4 Steps to Great Walking Technique

It's time to get started with these steps to great fitness walking technique for comfort, power, and speed. Whether you are an absolute beginner walker or you want to improve your walking workouts, these four steps will make a difference.

Many people take up walking without thinking about how they walk. But your posture, your foot motion, your stride, and your use of arm motion make a big difference in your walking speed and ability to walk energetically.

Learning to use good walking posture will help you breathe deeper, relax your shoulders and neck, and avoid back and hip pain. By using the right arm and foot motion, you will propel yourself forward with power and without wasted effort.

You will use the same walking technique whether you walk on the sidewalk, on a track, or on the treadmill.

Walking Posture

Silhouette of Walker
Walker with Good Posture. Momcilo Grujic/E+/Getty Images

Posture is the first step for walking comfort and energy. You'll be able to take full, deep breaths. You will engage your core muscles and be able to use your leg and buttock muscles for a natural walking stride.

Bad walking posture can contribute to aches and pains after walking, while great walking posture can relieve them. It can also help correct the hunching and slouching we do while sitting at a computer or checking our screens.

At the start of every walk, take a few seconds to set your walking posture.

Steps to Great Posture

  • Stand up straight with your feet together, a comfortable space apart. Your toes should be pointed forward, but if a slight angle feels good, that's okay.
  • Think of being tall and straight, not leaning forward or backward.
  • Don't arch your back.
  • Imagine a string attached to the top of your head. Feel it lift you up from your hips so you are tall and straight.
  • Stomach in: Now engage your core muscles by slightly sucking in your stomach. This will help you maintain good posture while walking.
  • Tuck in your buttocks by rotating your hip slightly forward. This keeps you from arching your back or leaning forward.
  • Eyes: Your head will follow where your eyes are looking, so start by looking straight ahead, focusing at about 20 feet ahead of you.
  • Chin parallel to the ground. You probably already corrected this by looking 20 feet ahead of you, but take a moment to check that your chin isn't tilted either up or down.  Walking with your head down puts strain on your neck, and you probably have been doing a lot of that in checking your smartphone throughout the day. But craning your neck back also puts stress on the neck. Let's keep it parallel to the ground.
  • Shrug your shoulders and let them relax, with your shoulders slightly back. This will help relieve the tension so many of us carry in our shoulders. It will also set your position for using arm motion.

Now you have the right posture to get started walking. Let's work on the arm motion next.

Arm Motion

Arm Motion for Walking
Arm Motion for Walking. Gary John Norman/Image Source/Getty Images

Arm motion can lend power to your walking, burning 5-10% more calories and acting as a balance to your leg motion.

  • Bend your elbow 90 degrees.
  • Hands should be loose in a partially closed curl, never clenched.
  • Clenching your fists can raise your blood pressure and should be avoided.
  • With each step, the arm opposite your forward foot comes straight forward, not diagonally.
  • As the foot goes back, the opposite arm comes straight back.
  • Keep your elbows close to your body; don't "chicken wing."
  • Your forward hand should not cross the center point of your body.
  • Your hand when coming forward should be kept low, not higher than your breastbone.
  • Many poor examples of arm motion are seen with walkers pumping their arms up high in the air. This does not help propel you.
  • If at first you find adding arm motion tiring, do it for 5 to 10 minutes at a time and then let your arms rest.

Foot Motion

Foot Motion - Rolling Through Step
Foot Motion - Rolling Through Step. Erik Isakson/Blend Images/Getty Images

The walking step is a rolling motion.

  • Strike the ground first with your heel.
  • Roll through the step from heel to toe.
  • Push off with your toe.
  • Bring the back leg forward to strike again with the heel.
  • Flexible shoes will ensure you are able to roll through the step.
  • If your feet are slapping down rather than rolling through the step, your shoes are likely too stiff.
  • At first, your shin muscles may tire and be sore until they are strengthened. This is natural when you first start walking for fitness or when you change your foot motion, stride or shoes.

Walking Stride

Good Stride on Treadmill
Good Stride on Treadmill. PhotoAlto/Ale Ventura/PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections/Getty

The push off by your rear foot is the key to walking with power and speed. Unfortunately, many people fall into the bad habit of overstriding - taking a longer step in front. This puts more stress on your lower leg joints and it doesn't give your stride any power. Ask a friend to watch you walk to see if you are overstriding with your usual walking pattern.

Lengthen Your Stride in Back

Lengthen the stride in back rather than in front to improve power and efficiency in your stride. The walker shown has a good stride in back, while the forward foot is closer to the center of the body. You don't gain anything by stepping out farther with your forward foot.

Think about keeping your back foot on the ground longer and giving yourself a good push off to add power to your stride. Your feet are rolling through the step from heel strike in front to pushing off with your toe in back.

Practice Your Stride

Then as you walk with the good posture and roll-through from heel to toe from the previous steps, concentrate on keeping the back foot on the ground longer and giving yourself a good push off. You may also want to think about keeping your stride shorter in front, but that will probably correct itself if your rear foot is on the ground longer.

As you get comfortable with this new walking pattern, you can increase speed by taking more, smaller steps. This is what fast walkers do rather than overstriding.

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