Erin Pereira, PT, DPT, is a board-certified clinical specialist in orthopedic physical therapy.
Walking is one of the most widely-enjoyed exercises. Not only do people engage in walking as they go about their daily lives, but they also walk for both exercise and fun, logging lots of steps each day. For this reason, it is important to know how to prevent walking injuries.
Although walking is a low-impact sport with little risk involved, you can still get injured doing it—especially if you are logging a lot of miles, attending walking challenges, or hiking on rough terrain. It is not uncommon for walkers to experience ankle sprains, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and even blisters.
Although walking is a natural part of most people's everyday life and one of the most recommended forms of exercise, it is still possible to do too much. If you are walking more than your body can handle, you may notice increased fatigue and a decrease in your ability to walk at the same level as you once did. When this occurs, you may be experiencing overtraining syndrome (OTS).
Some symptoms of overtraining include chronic injuries, persistently stiff or sore muscles, recurrent headaches, irritability, elevated resting heart rate (RHR), and even depression. If you think that you are overtraining, it is important to cut back and allow your body to rest. You also should contact a healthcare provider to have your symptoms evaluated. It is possible that there is more going on than just overtraining.
Despite the fact that walking is a safe, low-impact way to exercise, it is still possible to get injured. One common injury among walkers is an ankle sprain. In fact, more than 2 million ankle sprains are treated in emergency departments alone each year. Other common injuries from walking include shin splints, patellofemoral pain syndrome (or runners knee), iliotibial band syndrome, and low back pain. You also might get blisters, especially if you are wearing new shoes, or may even experience plantar fasciitis.
Although walking is one of the safest ways to exercise, it is still possible to get injured, especially if you do too much too soon. Start out slowly, wear properly fitting shoes, and gradually increase your pace and distance. In fact, shin splints—a common walking injury—may occur because you increase your walking speed and distance too quickly.
When walking, be sure to listen to your body and stop if you feel pain or discomfort and talk to a healthcare provider if it persists. Forcing your body to keep exercising even when you are in pain can exacerbate an injury and make it worse.
Shin splints—which are also known as medial tibial stress syndrome—are an inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around your tibia. The pain you experience when you have shin splints typically occurs along the inner border of your tibia where your muscles attach to the bone. Shin splints are a common exercise-related condition that occurs when someone participates in a vigorous activity like running or walking. They are particularly common in people who are just beginning an exercise program.
Plantar fasciitis, which is a common cause of pain in the bottom of the heel, occurs when the strong band of tissue that supports the arch of your foot becomes irritated and inflamed. It is an extremely common condition, as nearly 2 million people are treated for plantar fasciitis each year. In many cases, the cause of plantar fasciitis is unknown, but there are certain characteristics that can make it worse such as having high arches and tight calves and participating in a repetitive activity like running or walking.
Blisters, which often occur when there is friction on one spot, are fluid-filled sacs on the outer layer of your skin. In addition to being caused by rubbing and pressure, they also can be caused by heat or skin diseases and are most common on your hands and feet. Although blisters usually heal on their own, you may want to cover the blister to protect it and make sure there is no additional rubbing or friction in that area until it heals.
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American Heart Association. Preventing injury during your workout.
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Shin splints.
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Plantar fasciitis and bone spurs.
National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. Blisters.
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