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Best foot forward – our advice for taking up walking

imgWe’ve been inspired by many of the celebrities who have completed amazing Sport Relief feats: Radio 1 DJ Greg James completing five triathlons in five days; Alan Shearer and Robbie Savage’s 57 hour five-a-side tournament; and actor and comedian Eddie Izzard completing 27 marathons in the South African heat!

But we reckon it’s comedian Jo Brand’s achievement that could really inspire people, not only to support the Sport Relief fundraising but to make a change in their own lives. Back in February Jo completed a 150 mile coast to coast walk over seven days. Has hearing about 58 year old Jo’s achievement of walking 20+ miles a day for a week inspired you to take up long distance walking?

Walking is undoubtedly a marvellous way of keeping active and getting some regular exercise. It’s a gentle and efficient way to burn calories and control your metabolism. Walking gets you out into the great outdoors and, as with other forms of exercise, releases endorphins that can help protect against stress, anxiety and depression. It’s a mood-booster alright and walking in a group with other people has benefits for fighting depression and loneliness too. Plus it’s been reported that walking regularly can help us live longer.

If you’d like to start walking distances longer than a stroll in the park, our osteopath Josh McCollum has this advice for you.

Walking footwear

As you prepare to take up walking, it’s important to get the correct footwear to help reduce your risk of injury. Get advice from a quality walking equipment store – different walking shoe brands have different benefits and a sales assistant can help you based on your foot shape and the type of terrain you plan to walk on. Gait analysis to help protect your arch may also be recommended.

When choosing your walking shoes, it’s a good idea to go shopping in the middle of the afternoon. This is because our feet expand during the day so waiting until mid afternoon to try on footwear will give a truer picture of how it will feel when you’re out walking.

Other things to remember:

  • Your shoes should be well cushioned.
  • Your feet should be stable – you don’t want your feet to slide about within your shoes.
  • Double skin socks can help to reduce your chance of getting blisters.

Remember to stretch

Warming up and cooling down through stretching are paramount to avoiding an injury, as for other forms of exercise.

After a short warm up and before you head out on your walk, do the following stretches:

Standing quadricep stretch – Face a wall and place one hand on it for support. Bend your leg behind you with your foot towards your buttock and hold your leg by the ankle. Pull your foot closer to your buttock and hold the stretch for 15 seconds. Repeat with your other leg.

Standing calf stretch – Face a wall and place both hands on it for support. With one leg in front and one behind, keep the rear leg straight and bend the front leg at the knee and lean towards the wall, bending your arms. Keep both feet flat on the ground and hold the stretch in the back calf for 15 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.

Standing hamstring stretch – Again facing a wall, put one leg up in front of you with your foot flat on the wall, parallel to the ground. Slowly bend the supporting leg to lower your body until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat with the other leg.

Plantar fascia stretch – To avoid strain of the fibrous connective tissue on the bottom of the foot, use a water bottle to massage the underneath of your foot. Place the bottle on the floor and roll it backwards and forwards with the bottom of your foot in controlled movements. Repeat with the other foot.

Give your feet some TLC

Caring for your feet properly is key to reducing injury, maintaining your regime and making sure your time out walking is comfortable. Here are Josh’s three very simple tips:

  1. Always dry your feet well after bathing or showering.
  2. Cut your nails regularly.
  3. Choose acrylic socks over cotton ones as they reduce perspiration.

Josh adds, “Remember to start off slowly and build up your speed and endurance gradually. And be realistic with your goal setting – going too hard, too quickly will often end in injury.”

We wish you well on your walking journey, wherever it may take you!

 

Arthritis Action
The Institute of Osteopathy
British Institute of Osteopathy
General Osteopathic Council
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