How to Speed Walk

Friends power walking in park


Speed walking is much like it sounds—a fast-paced form of walking that increases your heart rate and makes for an excellent form of exercise. It is lower impact than running or jogging, making it ideal for anyone with joint issues or individuals who are newer to exercise. However, it's a fantastic way to get in activity no matter your fitness level.

Read on to learn more about the different types of speed walking and what you need to know to get started.

What Is Speedwalking?

Speed walking is sometimes used to describe fast walking or walking at a pace of 15 minutes per mile or faster. Other terms such as "brisk walking" and "power walking" are also used to describe walking quickly.

Within this category are a variety of fast-walking styles and techniques, including Olympic-style race walking, where walkers can go as fast as 6 minutes per mile.

Benefits of Speedwalking

Speed walking has many benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, a higher calorie burn, and boosted bone health.

Walking increases your heart rate, especially when done at a moderate to high-intensity level. Exercise that boosts your heart rate is excellent for warding off heart disease and other chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

Speedwalking, like any cardio exercise, burns calories, helping you with energy balance and weight loss, if that is your goal. Research shows that faster walking is associated with changed waist circumference and reduced BMI.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a dated, biased measure that doesn’t account for several factors, such as body composition, ethnicity, race, gender, and age.Despite being a flawed measure, BMI is widely used today in the medical community because it is an inexpensive and quick method for analyzing potential health status and outcomes.

How to Speed Walk

Speed walking and power walking require you to increase your pace during your walking workout. But before focusing on increasing your speed, learning about proper fast-walking mechanics is essential to avoid pain or injury.

Walkers can build speed by using good walking posture, appropriate arm motions, and making simple changes to their walk. These minor tweaks can help you quickly improve your speed by 0.5 mph to 1 mph and shave 2 to 4 minutes off your mile.

The trick is to use a good stride, where you roll through each step from heel to toe and get a good push-off from the trailing foot. This requires you to eliminate overstriding, a common mistake for people trying to walk faster.

Wearing the right shoes is another essential part of speed walking. Shoes should be flat, flexible, and lightweight to build speed and use the proper foot motion. It also helps to wear comfortable athletic apparel for ease of movement.

Types of Speed Walking

Some styles of fast walking employ specific techniques, while others are bona fide competitive sporting events.

  • Power walking uses arm motion for speed. A key element is bending the arms. It's imperative to learn the proper fast-walking arm motion to avoid using sloppy, exaggerated moves that will wear you out without shaving time off of your mile.
  • Racewalking uses a specific formal technique that is subject to rules and judging at competitions. The knee is kept straight and unbent from when the forward foot hits the ground until it passes underneath the body. One foot is in contact with the ground at all times; racewalkers also use arm motion to enhance their speed. The technique results in a distinctive rolling-hip action.
  • Olympic-style racewalking is a track-and-field sport that has been part of the Olympics since 1906. It is a serious distance sport with 20-kilometer courses for men and women and 50-kilometer courses for men. Olympic-style racewalkers can keep a mile pace in 6 minutes or under.

The technique used in competitive racewalking is not a natural motion and many people find it is best to learn from an in-person coach who can provide guidance and feedback.

Safety While Speedwalking

To avoid injuries and improve your workouts, always start with a 5-minute warm-up at a leisurely pace, then do some gentle stretches before starting the fast portion of your walk. It would be best if you also stretched out after your workout to avoid excessive soreness and injuries.

When you first add speed-walking techniques to your routine, slowly work your way into it by alternating between a few minutes of fast walking and a few minutes of a gentler walking style. Gradually increase speed-walking intervals to build stamina and prevent injuries, such as muscle soreness or shin-splint pain.

Safeguard Against Shin Pain

Almost every walker experiences shin pain in the front of the lower leg, when they start to pick up the pace. Many people refer to it as shin splints, but in most cases, it's not. Shin splints are a painful inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue believed to be caused by repetitive stress and overuse. It's most commonly associated with high-impact activities such as running.

The shin pain most walkers get is due to muscle fatigue. The faster you walk the harder your shin muscles are working to keep the toes up when you land and then to gently lower them to the ground. The pain or burning sensation usually eases when you slow down or stop and goes away over time as those muscles become conditioned.

Along with slowing down and gradually building speed, stretching your calves and pointing and flexing your feet can also help. If pain persists, consult your healthcare provider.

Be Cautious With Wearable Weights

Some power walkers use hand weights in an attempt to burn more calories or build upper-body strength. But physical therapists warn that wearable ankle weights can cause strain on the neck, shoulders, elbows, and wrists. You should also avoid using ankle weights or specially designed weighted shoes, which can increase your risk of strain and injury. Experts advise saving the weights for a separate strength-training workout.

A Word From Verywell

Speed walking is an excellent form of exercise with many benefits. It helps increase your heart rate to boost cardiovascular fitness and may ward off bone loss. Learning to properly perform speed walking can prevent potential strains and injuries, especially if you are new to this form of exercise. If you have a medical condition, ask a doctor before beginning a speed walking program.

8 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.