These Shoes Were Made For Walking
Your first steps may have been decades ago as toddler, but even as an energetic child, you were on to something good: walking. You can’t turn on the TV or radio today without hearing how “sitting is the new smoking.” Over the last 30 years, in a quest to make man’s life easier, numerous developments and advancing technology have ushered in a whole new era of sedentary individuals. We now live in a world where humans don’t need to move as much because so many things can be done at the end of our fingertips. Too cold? - let me adjust the temperature of the room from my phone instead of getting up and walking across the room to the thermostat! But enough of that diatribe. Thanks to Sir Isaac Newton, we all know that a body in motion stays in motion, a good philosophy to adhere to as we travel down life’s road, hence the conundrum. When the world seems to be doing everything to encourage sedentary behavior, how do we overcome the negative effects of such behavior? The answer is easy: listen to our bodies. The human body is a beautiful machine capable of doing remarkable things. Designed to move, it stays at its best when active. And remember, being active means many things, not just an all out intense aerobics class.
As a Physical Therapist, I consistently educate people on the importance of keeping the body in motion to which I often receive the scrunched up face and the immediate, “I don’t have time to exercise,” “I just don’t like going to the gym,” or “ I don’t like to get all sweaty; it’s not fun.” Boy, if I had a dollar for every time I heard this, I would be retired and living on the beach somewhere. But, I digress. The solution that I immediately throw back to these nay-sayers is: walking.
Walking offers numerous health benefits, is easy to do (no complicated equipment to buy or difficult choreography to learn), is low impact (minimal stress to the joints) and has low cost of implementation (a pair of sneakers).
In late 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued its updated guidelines for physical activity, the first update in ten years. HHS currently recommends that adults need at a minimum 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity a week. Guess what? Walking is defined as a “moderate’ activity.
Now, let’s knock off the dust of those packed away sneakers, lace up and discover some of my favorite great things a walking program can do for you!
Improves your mood: research shows that regular walking actually changes your nervous system, it decreases your anger and hostility emotions
Your waistband will be less snug: regular walking changes your body composition by improving your body’s response to insulin which in turn helps to reduce body fat, so while you may not notice a difference in the number on the scales, rest assured your body is getting leaner by mobilizing fat and preventing muscle loss leading to increased metabolism
Decreases your risk of chronic and metabolic diseases: countless research studies have documented the benefits of walking from lowering blood sugar levels, blood pressure and preventing loss of muscle
Keeps legs youthful looking: the risk ofvaricose veins: the bane of growing older, is decreased because walking strengthens our “secondary heart”, the part of the circulatory system comprised of the muscles, veins, and values located in the foot and calf, and if you should already have fallen prey to varicose veins, walking eases the related swelling and restlessness, or if you are predisposed to them, walking can delay their onset
Digestion improves: kind of a no brainer here, walking strengthens our core and abdominal muscles encouraging our GI (gastrointestinal) system to “get moving, too”
All of your goals will seem more attainable: dedicating yourself to a regular routine that gives you energy and a sense of accomplishment will only motivate you to find the same kind of success in any other adventure you take on, heck, it might even lead you to take on new projects or behaviors you never thought you would.
As you can see I am a huge fan of waking as a form of activity to get a body moving. I intersperse walking with my intense aerobic and strength training program as I get all the health benefits I could want, and since I am usually walking with someone, it also ups my social game.
Logicality dictates that I know or at least think I know your next question -“What about shoes?” - a good question indeed. Your goal is to find comfortable, functional shoes that were made for walking. (See what I did there?) Seriously, there are a multitude of good shoes on the market for waking, and as I tell people, your foot and gait (how you walk) are as unique as your fingerprints, so take the time and money to invest in the pair that’s the best fit for you. I have listed some things for you to consider when purchasing walking shoes.
1. Low-profile because walkers generally don’t need as much cushioning as runners (remember it’s a low impact activity so shock absorption is not key)
2. Contoured to allow for the natural “roll-through motion” of walking
3. Beveled on the outer edge for increased foot and ankle stability for efficient heel strike
4. Heel counter made of plastic or a composite material to reinforce the heel and keep it snugly in place as you walk
1. Flex grooves need to be cut horizontally across the forefoot to allow for the foot to bend and flex properly during the gait cycle
2. For shoes without flex grooves make sure outsole materials are flexible
1. Look for shoes that are a combination of leather and synthetic materials often in mesh form; this combo allows for the durability and stability of leather while offering the convenience of lightness and breathability of synthetic materials
1. Walking shoes have a bigger toe box to allow for the toes to flex up with heel strake and spread out with toe off portion of the gait cycle
2. If your foot cramps and is painful during walking, the culprit is probably too small a toe box.
3. A good rule of thumb is to have about a thumb’s width between the end of your longest toe and the front of the shoe AND the top of the shoe.
When to buy new walking shoes:
1. Look at the soles-if they are worn out or unevenly worn, replace them.
2. At 500 miles or 6 months due to breakdown of the cushioning
3. Remember if you are using your walking shoes for any other activity those miles count toward the 500 as well
Hopefully you now have a good overall picture of the benefits of walking and enough information to get you started on finding proper footwear for your tootsies.
Happy walking, and remember to share some of your walking adventures with me!
Fun Facts About Shoes:
Did you know that the oldest surviving shoes which were made of rope date back around 10,000 years?
Did you know that the right shoe wasn't invented till 1818? Until that time there was no distinction between shoes made for the right or left feet and where the saying "two left feet" originated. The first pair of right and left shoes were manufactured in Philadelphia.
Did you know that the word "sneaker" was a brilliant marketing term developed by Henry Nelson McKinney to describe the newly invented rubber soled shoe? Keds were the first sneakers, invented in 1917.
All information in this article is solely the opinion of the author and for educational purposes only. It is not for treatment or prescription.