Let’s presume it’s the start of summer and we’re in May (which is national walking month), one of the most perfect times of the year to get out and enjoy the fresh air and the sights of your town.
Now, on the face of it, walking appears to be a really safe way to keep fit and active and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re being kind to your knees by doing it regularly.
But, there are a few things I’d like you to know about walking to make sure your walk is as enjoyable, as healthy and as comfortable as possible.
So here goes: how strong and flexible your lower back is will affect how painful your knees become if you’re a regular walker.
Also important is the surface you walk or run on, such as a hard or uneven surface, or a soft piece of grassland. And the one most people don’t know about… what you choose to wear on your feet. So let’s talk about the latter – and make sure you know everything you need to know about it to protect yourself as best you can.
OK, if you enjoy a gentle evening stroll along the sea front, or around the local park whilst chatting with a friend, then a simple pair of cushioned trainers will do.
But, seriously, be careful with your choice as some of the fashionable plimsoll-style trainers offer very little support for your ankles and feet and will mean that your knee joint is likely to be moving around a little too much.
If that happens, your knee bones will rub together, causing the wear and tear to increase. The problem is this: you’ll never know it’s happening, at least not until you see some swelling or feel heat coming from your knee.
I assure you, your knee is under much added stress if your footwear isn’t protecting it by absorbing some shock from the pavement and keeping it in a steady position.
A similar thing can happen if you wear flip-flops or sandals.
This is a particular problem for ladies in the summer months who choose to swap their high heels for lighter sandals.
Don’t be surprised if after a two-week holiday when you’ve likely been wearing flat sandals all day, you suddenly develop a pain in and around the back of your ankle.
If you do, it’s a good sign that you’ve irritated your Achilles tendon – which can be a long-term problem that many ladies suffer from daily.
Walking along the beach or around the park is one thing, but if you’re a bit more adventurous and like to walk in the hills or woods, or, you’re a serious weekend walker and part of a group who do it for more than just fun, then your footwear choice has to be much more sturdy.
With that in mind, here’s a nice little story for you.
In March 2013 I took a walk up a mountain called Toubkal, in Morocco.
At 4167 meters above sea level it’s the highest mountain in North Africa and to conquer it I had no option but to choose comfort and safety over style and opt for proper mountain climbing boots.
And you should too – even if you’re not climbing mountains in North Africa, but are just regularly walking on a hilly or gravelly surface, you should make sure you’re wearing the right walking boots.
Now, have you got a pen handy? Because I want you to make a note of this next tip that I’ve got for you, which might save you some frustration and some money.
If you’re ever purchasing a pair of walking shoes, the best time to try them on in the shop is late morning or mid-afternoon.
Why? Because your feet swell up during the day and if you go and get fitted for shoes first thing in the morning, you might not get an accurate fit and end up buying a pair that seemed to fit perfectly in the shop, but are actually just a bit too tight when you put them on.
And that’s not good for comfort or blood circulation to your ankle joint.
We’re nearly finished this section, but before we do, one final thing to note on the topic of walking: if you’re already suffering from something like a bad or stiff lower back, or have arthritic knees, it’s best to avoid hilly and uneven surfaces completely.
For all of the good reasons I’ve already written about, walking on these surfaces makes it more likely that you’ll have a more swollen knee, or an even stiffer lower back due to the extra pressure, stress and demands placed on your body.
To sum up: walking on flat, even surfaces is much healthier for your joints and will likely limit any problems enough to allow you to enjoy your walking for years to come.
To continue reading this book, please head over to this website now: www.thehealthyhabitbook.com to collect your copy of the amazing new book written by Physio Paul Gough.
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