10 Tips for Walking to Work

Pedestrians walking.

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Walking to work is a great way to stay healthy and can save money on commuting costs. Large cities, such as some in China, are even building around a pedestrian infrastructure aimed at this concept. But taking a few moments to plan ahead can make your walk to work both safer and more comfortable.

Plan Your Walk to Work

Making sure your walk is both healthy and safe requires more than a good pair of walking shoes. Unlike a walk in the woods, you'll have to carry work back and forth. And unlike a hike you take on a clear day, you'll encounter varying conditions if choose to walk every day.

Additionally, walking may simply not be feasible on some days, whether due to weather or a need to look extra nice for an important meeting. If you usually walk to work, there are some instances in which you'll need to have a backup plan. Follow these tips for a safe and healthy walk to work.

Plan Your Route

The best route to walk to work may be different from what you would choose for driving. Try using quieter side streets or greenway paths as much as possible. Look for a route that is a block or two off major roads both to raise the safety factor and to improve the air you breathe.

Consult your local parks department website for the location of greenway paths. You can use an online walking route planner or app to find, draw, and measure a local walking route.

Predict Your Walking Time

Don't be late for work. How long will it take you to walk to work? For your first walking commute, plan on a pace of 20 minutes per mile or 12 minutes per kilometer. If you have many streets to cross with traffic lights, you may want to increase that to 25 minutes per mile.

If you're walking to work for the very first time, try it on a day when you don't need to worry about being late or missing early morning meetings. Consider walking the route on a weekend so you can time yourself and see how long the walk takes, door to door.

Time your first couple of walks so you can better predict your walking pace. If you haven't had to predict the length of time a walk will take in the past, this may seem a bit daunting. It's much easier if you first take a moment to know how fast you can walk.

Pick the Right Shoes

You should wear athletic shoes for any walk longer than 10 minutes. You may need to change into shoes more appropriate for your work environment when you arrive, either by leaving them at work or carrying them with you.

Athletic shoes support your feet correctly for walking any distance, preventing foot or knee pain and problems. Get fit for good athletic shoes at the store in your area that caters to serious runners. They will be able to recommend the right shoe for your stride.

Don't forget about the importance of wearing the right socks, which can wick away sweat and help prevent blisters.

Wear the Right Clothes

Can you walk to work in your usual work clothes? This will depend on the weather, the length of your walk, and whether you wear casual clothes or suits. Your walking clothing should allow a proper walking stride. Pants or skirts that restrict your leg motion should be avoided.

For walks of more than 20 minutes, you may want to consider wearing proper walking clothing and changing when you get to work. At a minimum, a sports bra can offer support if needed while an athletic shirt can wick away sweat.

Once you arrive to work, you'll need to change into proper work attire. Time how long it would take you to change and freshen up at work, and make sure you leave home early so you have enough time. Remember to make space for your walking clothes and shoes during the workday.

Protect Your Head and Skin

Hats are a good idea for walking if your walk will last more than 10 minutes. Many of us try to avoid "hat hair" by not wearing a hat. But you will need to keep your head warm in winter and shielded from the sun in summer. Try a different hairstyle if you see this will be a problem.

Wear sunscreen in all weather to prevent wrinkles, aging skin, and skin cancer.

Prepare for Bad Weather

Consider always carrying one of those cheap folded plastic rain ponchos just in case of an unplanned downpour. Dressing in layers can help you prepare for unexpected heat or cold—remove or add a jacket, microfleece vest, or windbreaker. Umbrellas may work in some climates, but some find the poncho to be the most effective answer to wind and rain.

How to Carry Your Stuff

It is important to remember how you'll carry anything—clothes, shoes, work supplies, or computers—that you need to take to work.

  • Your usual briefcase or shoulder bag is likely to be uncomfortable to carry for more than 10 minutes.
  • Switching to a backpack or messenger bag will allow you to carry the load while maintaining good walking posture. This can help prevent a backache from walking with poor body alignment.
  • Avoid carrying anything in your hands, which can lead to repetitive strain for your neck, shoulder, elbow or wrist.

Lighten the load—papers and books weigh a lot. Every five sheets of paper equal an ounce. Aim for a load of five pounds or less (including the weight of the bag) for the best walking comfort. Even carrying a backpack can cause neck and back strain.

What to Do If You Sweat

Even in cool weather, you may work up a lather on your walk. Give yourself an extra few minutes after arrival to cool down and dry off. Locate the best washroom for this purpose. If you find you are sweating on the way to work, switch to wearing a sweat-wicking athletic shirt for the walk. Use a washcloth or moistened paper towels to give your armpits a sponge bath.

Change into a fresh shirt. You may want to choose work shirts that are wrinkle-resistant so you can bring them with you. Some athletic shirts are adding an anti-microbial finish that helps prevent body odor.

Replenishing Your Body

If your walk will take more than 20 minutes, plan for a cup of water every 20 minutes by carrying it with you or locating water fountains. After arrival, have a glass of water. For walks of 30 minutes or more, it is good to have a small post-walk snack that includes protein and carbohydrates to help your body build muscle and restore energy. A drink that includes non-fat milk or soy milk is a good choice.

If you're going to be walking regularly, familiarize yourself with the best practices for hydration for walkers.

Create a Backup Plan

Those used to car commuting may feel uneasy in not having a car to use for errands or emergencies. What public transportation is available between home and work? Learn the bus and rail routes and have the fare on hand. Would any of your co-workers give you a ride if needed? Can friends or family be on call to pick you up? Planning this ahead of time will relieve stress and make you a more confident walking commuter.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you start a walking program at work?

If you're looking to start a workplace-wide walking program, speak to your human resources (HR) department. Once you have buy-in from the team, you'll be able to connect with other employees interested in walking to work.

How much money could you save by walking to work?

A 2021 report from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that the average one-way commute to work is 27.9 minutes. If you're driving to work, you could be saving anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars every year by replacing your driving trip with a walk.

What should you wear to walk to work?

If you're walking for any longer than 10 minutes, wear sweat-wicking clothes and comfortable walking shoes. The proper clothing will keep you dry and the correct shoes will keep your feet comfortable.

How do you avoid sweating when you're walking to work?

Avoid sweating on your walks to work by wearing sweat-wicking clothes. Avoid cotton clothing, which will cling to your body, and instead opt for breathable fabrics which will keep your skin dry and sweat-free.

A Word From Verywell

Walking to work is a great way to improve your overall fitness level while saving money on commuting. That said, taking the time to plan ahead when it comes to your route, walking clothes, hydration, and backup plans can reduce the stress of your new pursuit.

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