If you have hip, knee, ankle, or back pain you may find that your walking pattern will alter. This is often to avoid the pain, but with this comes the chance of overloading other structures therefore making symptoms worse.
So how should we walk?
If you have a condition such as hip bursitis or gluteal tendinopathy walking may aggravate symptoms. A simple trick would be to work on reducing your stride length and trying to land through the heel so that you promote buttock activation when walking. You should always land with the heel first and roll through to toe push-off. Hiking poles may also reduce the load through the buttock tendons. Remember if you are only using a stick or one pole, you should have it in the opposite side to your sore hip.
The speed of walking
To increase your cardiovascular benefit, power walking or increasing the speed of the walk will help. However, if you increase the rate of your walk, you may reduce the control that you have at the hip and the knee. So if you have underlying ligament or joint issues, it may be necessary to improve muscular activation so that you have control of the joint when you land. Reprogramming how your body moves to reduce the altered or abnormal movement patterns takes time, and you need this neuromuscular retraining to develop better movement patterns. Using a mirror to help retrain your walking pattern can help.
Point of impact
If you have underlying joint arthritis, it is not so much the speed at which you walk but the rate at which you impact the ground that will affect your joints. So avoid the stomping action or landing heavily, as this means you are not controlling muscles before you land. The aim is to use muscles as shock absorbers so you reduce the load through the joint.
If you have osteoporosis or bone thinning the joints a little faster so that this ground reaction force transfers up through the bones and promotes some bone loading and improves your bone density. However, it is preferable to work on this stomping action in specific bounding exercises: for instance, coming up on the toes and landing quickly down onto the heels to encourage bone loading. This controlled exercise will reduce other joint loading.
So you can see that depending on what issues you have in your body it is important to make the necessary walking modifications. If you need help knowing how you can improve your walking speed, endurance, and form, then as we are here to help, so you can enjoy our beautiful outdoors, whether it be a stroll by the beach, through the bush, or on longer hikes.
Find out more with our Newsletters and Workshop dates