Preventing Walking Injuries
The good news is that walking results in far fewer injuries than sports such as running. The bad news is that injury can happen. Sports medicine expert Ted L. Forcum, DC, DACBSP, spoke to the walkers at the Ero-Fit Racewalk Retreat about common walking injuries.
Common Walking Injuries
Shin Splints: This is the most common condition new walkers experience, especially if they are trying to walk fast. Shin splints are the pain in the lower leg that stops when you slow down or stop. See the causes and corrections for shin splints.
Heel Spurs/Plantar fasciitis Forcum says there is an epidemic of plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. It is that pain in the bottom of your foot that especially hurts first thing in the morning when you try to get out of bed and stand on it, or after sitting for awhile. It is caused by wounding the tough fascia on the bottom of your foot. It can take several weeks to recover from plantar fasciitis. You will need to rest and reduce your walking. See top picks for heel spur and plantar fasciitis relief
Prevention of Walking Injuries
There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of injuries from walking. Most of them things you've heard from everyone from your mother to your gym teachers and sports coaches long ago:
Proper footwear: Go to a real fit expert and get the right shoes for your feet. Many injuries are caused by over-pronation, which can be corrected by today's running shoes. Many injuries are caused by wearing old, dead shoes. You need to replace your walking shoes every 500 miles. While good shoes are an expense, they are far cheaper than needing medical care.
Warm-up: Tight, cold muscles are a set-up for injury. Warm up at an easy pace before you engage in more-vigorous activity. While research hasn't supported stretching before activity to prevent injuries, doing some flexibility moves to take your joints through the full range of motion is recommended by some coaches.
Nutrition: Are you giving your body enough variety of food that is high in nutrients so it can build and repair muscle? A simple and cheap multi-vitamin is likely all you need rather than fad supplements.
Compensate for your anatomy: Know your body and work on correcting your walking posture. This can prevent strain on your neck, back, shoulders, and hips.
Ice: Always ice an injury or strain to keep inflammation from destroying tissue.
Sleep: You need sleep to give your body time to build muscles and repair damage.
Gradual changes in training: Increase your distance no more than 10 percent a week. Don't be a weekend warrior, be active throughout the week.
Proper form: The typical walking mistakes such as too much lean, looking down, swinging your arms up past your breastbone can all can lead to strain and injury. Walk tall with chin up and eyes forward, arms bent 90 degrees and swinging up no further than your breastbone.
Overstriding: This is when you throw your leg out too far in front, unnaturally lengthening your stride and excessively dorsiflexing your ankle when your foot strikes. You may also feel this on downhills due to the same factor. To correct this, slow down and shorten your stride. Concentrate on pushing off with your back foot rather than extending your front leg so far with each stride. Your lead foot should strike closer to your body, roll through the step and push off with your toe. This will increase your power and speed of stride and get rid of the overstriding habit. Your extension should be in back, not in front.
High Heels: Overstriding can be made worse by wearing shoes with a high heel (compared to the forefoot). The best walking shoes will have very little difference between the heel height and the forefoot height.
Over-pronation: This is when the foot rolls inward excessively on each step. If you tend to do this and you are wearing old shoes as well that are broken down, you have set yourself up for injury. Get new motion-control running shoes.
Ted Forcum has served as team chiropractor to the Portland Winterhawks, Portland Timbers, and for PGA Tour events, and was on the medical staff for the US Olympic Team for 2007-2008.
He serves on the American Chiropractic Association Sports Council.
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