Walking is a fun, natural, and inexpensive way of keeping your health, and feet, in top shape. This low-impact exercise also helps control weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. Walking improves cardiovascular fitness and reduces blood pressure and resting heart rate. It is also an essential part of medical rehabilitation after heart attacks and can alleviate depression, anxiety, and stress.
However, walking is not without risks, and it is essential to pay attention to your feet to avoid injuries or pain. Shoes that do not fit properly or provide sufficient support, lack of stretching, and incorrect gait can lead to foot problems, such as blisters, corns, calluses, and plantar fasciitis.
To gain the most health benefits from walking, you must start with a good pair of shoes. But before picking the right shoe, it is essential to determine the natural inclination of your foot and gait.
There are three basic foot types:
1. Pronators: people with relatively flat feet, caused by low arches, normally have overpronation, a gait where the ankle rolls inward excessively. Motion control shoes that offer support for the mid-foot is ideal for those with this foot type. These durable uppers shoes avoid having shoes with a lot of cushioning or highly curved toes. A motion-control shoe is generally board-lasted, which runs the length of the shoe for more stability.
2. Supinators: people with high arches that result in underpronation place excessive weight on the outer part of the feet. For this foot type, stability shoes designed for additional shock absorption and having a curved or semi-curved last are recommended. A slip-lasted shoe is preferred because the sewn seam runs the length of the shoe, providing more flexibility.
3. People with normal feet: any type of walking shoe works fine for this foot type, although a curved last is preferred.
When you walk, the natural motion of your foot moves gradually from the heel to the toe, with your foot bending at the ball on each step. Therefore, a good shoe should have enough flexibility in the right places. Here are tips for buying a good pair of walking shoes:
1. Shop at the end of the day when your feet are slightly swollen for a good fit.
2. Try shoes with the socks you will wear when walking. If you use an orthotic, bring it to the store.
3. Have your feet measured standing up and fit the shoe to the larger foot size.
4. Ensure there is enough room in the toe box for your toes to wiggle and about a half inch between your toes and shoe’s end.
5. Try on different brands and walk around the store in each pair on a hard surface, not just carpeting. Let your foot be the guide to the fit, not the shoe size or style.
6. Look for lightweight, breathable materials for greater comfort.
7. Run your hand all over and inside the shoes to feel for any seams or catches that might irritate your foot.
8. Choose shoes that allow for better foot stability and control by lacing.
9. Ensure the heel fits snugly and does not tend towards slipping out of the shoe.
10. Wear your walking shoes only for walking to keep them in good shape. Consider buying two pairs and rotating their use to give each pair time to breathe between walks.
11. Replace walking shoes after 300 to 600 miles, based on usage.
In conclusion, walking regularly can benefit your overall health, but it is critical to pay attention to your feet. Choosing the right walking shoes and taking care of your feet can help you enjoy walking safely and comfortably. If you experience foot pains or suspect that you may have foot problems, it is best to see a podiatrist, like Dr. Gilbert Huang DPM or a physician who can help uncover and address underlying issues, and offer appropriate treatment options. Happy walking!