Wednesday, August 01, 2012

How to walk...

I thought I knew how to walk.  After all, I've been walking since I was a year old.  I took up walking in earnest for fitness and for my sanity when I was pregnant with OnlyDaughter back in 1985-86 and I've been walking 2+ miles almost daily ever since. Originally I started walking for my health, but as it turns out, I primarily walk for my mind and spirit.  I found that taking a half hour or so each day to walk gave me time to pray, to think my own thoughts, to observe nature, or just to allow my mind to rest, and all while my body was moving.  If you have a somewhat ADD personality like me, you will understand that movement is a good thing for the brain and spirit.  

Now that I'm an old  a more mature woman, I am feeling the results of poor walking techniques and poor footwear.  I am certain that a lot of my foot troubles come from the wear and tear that comes about after  years of foot-pounding down gravel roads, through pastures and clomping around in boots at the barn, and from wearing what I now think of as silly or impractical (but oh so beautiful) shoes.  After doing some research on proper form for walking, I am convinced that I can improve my walking skills measurably and perhaps relieve some of the foot, knee, leg, and hip pain that I experience on occasion. 

One way that I am trying to improve the strength of my feet is to go barefoot a lot more.  When you think about it, when we were babies learning to walk, we walked barefoot in our homes or in the soft grass of our backyard.  Then we moved out onto the cement sidewalk and trekked over gravel and rocks and never blinked an eye, but as we grew up, our parents thought it best to civilize us -- to put proper shoes on our feet.  And what kind of shoes did we wear?  The typical hard-soled, stiff things that made us have to learn to walk all over again.  And so the trouble began.  We continue to conform our feet to our shoes rather than letting our feet walk like feet.  I've heard it compared to wearing a cast.  I don't know about you, but I have always preferred to walk around the house and yard with bare feet, but that is where it ends.  It's hard walking down the gravel road or out in the corrals with bare feet.

Have you heard about the new rage in running -- barefoot running?   I am not into ANY kind of running, but some runners are finding that running "nearly barefoot" strengthens the feet, legs, hips, and core as God and nature intended.  From what I understand, when you walk or run barefoot you step more gently and flex your foot a lot more.  Your foot doesn't land hard on your heel as it does with a traditional padded heel shoe, and you tend to flex the arch and toes much more when running and walking because that's what arches and toes naturally do when they are not confined to stiff shoes.  The signature shoe of  barefoot running is the Vibram 5 Fingers.  It looks like a glove for the foot and the sole is so thin that it gives the feeling of running barefoot.  Since the shoe's first appearance, the barefoot running shoe market has exploded and there are now a lot more choices to be had.

After reading a lot of material online, I decided to take an inventory of the shoes I own.  My mission was to determine which shoes had the flexibility in the arch I need to promote a barefoot type experience when I walk.  Guess what?  I had just ONE pair of shoes that had good flexibility, and those were my Minnetonka Moccasins.  My tennis shoes had very limited flex.  The Birkenstocks, which I mostly wear, had no flex, but in their defense, the foot can rock in the foot bed.  I do have a pair of Merrel boots that I like to wear which were pretty flexy in the arch, but nothing like the moccs.  So...... I decided to do some online shopping.  My nearest runner's store is 120 miles away so I figured if I tried Zappos, which I am apt do do on occasion, I might get lucky and find something without having to drive 240 miles.  The best part about Zappos is that I can send the shoes back postage-paid if they don't work out.  Yay for Zappos!  Here are the shoes I'm trying out:  The Nike Free Run 3 which is not really a barefoot style running shoe, but is SO flexible and light weight that it allows the foot to perform as it should.  The Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove is the other choice I made.  It has a much thinner sole and has extreme flexibility.  For me, the real test will be how they perform on my gravel road where I do most of my walking.  From what I have read about transitioning from traditional walking shoes to minimalist, barefoot-type shoes is that it takes TIME.  The foot has to go through an adjustment period of learning how to walk without a lot of tread and cushioning.  After trying both shoes out, I have chosen the Nike Free Run 3.  These shoes feel like slippers and they are so flexible that after a 2 1/2 mile walk/run (yes, I did run a very little bit) my feet do NOT hurt one little bit.  In fact, they feel terrific!  The only negative I have about these shoes is that rocks get in stuck between the traction because the sole opens up with the foot movement.  Not a problem.  Just flex the sole after you're done wearing them and the rocks fall right out.  LOVE these shoes.  The Merrell was also very comfy and light, and I was thinking about keeping them both, but I decided to send the Merrell Pace Glove back for now with the idea that once I walk for a while in my Nikes, I might transition to the Merrells.

Below I have gathered up some helpful links to articles and videos that I have found very good.  First, this diagram shows you simple posture for good-form walking.

Links I have been reading or watching:

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk.  Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness.  I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.  
~Soren Kierkegaard


  1. Which color did you get, Jody? They are so bright and festive that I think it would be difficult to chose. I

    really need some new walking shoes. And my feet hurt a lot, even right now, and it shoots up my calves. Sigh. I did read somewhere not too long ago on my "Walking" facebook feed that it is better to take smaller steps so I have been trying to do that.

  2. Leslie,
    I got the midnight blue/fireberry (which are really deep purple). I almost sent them back and then decided to just keep them. I would have liked red, I think, but I only saw red in men's. My son has the same shoes in orange (he loves orange). I highly recommend the Nike Free Run 3. Yes, in my reading they mention taking smaller steps. I have always been a long strider, so this was different for me, but I'm realizing that I am not POUNDING the surface so much when I walk and rather, I roll through my steps, especially now that my shoes allow my foot to flex and roll. I also stretch out the calves quite a bit through my day. It seems to help my feet.

    Happy Walking!

  3. This is a very inspiring post! Out of the blue, a friend of ours sent us each a pair of Nike shoes. He sent me the ones you speak of. Mine are gray with pink. Maybe we'll walk down to the park tonight. I've only worn them to Jazzercise (which is making me kind of mad at the moment because it's so hot and the women are possessive of their "spots" which drives me crazy!)
    I'm getting my pony tail cut off today. When I don't put my hair up in a pony tail I look like Grandmama from The Addams Family and that is a little crazy.
    Happy walking, Jody!

  4. I love walking, and so far I don't have any problems with my feet, but I'm going to check out these videos just the same.

    I have always been a walker, and I walk forty-five minutes most mornings. It's interesting how my state of mind changes from day to day--sometimes I sink deeply into a satisfying stream of thought, or an imagined conversation with a friend, other times my thoughts flit here and there and can't find any place to land. That's when I remind myself to be present, to feel the air around my fingers and the pavement against the soles of my shoes.

    Speaking of shoes, I'll be interested to hear how your "almost barefoot" shoes work out. Keep us updated!


  5. Wow Jody- who knew??? THANKS for all the great info. My feet are my biggest problem with my exercise/running. I'll be following your links!

  6. I read the book about the Tarahumara Indians and their barefoot running a few years back. (I think I mentioned it on your messageboard?) I was inspired to make a pair of running mocassins out of old tires like they did, but it never transpired, lol! The Vibram 5 Fingers are so darned expensive or I would give them a try. My son read a book about Chi Running and he thought it was a pretty good thing. I'm having trouble with the walking thing in the last year or two. Just too tired after work! But I do love being out on the hiking trail among the cool green trees, thinking my private thoughts and smelling the grassy scents. Thanks for reminding me to try again!

  7. Great research Jody - a dear friend of mine has foot troubles. I'm going to send her your information.

    I enjoy walking - especially with a camera.

    Great Kierkegaard quote.

  8. I think you'll like the shoes, Jody. I've been wearing New Balance Minimus with a vibram sole. Love them, very lightweight. Phoebe loves her five fingers, but my toes need their space., ha. Just break them in slowly. Monica

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