How should we walk ?

Discussion in 'Health, Nutrition, Injuries & Medical Conditions' started by nck, Oct 25, 2017.

  1. nck

    nck
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Germany &...

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2017
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    13
    Hello, since I broke my 3rd met I haven't moved at all and I've spent hours and days looking into why it happened. And now after almost 2 months I think I even started to develop some pain in the other foot, like a stepping over stones feeling (metatarslagia symptoms). I've been all the time at home, barefoot just walking from bedroom, desk, kitchen, bathroom and once a week 1-2km with minimalist shoes for grocery shopping.

    There is a lot of information on how should we run but on the other hand there is very little about how should we walk. Everyone just assumes that everyone knows how to walk, and that may apply for some people who have been lucky and have not been affected by what conventional shoes do...

    Can someone recommend free resources to learn about this?

    My understandings and questions:
    0. Ears, shoulders, and hip should be aligned.

    1. I think in all places everyone agrees that our upper body should be relaxed, the arms should swing to counteract the movement of the opposite leg and the movement should also go to the thoracic cage. But the arms should move in the "inside direction" but parallel to the body.

    2. The lower back and pelvis should stay stable all the time and not go up and down, the same applies for the head. The core should be slightly activated to prevent any kind of hyperlordosis:
    https://nutritiousmovement.com/gait-101/

    3. Once we got down to the legs it starts to be more complicated to find information where all people agree or just expose different things.
    3.1 In some places I've read we should initiate the movement with gravity, therefore shift forward the weight by leaning out center of gravity and then lift one leg ahead of us. Probably this is the "easiest" way we think about preserving energy.
    3.2 In other places they say you should initiate the movement by activating your glut and putting the opposite leg forward. This probably helps to have less impact on the landing but maybe helps to be moving in a "more rigid way"?
    What do you think?

    4. Should we land we the leg straight when we contact the floor or should we more like a flexed knee to soften the shock with the quadriceps?

    5. On landing there is also not a clear consensus but I think generally everyone agrees that it's not important to focus on how to land but let the feet adapt to the terrain freely. It's ok to land with the heel, but it should be a light touch and when you start weight bearing the whole feet should already be on the floor.

    6. In general you should move the weight from the heel to outside midfoot and then to the big toe.
    6.1 Should we actively spread (abduct) the toes during this rolling motion to have more 1st metatarsal support or even push with the 1st toe down when we do the toe off?
    6.2 Should we lift (extend) the toes when we have the feet in the air?

    In most barefoot videos I've where people with mortons toe walk barefoot they have a huge gap between the 1st and the 2nd toe, i.e. So that makes me think that to overcome problems with metatarsalgia probably coming from too much too soon (1) or too much pressure from narrow shoes (2). i.e. or mortons foot shape (3) we should focus on that:


    What other biomechanical problems could be contributing to develp shin splints and/or metatarsalgia during the gait cycle WALKING?

    Edit:
    Also in a lot of german videos about walking barefoot, they say it should be landing first with the outerside of the feet, for example here, min 3:37:


    But I don't see many videos in English talking about this, almost everything is just about benefits/cons and not the actual technique, and when they show some images it seems like most of them are walking heel first.
     
    #1 nck, Oct 25, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2017
    trevize1138 likes this.
  2. Barefoot TJ

    Barefoot TJ
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    1. Test Chapter
    2. Nomad
    3. Hidden...
    4. Hidden...

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2010
    Messages:
    18,696
    Likes Received:
    5,241
    Thanks for your thoughtful post and input. I haven't come across a lot of info about the "right way to walk on the internet.

    I will say that I am barefoot 95% of the time, and I have Morton's Toe. I have no space between my big toe and 2nd toe though.
     
    Collapse Signature Expand Signature
    nck and trevize1138 like this.
  3. trevize1138

    trevize1138
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Minnesota

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2017
    Messages:
    85
    Likes Received:
    121
    You're quite correct: there's just not much good, solid information out there about how to walk barefoot. It's something I've researched a little on my own and experimented myself with some mindful walking trying to figure it out. So far here's what I've got:

    * Walking is not running, of course, as you're shifting weight from one foot to the other with both feet on the ground instead of being airborne between steps. This probably means many concepts from barefoot running may not apply simply because walking is not running. Example: your achilles tendon is really only used for running and your heel is really only used for standing. Landing on your heel while running, while also being really unhealthy, also under-utilizes the elasticity of the achilles tendon by failing to really load it up with kinetic energy. Walking may be biomechanically closer to standing than running.

    * The big debate is always heel vs mid vs forefoot landing just like running. I'm starting to see that it may not really matter when walking. This may be partially because you're not landing a foot after being airborne like you are with running. Instead, you're just placing one foot in front of the other keeping them both on the ground so it's possible to land heel-first safely as long as you're not trying to walk fast.

    * A little bit of over-stride while walking probably is OK and "natural" because both feet are on the ground. Your stride length is perhaps rightfully determined in part by how far out in front of you you're placing that lead foot and not a braking move like it is with running because it's not a landing move and more of a placement.

    * Walking fast is probably not as healthy as running at the same speed if you're practicing good, safe running form because you have to take big, huge strides while walking meaning it's difficult to land on anything but your heel and your leg will be very straight when that heel touches down. This is really only feasible with cushioned walking shoes and is thought of as "low impact" compared to running but the assumption for the comparison to running is the horrible, over-striding, padded shoe, banging heels on the ground running too many people engage in and just about any activity is healthier for you than that.

    * Because people don't get injured as bad or as often walking there just isn't as much urgency to figure out how to walk "safely" as there is with running where the injury rates have been so high.

    Therefore: I'd say it's probably OK to walk landing a bit on your heel as long as you're on your midfoot when your whole weight is applied. And instead of trying to walk faster it's healthier to just go right to light, slow-paced running. It's probably not healthy to walk at 15 minute/mile pace like a lot of fitness walkers are doing when you could be jogging with safer form at that pace with a lot less knee-wrenching impact.
     
    #3 trevize1138, Oct 26, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2017
    Barefoot TJ and nck like this.
  4. nck

    nck
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Germany &...

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2017
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    13
    Thank you for your answer. I never had though about walking speed at all, but what you say makes sense. But couldn't the speed be increased by having a higher cadence instead of a longer stride?

    Since I posted this I also found this video from some barefoot cultures:


    After watching it a couple of times in slow motion, All of them seem to walk with:
    -Heel touching first, as you already explained.
    -Knee slightly bent when the heel touches the ground.
    -Not big strides.
    -The toes land progressively, first the small one and end with the big one.
    -I'm not quiet sure, but it seems like they don't go to toe of until they have the other heel in the ground (Do you think so?)
    -There is in general not much counterotation movement, just some arm swinging, I don't know if it's specific to the situation or they actually walk always like that.

    But on the toes, if we should spread our toes or press the floor with the big toe (flexion) I can't see anything with that quality, and haven't found much information yet.
     
    trevize1138 likes this.
  5. nck

    nck
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Germany &...

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2017
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    13
    Do you also have the 1st met behind the 2nd, or just the toe? Here they talk about that interdigit space but maybe the point is not the space but having the 1st met aligned with the 1st toe. In many people that implies having a bigger space.
    https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/the-real-function-of-the-big-toe

    I had read that article some days ago, but I just read it again and found interesting that "windlass mechanism":


    So this may suggest that we should press with the big toe during toe of right?
     
    Barefoot TJ likes this.
  6. Christian Lemburg

    Christian Lemburg
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Germany &...

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2014
    Messages:
    192
    Likes Received:
    246
    For some more resources on barefoot walking, see https://www.thebarefootrunners.org/threads/formerly-flat-feet-arching-inwards.20868/#post-190394 .

    The book by Wim Luijpers has a good integrative approach to walking. It has some good practical exercises, and very good cues for training. The Feldenkrais background helps a lot. You will not understand this topic from motion pictures and frame-by-frame analysis. Things happen too fast for that. You need cues and images you can relate to during movement.
     
    Barefoot TJ, nck and trevize1138 like this.
  7. Gordon

    Gordon
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2015
    Messages:
    123
    Likes Received:
    112
    Walking with a heel-first landing and a toe off increases the effective length of your leg and is far more efficient than using a forefoot landing. That doesn't necessarily mean that you bang your heel down, but it should touch first and then rise before lift off for lowest energy cost/mile.

    Edited to add: Check out figure 1 for a visual: http://jeb.biologists.org/content/jexbio/219/23/3729.full.pdf

    The physical problems caused by racewalking come from the extreme nature of the movement - but then again these guys are doing a 10K in 37 minutes! Walking at just under a 6 minute/mile pace! That's gotta hurt in the long run. I've got relatively short legs for my height, 32", but I can walk comfortably at a 13:30 per mile pace barefoot without banging my heels down or landing with a straight leg. Any faster than that and running is more comfortable for me, even though I haven't reached the theoretical crossover speed where speed and heart rate are equal for both. I guess that means that there's still room for improving my walking technique. :) I focus on rotating my pelvis for power and turnover rather than trying to stretch out my stride. YMMV
     
    #7 Gordon, Oct 26, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2017
    Barefoot TJ, nck and trevize1138 like this.
  8. trevize1138

    trevize1138
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Minnesota

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2017
    Messages:
    85
    Likes Received:
    121
    Well, technically ... ;)
     
    #8 trevize1138, Oct 27, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017
    Gordon likes this.
  9. trevize1138

    trevize1138
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Minnesota

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2017
    Messages:
    85
    Likes Received:
    121
    I've tried walking with a higher cadence and it seems to me there's a limit there because of elasticity. Move your feet too fast and you engage tendon recoil which will start to spring you along and then you're running. This year with my running club I've been having people practice running in place at 180 steps/minute and make them notice how it's nearly impossible to keep both feet on the ground at that cadence: their feet literally spring back up with too much recoil to keep them down.

    So, it seems to go back to that fundamental difference between running and walking where walking will always have a significantly slower cadence and it might be a lot more about stride length. I'd love to see someone put research into what's truly the optimal biomechanical threshold past which you should stop walking and start running. I strongly suspect most people are pushing too far past that threshold by walking too fast. Sure, it's possible to walk at 15 min/mile and just about anybody at any fitness level can do that but it may be better to run at that speed (assuming you're using safe, efficient form) for numerous reasons.

    I see a lot of guessing out there that if heel-first running is bad heel-first walking must also be bad. The problem with that assumption goes back to my first, fundamental point: running is not walking. A heel strike while running is usually a symptom of over-striding as it's easier to land on your heel if your foot is out past your center-of-mass (COM). And over-striding while running is damaging because you're landing after being airborne with your whole leg positioned horribly: taking in impact with a straighter knee while also braking your speed. As you can see in that video they're all placing their feet a bit in front of their COM while walking. They may not be big strides but they are slightly over-striding but that's not a bad thing if you're walking.

    And most of the time they're touching heels first but sometimes it's forefoot first. Just now I was fixing breakfast for my kids and while navigating my kitchen I'd occasionally shift to walking on my forefoot if I had to step around a stool but otherwise I'm heel-first. How your foot lands really depends on a lot of varied factors.

    I do think part of the reason we have such a heel-strike "problem" in the industrialized world is so many of us just don't run at all but everybody walks. Therefore, we make this false equivalency that running is just like walking except you're airborne between steps and you see all those good traits of walking horribly applied to running, namely landing in front of your COM heel-first with far too slow a cadence. Heel pads in shoes prevent us from feeling just how wrong that is.

    I'll have to give all of these more thought and study! I really don't have much of an opinion and haven't paid enough attention to all of that.
     
    Barefoot TJ, Gordon and nck like this.
  10. nck

    nck
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Germany &...

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2017
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    13
    Thank you. I had already seen that youtube channel and some more which also talk about that forefoot landing, but I haven't gone in depth because I wasn't sure if I'm learning wrong habits which and I have to latter "forget".

    I'm from Spain and I don't find any resources in Spanish that talk about how should we walk, there is just some information about running. In the English community almost all resources which are about walking (not many) talk about heel striking most of the time, both for observation in other cultures and the energy saving argument. And now I'm living in Germany and, although my German isn't already that good, I can more or less understand 80-90% of what I hear or read, I've been trying to improve it by reading a lot and here it seems that all the resources talk only about forefoot landing while walking, just as the links you provide about the "ballengang". I don't understand how can it be such a big difference between countries in the general opinion about this.

    Do you really think that book is worth it to "relearn" how to walk and hike injury free?
     
    Barefoot TJ and trevize1138 like this.
  11. trevize1138

    trevize1138
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Minnesota

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2017
    Messages:
    85
    Likes Received:
    121
    ¿De done eres? :) Fui en España en '91 en Zaragoza por un mez y una semana norte cerca de Tolosa y Pamplona.
     
  12. nck

    nck
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Germany &...

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2017
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    13
    He vivido en muchos sitios, pero la mayor parte del tiempo y donde están mis padres en Cantabria, al lado de Asturias, a 200-300km de Tolosa hacia el oeste. ;)
     
    trevize1138 likes this.
  13. Gordon

    Gordon
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2015
    Messages:
    123
    Likes Received:
    112
    I agree. I tend toward 120 steps per minute.

    This paper talks a lot about that. http://barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/Nature2004_EnduranceRunningandtheEvolutionofHomo.pdf Look particularly at figure 2b. I've been unable to reach the point where the curves meet without feeling discomfort. I did have to work on my walking technique a bit to get to 13:30, where I stopped playing with it. Initially, 16:00 pace felt a bit uncomfortable. Cranking my hips rather than pushing/reaching with my legs was the key to more easy speed.

    Bingo

    Most people focus on foot position at touchdown when it's actually shin angle that matters. There are some world-class marathon runners who heel strike. If you look closely at their landings, their shin is vertical or past vertical when their heel touches ...

    Turns out from a physics perspective, that you must land slightly in front of your COM when running, too. That is if you want to remain running and not plowing a furrow in the dirt with your face. :) The key word is "slightly", and if you've been overstriding, it feels like "under" or even "behind", so that makes a great cue. Steve Magness discussed this in one of his blog posts years ago.

    That's a great insight. Heels in shoes also force a premature landing even if the foot and leg are properly positioned ...
     
    Barefoot TJ, trevize1138 and nck like this.
  14. Barefoot TJ

    Barefoot TJ
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    1. Test Chapter
    2. Nomad
    3. Hidden...
    4. Hidden...

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2010
    Messages:
    18,696
    Likes Received:
    5,241
    Another great thread!

    I think it's natural to walk heel-to-toe, since our weight is behind our center of gravity. It's went we increase speed and lean forward that we stop striking the ground with our heels and, hopefully, land more ball-of-foot to heel-kiss.
     
    Collapse Signature Expand Signature
    nck likes this.
  15. Barefoot TJ

    Barefoot TJ
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    1. Test Chapter
    2. Nomad
    3. Hidden...
    4. Hidden...

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2010
    Messages:
    18,696
    Likes Received:
    5,241
    Yes, I have full-on MT. My second metatarsal is longer than the first, as well as the toe. There is no space between my first and second met and my first and second toe when I am standing. Notice that my 2nd and 3rd toes are spaced (my own little defect). Here's a picture:

    TJ's_MT.jpg
     
    Collapse Signature Expand Signature
    nck likes this.
  16. trevize1138

    trevize1138
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Minnesota

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2017
    Messages:
    85
    Likes Received:
    121
    OK, now that is something I hadn't even thought to test for myself! I just tried 120 on a metronome and walked a bit and, sure enough, that feels about right. What I find interesting here is I've seen a lot of beginner runners going at a 120 cadence and maybe only slightly higher. One guy on the running subreddit was complaining that he couldn't go more than 2-3 miles without his legs burning at 9-10 minutes/mile and mentioned that his cadence was 120. And ever since I've taken notice of every time I see the "average" runner out working off the holiday cheer and they're all right around 120 or maybe slightly quicker but nowhere near 180.

    That's certainly more evidence that people really are mistaking running as being identical to walking except you're airborne between steps.

    It also correlates with what I was reading once about the average recreational cyclist's preferred pedal RPM which is around 60. That's identical to a 120 cadence. The ideal pedal RPM should be anywhere from 90 (180 cadence!) to 110. That's what experienced cyclists are spinning at. When they had professional cyclists try to keep race pace on a stationary trainer shifted into a gear to achieve 60rpm they couldn't last more than 5-7 minutes. Once they let them choose their own gear ratio they all fell somewhere between 90 and 110 rpm and could keep that same race pace just about indefinitely.

    Cool! So ~1.5m/s or 3.3mph does look to be the optimal speed for walking afterall.


    No reason for me to doubt that. :) Yeah, the important thing for people to keep in mind is feeling like they're landing under their COM and not reaching far out in front of themselves with each step.

    Man, especially since you pointed out the 120 walking cadence! It just all fits together.
     
    nck and Barefoot TJ like this.
  17. Barefoot TJ

    Barefoot TJ
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    1. Test Chapter
    2. Nomad
    3. Hidden...
    4. Hidden...

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2010
    Messages:
    18,696
    Likes Received:
    5,241
    About this link you shared, good one too: https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/the-real-function-of-the-big-toe I think what the author is saying is "what is desirable" in an athlete's foot structure to avoid damage such as ACL (as one example). I never had ACL problems when I ran high miles each week...40 on average over a very long period of time, all barefoot.
     
    Collapse Signature Expand Signature
    nck likes this.
  18. Christian Lemburg

    Christian Lemburg
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Germany &...

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2014
    Messages:
    192
    Likes Received:
    246
    I think the book is worth it if you want to learn a more "gentle" way to walk. I am not sure if you need that to walk injury free. Personally, I like the way forefoot walking feels, but I do walk heel first, too. It all depends on your walking speed, the ground, and how much load you carry, as well as your energy and focus. I would certainly recommend the book to anybody interested in the topic of how we walk, but I don't think you need it to walk injury free. It gives you more options and insight.

    The idea that you need to "relearn" how to walk is something I would reserve for serious medical rehabilitation training. I am not sure it applies to healthy adults. Of course you can learn to walk more efficiently, more gentle, more whatever, but do you need to relearn walking as a healthy adult to stay injury free? I would doubt that.

    I like to learn effective ways to move. The book helps with that, for walking. Walking in itself is a very safe activity with a low risk of injury. Any amount of relearning will probably not lower that injury risk significantly for healthy adults.
     
    Gordon and nck like this.
  19. Sly

    Sly
    Expand Collapse
    Chapter Presidents
    1. Portugal

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2013
    Messages:
    667
    Likes Received:
    1,551
    my two cents :
    on easy surfaces (road, sand,..), I gently heel-land
    on challenging surfaces (gravel), I very gently full-foot-land
    this full foot landing is not an action from the ankle, but it comes from the knee :
    on challenging surfaces, my steps are shorter and my knee much more bent
     
    Collapse Signature Expand Signature
    Gordon and nck like this.
  20. nck

    nck
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Germany &...

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2017
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    13
    That's a really interesting point. Do you think this applies to walking? Landing with a bigger angle due to a longer stride or a straight leg, could make the tibialis muscle work to pull forward and therefore contribute to having shin splits because that load is too much for the muscle.
     
    Gordon likes this.

Share This Page