10 Essentials You Should Never Walk Without

You're ready to start walking, but do you have everything you need? Walking is a great fitness activity because there are only a few things you really need. But if you get all of your essentials, you will be able to walk in comfort and even prevent injury.


Layered Clothing

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Sweatshirts are not so great if you are actually going to be sweating. Instead, you want to start with a breathable, sweat-wicking shirt as your base layer, made of a technical fabric (such as CoolMax) rather than cotton. Depending on weather conditions, wear or carry a windproof, water-resistant jacket.

If it is cold, add an insulating layer of polyester microfleece or wool. Take off a layer if you have warmed up or put one on if you are feeling cold.


Walking Shoes

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Invest in your feet with a good pair of athletic shoes. Walking in old, broken-down, non-supportive sneakers or inflexible boat shoes is a set-up for injury. Do your feet a favor and seek out the store in your area that caters to serious runners.

At a running shoe store, employees will fit you properly and put you into shoes that will work for you. As you expand your walking life, you will build up a shoe wardrobe for different surfaces and conditions: performance walking shoes, trail shoes, even trail sandals. In every style, look for shoes that are flexible, flat and do not have a flared heel. You can wear running shoes to walk if you choose. Many walkers choose this option because there tend to be more options, and they are lighter and more flexible than many walking shoes.


Walking Socks

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Along with the right shoes, you need good socks. At the running shoe store, ask for socks too. Cotton holds moisture next to your skin and increases the risk of forming blisters. Instead, wear socks made from sweat-wicking fabric such as CoolMax, polypropylene, or wool.

These socks will help keep your feet dry and happy. Be sure to try on socks with your walking shoes because they can affect the fit especially if you prefer socks with extra padding.



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Protect your head from sunburn as well as insulate it in cold weather. Caps with bills are great for most weather. The bill helps shade your eyes and can help keep the rain off your face in wet weather. You can find hats with reflective patterns or strips for night walking. If you get cold ears in cold weather, switch to a cap that includes ear coverings or add on an ear warmer.



woman wearing a hip belt with water bottles
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It's wise to use a fanny pack or backpack to balance the load on your hips rather than carrying anything in your hands. You can wear a fanny pack if you only need a couple of items and your water bottle.

If you won't need a water bottle, a cell-phone carrier is great. For more carrying capacity, try a light string backpack, or a daypack with more comfortable straps. For walks over an hour, a small hydration backpack (such as a Camelbak) allows you to sip as you walk.



A female backpacking in the mountains.
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Walking is an aerobic activity and you lose water through sweat as you walk. You should start off well-hydrated with a big glass of water about an hour before your walk. Then, as you walk, drink whenever you feel thirsty.

To be able to do that conveniently, you should either carry water with you or plan your route so you have easy access to a water fountain or other water source every 20 to 30 minutes. Avoid carrying your water in your hand. That's like carrying a one-pound weight and is a set-up for shoulder and wrist strain. Use a pack of some sort.



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Walking outdoors is a wonderful experience of the sun in your face and the wind at your back. But those elements can wreak havoc on your skin in the long run. Walking without sunscreen is like walking without shoes. Both provide essential protection.

Choose a high SPF to match your walking workout time and don't skimp on putting it on. Take special care with your ears and nose. Lips will appreciate lip gloss or ChapStick with sunblock. Don't forget to cover your bald spot if you aren't wearing a hat.


Route Plan

Woman reading map on wooden walkway
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Do you wander around aimlessly or just stick with one boring route? Will there be water, restrooms, shade, and sidewalks where you are planning to walk? Will there be other people out walking there, for safety?

Plan your route ahead of time with an online mapping app. Through various apps such as MapMyWalk, you can even download routes to follow with your phone. With these advances in technology, there is little excuse for getting lost so long as you are in cell range.


ID, Money, and Cell Phone

Latina Runner
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Accidents happen. Emergencies happen. Have identification with you, including any important health information. If you carry a cell phone, that can also help identify you and give quick access to people you may want to contact. You can also carry a little cash to buy a drink or snack if you find yourself needing it.



Keys on keyboard
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Is there anything more annoying than shutting the door and realizing you left your keys in the house or car? Locked doors are a fact of life, and you need to find a convenient way to carry keys as you walk or a secure place to stash them so they are ready to use when you return. Look for workout clothes with zippered pockets.

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.