you may fall back into poor posture without realizing it. Some activity monitors have vibration alerts, reducing the need to look down at them.

Avoid manipulating or looking at your phone by getting Bluetooth earbuds or headphones for making and taking calls and other phone tasks. Using earbuds or headphones may also allow for voice commands, so you don't have to look at your phone.

Check Your Walking Posture

Having set a good posture alignment before you start your walk, you are ready to enjoy a walk but maintaining proper posture is rarely a one-and-done process. Each time you come to a halt during your walk, such as when waiting to cross a street, do a posture check before you start again. On the treadmill, check your posture each time you take a drink of water or at another regular interval.

If you discover the same posture problem recurs regularly as you walk, focus on it specifically. You might have to be mindful about maintaining relaxed shoulders, for example. Or, you might find yourself with your chin down often. With attention, you can break yourself of these poor posture habits.

Regular posture checks, whether you are just walking around while doing errands or walking for exercise, can help you learn better posture over time. Soon it will become a good walking habit.

While it is important to check your posture regularly, try not to be so focused on your form that it affects your gait or makes your motions stiff and awkward. If you feel like you are working too hard on posture, relax. Just keep checking in periodically, and eventually, good posture should become second nature.

Benefits of Good Walking Posture

The right posture makes you look and feel longer and more confident, but the benefits don't end there. Maintaining proper walking posture can help:

  • Improve walking speed, distance, and stride
  • Increase energy levels
  • Make breathing easier
  • Prevent back and hip pain
  • Promote better balance and stability
  • Reduce the risk of injury and falling
  • Strengthen core, leg, and butt muscles

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I improve my walking posture?

Stand up straight, minimize leaning forward or backward, keep your chin parallel to the ground and eyes forward, relax your shoulders, and engage your core. Check in with your posture before and during your walks until good posture becomes a habit.

Should I use a bent forward walking posture when walking up hills?

You can bend slightly forward when walking up hills, but don't bend or lean too far forward. Bend from the ankles rather than from the waist to avoid lower back pain.

How does sitting affect walking posture?

Sitting for extended periods of time weakens neck and back muscles and reduces spine mobility, making it more difficult to maintain good walking posture.

4 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.
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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.