Walking is an excellent form of exercise enjoyed by many people of all ages, both indoors on a treadmill and outdoors in just about any setting or season. Its benefits include weight loss, stress relief, cardiovascular fitness, improved circulation, and lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. Walking is also a gentle enough form of exercise for beginners as well as those recovering from a health issue or injury. Walking is a great way to get or stay in shape.
Although walking is beneficial for the legs and feet, problems and injuries can arise due to inappropriate footwear, improper stretching, and an irregular gait. Common results of these can be the formation of corns, calluses, blisters, and even plantar fasciitis.
When walking, it is important to protect the feet with appropriate footwear that addresses your foot inclination and gait. Overpronation occurs when the ankles roll inward more so than usual when walking; this condition benefits from shoes that offer motion control and mid-foot support, along with less cushioning, a rigid sole, and a reinforced heel counter. Underpronation places pressure on the outside of the feet, which requires shoes that provide stability, extra shock absorption, additional cushioning at the forefoot, and reinforcement around the heel and ankle. Those classified as having a normal foot inclination can wear just about any type of shoe without issue.
The motion of walking rolls the foot from the heel to the toe; the foot then bends at the ball to complete the step. Therefore, appropriate walking sneakers must have flexibility at the ball of the foot, and the heel should rise when the forefoot presses down. The shoe’s heel should be low and slightly undercut; make sure the heel stays snugly in the shoe without slipping out. Footwear made of a lightweight, breathable material is most comfortable when walking.
To ensure a proper fit for walking shoes, be sure to measure both of your feet while standing; buy a shoe size that accommodates the larger of your two feet, since most people have feet that are slightly different in size. There should be about half an inch between your toes and the front of the sneaker to allow for wiggle room. Try the sneaker on with the socks you will wear while walking, and shop for walking shoes in the latter part of the day, when the feet are more swollen. Remember to replace your walking footwear every 300 to 600 miles to maintain proper support, shock absorption, and fit.
Aside from checking with a doctor or healthcare professional before starting any exercise or fitness regimen, be sure to have a podiatrist conduct a thorough foot exam to correct and/ or prevent foot problems that may worsen with exercise.