There are plenty of difficult obstacles in your path. Don’t allow yourself to become one of them. – Ralph Marston

It seems that for decades now, the world that we know here in America has been caught up in a fitness frenzy that has gone from fitness trends and fads including Jack LaLanne’s weight and strength building, to aerobics with Dr. Kenneth Cooper, to running with Jim Fixx, sweating to the oldies with Richard Simmons, to Pilates, Power Pilates, and Tae Bo. 

And it goes on today with CrossFit, HIIT, Body Weight Training, and kettlebells.

But walking for fitness is both ancient and modern. It has always been there, but largely dismissed and neglected. However, there is a resurgence in interest and a rediscovery of the health and fitness benefits that can come from walking.

Unfortunately, it has also brought on another source of foot muscle pain for some people.

Walking is Good – Walking Well is Better

There are several considerations to keep in mind when fitness walking is undertaken. 

For example, terrain. It might be more interesting to take a rocky path through the woods or over a sandy hillside, but the best surface is a relatively flat, smooth one. Anything that might cause you to turn or twist your knees or ankles doesn’t bode well for a pain-free walk.

Besides, fitness walking requires that you maintain a 3 to 4 mile per hour pace for at least 30 minutes. That’s a difficult feat for most walkers to achieve on rough terrain.

Another basic item is footwear. While most experts agree that you don’t have to buy expensive walking-specific shoes, having comfortable and closed-toed footwear like running shoes, hiking shoes, or tennis shoes will provide sufficient support.

But perhaps the greatest consideration for walking well is your gait or form.

According to an article at Self magazine,

“You’ve probably heard runners debate the best movement patterns and foot placement; similarly, fixing up your walking form can make faster and longer walking easier and reduce your risk of injuries along the way, says Chris Mosier—a personal trainer and coach at Edge Athlete Lounge in Chicago, who competed in the 2020 Olympic trials in the 50K race walk.”

These top-tier Olympic athletes glide forward with a smooth and efficient stride rather than bounce up and down, according to Mosier.

The article goes on to recommend emulating the form and gait of these professional race walkers. Focus on pushing off with your big toe and firing up your glutes to drive your leg forward. Your core should be engaged but not tight, and your gaze should stay level.

Keep your elbows bent at about 90 degrees and swing your arms from your shoulders. Try not to let your hands cross the center of your body or rise above chest level and keep your wrists firm but your grip relaxed.

This may seem a bit complicated to many amateur fitness walkers. You’re just walking after all, except maybe a bit faster than usual, right?

Perhaps, but it is our gait that is often the root cause of much muscle and joint pain, including foot muscle pain

Avoiding Foot Muscle Pain from Walking

Many people take up walking without thinking about the proper walking form. But your posture, foot motion, stride, and use of arm motion make a big difference in your walking speed and ability to walk energetically, says Verywell Fit.

Learning to use good walking posture will help you breathe deeper, relax your shoulders, and neck, and avoid back, hip, knee, and foot pain.

According to Verywell Fit, here are the four basic elements of a proper walking form, or gait:

Proper Walking Posture

  • Stand up straight with your feet together a comfortable space apart with your toes pointed forward or at a slight angle.
  • Do not lean forward or backward. Don’t arch your back.
  • Maintain a neutral pelvis, not tipping your hips forward or back.
  • Focus your eyes 10 to 20 feet ahead of you.
  • Keep your chin parallel to the ground.

Walking Arm Motion

  • Bend your elbows 90 degrees and partially close your hands, but not clenched. 
  • Move the arm opposite your forward foot straight forward with each step, not diagonally.
  • As the forward foot goes back, the opposite arm comes straight back.
  • When coming forward, your hand should be kept low, no higher than your breastbone.
  • Keep your elbows close to your body, not flapping outwards.

Walking Step Motion

  • Strike the ground first with your heel.
  • Roll through the step from heel to toe.
  • Push off with your toes.
  • Bring the back leg forward to strike again with the heel.

Walking Stride

  • Many people tend to overstride by taking a longer step in front. This puts more stress on your lower leg joints, and it doesn’t give your stride power.
  • Concentrate on keeping the back foot on the ground longer and giving yourself a good push-off. Try to keep your stride shorter in front.
  • You can increase speed by taking more, smaller steps like professional walkers do.
  • Lengthen your stride in back to improve power and efficiency in your stride.

Finding Foot Muscle Pain Relief with Pain and Performance Solutions

While it may not be inevitable, there is always a good chance that activities such as walking for fitness can result in minor injuries or muscle pain. Probably the most common complaint from intensive walking for exercise is foot muscle pain.

That’s where Pain and Performance Solutions can help.

At your first appointment, we will learn about your present pain as well as any history of discomfort. Effective treatment and relief of your foot pain starts once we learn where and how your pain started.

A full examination will help us determine which form of treatment technique and therapy will be best suited to get you on your road to recovery.

Ultimately, getting your body healthy and working properly is the only way to achieve total recovery. In the process, your trust in us is key, as is your honesty. So, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are here to help and will answer any questions that you may have.

Our goal is to work through the sequence of pain and dysfunction to get your body healthy and working properly and to achieve total recovery.

Don’t hesitate to reach out. We are here to help and will answer any questions that you may have.

We can be reached at (707) 636-4404 or by filling out our online contact form.