11 Tips for Better Beach Walking

Two women walking on the beach

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Whether you enjoy a contemplative stroll to watch the waves or you power through a walking workout in the sand, a beach walk can clear your mind and exercise your body. Walking on the beach is a great activity to enjoy with your dog, your family, your partner, or solo. The sound of the surf can be the best walking music you will ever hear. Here are 11 tips for enjoying a beach walk.

1. Warm Up on a Solid Surface

Start your walk with a few minutes on pavement, a boardwalk, or hard-packed sand. This will help ensure your muscles are warmed up and stretched before going through the soft sand.

2. Wear Walking Shoes or Sandals

If you are going for a long walk, you should wear athletic shoes or athletic sandals that will support and guide your feet. Shoes will also protect your feet from glass, metal, or sharp rocks hidden in the sand. However you may not want to wear your best pair on the beach as they will get sand in them.

3. Try Barefoot Walking for Short Distances

Slip out of your shoes to enjoy feeling the sand between your toes or wading in the surf. The sand will work on smoothing calluses on your feet. A caution is that doing long miles barefoot, especially in soft sand, can result in muscle and foot pain as your range of motion is extended further than usual. It's best to go barefoot for short distances only at first and build up time gradually to prevent strains and injuries.

4. Walk on Soft Sand for a Workout

Whether you wear shoes or go barefoot, walking in soft sand gives you more of a workout than walking on a solid surface. Think of it like climbing a hill. Build up your time on soft sand over the course of several days rather than going out for a long walk all on soft sand. It's best to keep most of your walking on hard-packed sand near the water or on a boardwalk or paved path until you've had a chance to train your muscles for soft sand.

5. Adjust for the Slope

You'll discover, if you walk any distance in one direction on a beach, that you have an uphill and a downhill foot. The foot closest to the ocean can be one or more inches lower than the foot toward the land. This can become tiresome and leave you off-kilter.

You may want to plan your walk so you go a quarter of the distance in one direction, turn around, then half of the distance in the other direction (passing your starting point) and turn around to return to the start. In this way, you have three changes in direction to relieve the effects of the slope.

6. Walk Into the Wind First

There's a reason people go to the beach to fly a kite: it is often windy. You may want to start your walk into the wind, so your return journey is with the wind at your back. That way, when you're getting tired, you will be getting an assist from the wind rather than fighting it.

7. Wear Sunscreen and a Hat

There is no shade on the beach. You'll want to protect your skin with sunscreen. Even on a cloudy or foggy day, enough UV is reaching you to give you a sunburn. You'll also want some lip balm to protect your lips from the rays and the wind. Choose a walking hat that won't blow off easily, or wear a Buff instead.

8. Drink Enough Water

If you're walking for more than 30 minutes, consider taking water to replenish yourself or know where there are drinking fountains along the way. A sunny beach and wind can dry you out quickly. You should think of replenishing with a cup of water each mile. Take along a water bottle to drink and refill for longer walks.

9. Don't Turn Your Back on the Surf

There doesn't have to be a tsunami for ocean waves to turn deadly without warning. Sneaker waves can run far up the beach suddenly, knocking you over and possibly washing you out to sea. Large pieces of driftwood can roll in on a sneaker wave and are known to injure or kill unwary beach walkers.

10. Pay Attention to Tides

For any walk more than 30 minutes, you need to know whether the tide is coming in or going out. A wide, welcoming beach can become a tiny scrap of sand when the tide comes in. Small streams you easily stepped across can turn into deep channels with a rising tide. If you crossed an outcropping next to the surf, your way may be blocked when you turn around later.

11. Obey Beach Laws

In some states, all ocean beaches are public. But that isn't the case in other places, where they may be private property. Learn where you are welcome to walk and where you shouldn't trespass. Otherwise it may be a way walking can land you in jail.

Similarly, some beaches forbid walking your dog. Other beaches may require that all dogs be on a leash. Pay attention to signs and stay on the right side of the law. Even on beaches where your dog is free to roam off-leash, play safely, so you don't have any unpleasant encounters with other dogs and wildlife.

Be sure to pick up after your pet, but use caution when picking up anything else, like shells or rocks. Be sure you know what you are allowed to take home and what needs to stay on the beach.

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