Exercise walking, as with other forms of exercise, requires the right equipment for a safe and effective routine. Good walking shoes are an important investment, and choosing the appropriate walking shoes is an important step in maximizing the benefits of exercise walking.
Finding the proper walking shoe may take some time and a bit of money, but it is essential for achieving long and short term benefits. Shoes are the most important piece of equipment in walking.
Walking Shoes Interact with the Back
Walking shoes provide a basic protection and mechanical support for the foundation structures of the body - the feet - which in turn help keep the entire body balanced and aligned. When there is a minute imbalance in the feet, the compensatory domino effect causes changes throughout the body.
Specifically, when the body's natural gait motion is off balance, the body counterbalances the problem by redistributing weight. This ultimately changes the natural posture and alignment of the spine, leading to muscle strain and back pain over time. Though the imbalance may seem minor, in the long run, the stresses added to the body can add up and cause unnecessary wear and tear.
Finding the Correct Walking Shoes
The right walking shoes can help foster excellent balance and posture during exercise walking, while poorly fitted walking shoes can cause pain or increase susceptibility to injury. It is best to find a technical running shoe store that will watch the individual's walk and will provide a shoe that fits based on the individual's specific biomechanics (this service is not typically found in large chain store).
Walking shoes should allow the feet to naturally roll slightly inward (pronation) and outward (supination) to help absorb the different forces acting on the body. For many people, either one or both feet under pronate (roll outward) or over pronate (roll inward), altering the balance and length of the leg during stance, as well as gait. Some shoes are designed to control over pronation, whereas others are designed to encourage pronation. Therefore it is important to make sure that walking shoes match each individual's specific biomechanical pattern.
An additional side effect of pronation and supination is the change in the natural curvature of the arches of the feet.
- Over pronation - one or both feet excessively roll inward, causing the arch to flatten - also known as "flat-feet". This will create excess motion in the leg as it internally rotates. The pelvis tilts to compensate for the rotation of the leg, tightening muscles in the lower back, fatiguing, and stressing the components of the spine.
- Under pronation - one or both feet fail to pronate and excessively roll outward, impairing the bodies ability to absorb shock. This added force is absorbed through the joint and muscles of the lower back and lower extremities, which over time may cause injury.
The feet are the crucial elements of gait motion, and maintaining a smooth gait is critical to preserving good spinal health. To ensure the correct balance during exercise walking, one must limit over pronation and under pronation of the feet. Good walking shoes should provide this stability.