Walking is a great way to get (or stay) in shape: you can do it anywhere, it doesn’t require any special equipment except for comfortable shoes, and it’s a fun activity to do with a friend or your dog. While walking is generally low-impact, the way you walk has the potential to cause some discomfort. Sometimes alleviating discomfort is as easy as loosening the laces on your shoes; other times you may need to adjust the length or style of your stride. Those annoying aches that arise as you pile on the miles are “your body’s red flags that something needs adjusting,” says Katy Bowman, director of the Nutritious Movement Center Northwest in Washington State. Read on to learn some common alignment mistakes that could lead to pain while walking. Luckily, most of them are easy to fix!
The Ache: Lower back pain
The Cause: Tight thigh and hip muscles can cause the lower back to rotate as you stride — “as in mambo dancing,” Bowman says — so then that area, not your legs, bears the impact.
The Fix: Walk for a bit with your hands on your hips as a cue not to twist.
The Ache: Swollen fingers
The Cause: Swinging your arms repetitively pushes blood into your hands, causing them to swell.
The Fix: As you walk, periodically make a fist and release several times, stretching your fingers out.
The Ache: Tingly feet
The Cause: Too-snug sneakers and tight calf muscles can restrict blood flow to the toes.
The Fix: Make sure you can fit one finger between the laces and the tongue of your shoe. Stretch your calves before and after your workout: Stand with the balls of your feet on a rolled-up towel, keeping your heels on the ground. Lean forward to find any tight muscles.
The Ache: Sore knees
The Cause: Leaning your upper body forward while walking — “a common misalignment,” Bowman says — places more stress on your knees.
The Fix: Straighten up; your head and shoulders should be in a line over your hips.
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