What You Should Know About Speed Walking

Fast Walking Styles From Racewalking to Powerwalking

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Speed walking is a general term for fast walking, but that can encompass a variety of fast walking styles and techniques. You may get called a speedwalker or powerwalker anytime you are out for a walking workout and walking briskly with determination. Those aren't insults for a fitness walker. But if you are using Olympic-style racewalking technique, which is governed by specific rules, you may prefer to be called a racewalker.

Fast Walking

Walkers can build speed without formal racewalking technique by using some simple points of good walking mechanics and technique. Many people speed up significantly with just a couple of pointers about good walking posture and appropriate arm motion. You can learn how to walk faster with simple speed walking tips.

The other elements that lead to a more fluid walking style, power and speed are knowing how to roll through each step from heel to toe and how to get a good push-off from the trailing foot. This requires that you eliminate overstriding, which is a common walking mistake for people who are trying to walk faster.

Wearing the right shoes is another essential part of speedwalking. They have to be flat, flexible and lightweight in order to build speed and use the proper foot motion. It also helps to wear comfortable athletic apparel for ease of movement rather than denim jeans or restrictive clothing.

Olympic-Style Racewalking

Racewalking is a specific technique where the knee is straight and unbent from the time the forward foot hits the ground until it passes underneath the body. One foot is in contact with the ground at all times. Racewalking technique results in a distinctive rolling hip action. Racewalkers also use arm motion to enhance their speed. It is best to learn how to racewalk in person from a coach as it is not a natural motion and you will need feedback as you are learning it.

This technique is subject to rules and judging at racewalking competitions. It is a track and field sport and has been part of the Olympic Games since 1906. Racewalking is a serious distance sport with 20-kilometer courses for men and women and 50-kilometer courses for men. This doesn't give them any respect from television commentators during the Olympic Games, however. Racewalking is a unique style of walking that draws comments and even jeers. It takes a tough skin to racewalk in public. You may want to arm yourself with racewalking slogans and comeback lines.


Power walking is a general technique of walking without the formal racewalking style, but using arm motion for speed. You may be referred to as a powerwalker whenever you are walking fast on a walking workout. Sloppy examples of the powerwalking technique are seen with exaggerated arm motion that does not actually promote speed walking. If you learn proper fast walking arm motion, you can definitely speed up and improve your workout.

Some forms of power walking use hand weights in an attempt to burn more calories or build upper body strength. You'll often see photos labeled as powerwalking with the walker holding hand weights. This is frowned upon by physical therapists as it is a risk factor for strain on the neck, shoulder, elbow, and wrist. It's best to just spend a few minutes after your walk doing a dedicated upper body workout with weights. It's even worse to use ankle weights or specially designed weighted shoes. Those also increase your risk of strain and injury. If your goal is to burn more calories, it's better to just walk a couple extra minutes and save the weights for strength workouts.

How Fast Is Speedwalking?

A general rule of thumb for a fast walking pace starts at 15 minutes per mile, or 4 miles per hour. That's an objectively faster pace. Walkers who aren't racewalkers can walk as fast as 11 minutes per mile or 5.5 miles per hour. With training, 10 minutes per mile (6 miles per hour) is achievable. At that speed, walkers are passing many slower runners.

Olympic racewalkers can walk as fast as 6 minutes per mile (10 miles per hour) over a course of 12.4 miles. They will easily beat many recreational runners in a competition. Now, that's speed walking.

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