Walking isn’t as simple as it looks!
Walking is well known as one of, if not the most popular form of exercise. So many of us love to take a brisk walk or go on a hike while we chat with a friend or listen to our favorite music. Walking seems like a simple enough exercise to do. You don’t need any equipment or special training - simply throw on a pair of sneakers and your off.
Believe it or not, the simple act of walking is a hugely sophisticated movement that the human body makes. In order to put one leg in front of the other, major rotational patterns need to happen all major joints, but especially in the hips, knees and ankles. It may appear that you only putting one leg in front of the other in a linear movement, but in fact with each and every step your leg makes a figure 8 rotation at the hip, knee and ankle joints.
Why walking can lead to pain in the hips, knees and feet.
Many people tell us, “I have knee pain when I walk… hip pain when I walk... foot pain when I walk.” Here’s why: If the muscles in your legs have an accumulation of dense fascia built up in them, every time you go to take a step your muscles are not optimally contracting and lengthening to all for the sophisticated rotations that are necessary to occur at the hips, knees and ankles. Unhealthy fascia binds and holds muscles in a stuck and immobile position.
But you keep walking! Not only that, you walk fast and you take big strides… because you want to get your cardio workout in and afterall, it’s a ‘power walk’. When you do this the movement has to be absorbed somewhere, and it’s not in the muscles. So it gets absorbed at the joints. Wear and tear occurs at your joints and you experience pain.
There’s something else too… your muscles act like shock absorbers in your body when they are healthy and supple. They contract, lengthen, twist and turn. So when you’re on a walk and your foot hits the concrete or the pavement, that pounding should get absorbed by soft, flexible muscles. Instead many muscles in your legs have an accumulation of dense fascia which makes them hard and stiff. So there is very little shock absorption and the pounding is felt in your joints.
Stretches to do before and after walking.
Is it better to stretch before or after you talk a walk and how exactly to stretch? There are many forms of stretching out there - Passive, Active, Dynamic, PNF and Isometrics to name a few. We recommend The Bendable Body Method which is a form of resistance stretching that targets the body’s fascia. If you are only going to choose one: stretching before or after your walk - choose after. Here’s why: when you walk you are creating wear and tear in your muscles and in your joints and resistance stretching afterward will repair your body.
However, if you really love to walk and want to do if for many years to come, we recommend before, during and after! It’s not as difficult as it sounds. If you spend 10 or 15 minutes stretching important muscles in your legs before you walk your leg muscles will contract more freely and take pressure off of your joints. As you walk you are using up your muscle capacity so if you stop part way through and spend a few minutes stretching your hamstrings you’ll replenish your body to continue - kind of like stopping to fill the tank up with gas! Lastly, if you stretch after your walk you will remove any damage that occurred so that your body doesn’t build up injury and pain.
Whether your legs bother you, your shins, calves, knees, hips or feet and you suffer from plantar fasciitis - resistance stretching will remove your pain and keep you injury free so you can walk as much as you like!