To improve your walking technique and help prevent injuries it is advisable to check your gait, ie, how you position your feet on the ground and distribute your body weight.
Running and Injuries
Between 30 and 50% of runners get injured each year (Bruggerman study referred to in The Science of Running). Who or what is to blame? Can the shoes make any difference?
A study published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2013 from researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark did not find a specific correlation between injury and foot pronation (rolling the foot inwards) in non-experienced runners. The study was also picked up by Runner’s World to discuss whether pronation really matters in running.
Picture credits: Paola Bassanese
“Does Pronation Matter?”, Asked Runner’s World
The conclusions that were drawn from the study said that injuries are often caused by a combination of age, body mass index and behaviours. A key factor is comfort: the more comfortable the shoe, the better the running performance.
Science journalist Alex Hutchinson, writing in Runners World in 2013, looked at the graphs from the Danish study mentioned earlier and still found a correlation between pronation and tendency to injury.
When it comes to walking, a good technique and posture can help prevent injuries both in the short and long term. If shoe comfort is a key factor for runners, so it is for walkers. Covering many miles/kilometers per day, walkers need supportive shoes that don’t feel restrictive in any way.
If you are a keen walker, choosing the right shoes is just as important as planning your route.
Choosing a Walking Shoe
When choosing a shoe for walking, many people find that the support and cushioning of a running shoe can give the right support; the important thing is that the shoe must fit each foot perfectly and that requires trying different types of shoes until they get the right match.
You can either choose a neutral shoe or a structured shoe (for example, with arch support) depending on how you position your feet on the ground.
Most people, when walking without shoes, may tend to slightly over-pronate their feet: that is perfectly normal.
If, for example, you over-pronate, an insole can lengthen the lifetime of your shoes and reduce stress on the lower legs. With over-pronation, the ankle joint is at an angle and you will tend to push forwards mostly from the big toe instead of spreading the load evenly across all toes and the ball of the foot. The arch of the foot may become flatter over time.
About 50% of the population over-pronates (according to Footlogics); with over-pronation, the lower legs will tend to rotate inwards and that may put extra pressure in the knee joints. Support shoes are recommended in such cases to prevent the feet from rolling inwards excessively.
When we walk, we land on our heel, then shift our body weight onto the foot to then propel ourselves forwards with the ball of the foot and toes.
Over-pronation can be linked with biomechanical issues like Plantar Fasciitis and low back pain.
You can get a neutral shoe and have standard insole or a orthopedic insole from a podiatrist (for example, if you suffer from bunions). A practical way to check how you walk and how you position your feet is to have your gait checked at a running store.
I went to have my gait checked. I was recommended to do one-legged squats to improve the stability of the ankle and knee joint while strengthening the whole leg. Aim to put your balance on your middle toes to ensure your knees stay in line when doing one legged squats. If one-legged squats are too difficult, you can simply balance on one foot, then the other, for a few minutes at a time. You can also experiment balancing on a wobble board.