Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
8 Jun

The Definitive Guide to Walking

walkingAt first glance, this title probably threw you off. I mean, a guide to walking? Are we moderns really that dysfunctional that we can’t even walk correctly? C’mon, Sisson – you must be out of ideas.

Bear with me, here.

It may seem silly to need a definitive guide to walking, but I think we do. First off, walking is no longer necessary for basic everyday survival. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part, the average person reading this blog can get by just fine without walking more than a couple hundred yards each day. Whether via buses, trains, cars, bikes, or delivery services, you’re not going to starve or die of thirst just because you don’t or can’t walk. I’ll argue that walking is an essential human activity that we ignore to our ultimate detriment, but millions of people do exactly that and think nothing of it. Progress? In a wider societal sense, sure. But on an individual level, people still need to walk.

Second, because walking is no longer “necessary,” we – the general, inclusive “we,” not necessarily the Vibram-clad elite – have forgotten how, when, where, and why to walk. Our technique is shot, we lack proper scope (a mile sounds daunting), we don’t even think to make time for regular walking for walking’s sake, and walking is seen as the last resort to be employed only when the tire’s busted, the train isn’t running, or the bus is late. Kids don’t walk home from school anymore (what, with all the lurking pedophiles?), people hop in the car to run down to the corner market.

I don’t always like to pull the “Grok logic” card, because it doesn’t always apply to our current situation. Here, though? Yeah. It makes sense, so pull it I shall. Walking is our birthright. The weird way we humans do it – obligatorily upright, hands free to wield tools and weapons, harsh sunlight coming at us from an angle instead of head on, relatively generous glutes making the whole production go – gives us a survival advantage. Well, it gave us enough of one to help us blanket the globe with funny shaped footprints. And our feet aren’t exclusive to homo sapiens: a 1.5 million-years old homo ergaster footprint preserved in Kenyan mud reveals that hominids have been using essentially the same feet and the same stride for hundreds of thousands of years. That means that before our big complex brains hit the scene, the same feet you enjoy today were stomping mud and carrying our distant ancestors around. These feet are millions of years in the making. I’d say that’s a pretty good track record, and I think it’d be a shame if you didn’t utilize them.

Grok walked a lot. Heck, he walked everywhere. Riding animals didn’t appear until after the agricultural revolution, so unless you buy into the ancient aliens theory, you accept that our paleolithic ancestors relied on self-ambulation to get around. It seems pretty plausible to suggest that we’re probably well-adapted to walking on a regular basis. I’d even go so far as to posit that walking might even be highly beneficial to our health and well-being. Given our extensive history with the activity, you might even say our genes “expect” us to walk.

What does the evidence show? Surprise, surprise: walking is good for you and enacts multiple beneficial changes in our bodies. To name a few:

I could go on but I won’t. Suffice it to say, walking is overall a healthy activity. I don’t think there’s any disputing that. Besides, droning on about the physiological benefits of walking detracts from the real reason I want you to walk so much: it’s an enjoyable way to get out, move, be active, and experience the world.

Despite it being our birthright and really healthy and all that jazz, many of us would be well served with some walking technique tips. Note that I don’t condone the usage of bulky, heel-centric shoes, so all technique tips given assume that you are barefoot or in minimalist shoes with minimal to zero heel drop. Sorry, but that’s just how I roll.

The Leisurely Stroll

This is the everyday walk you use when walking to the farmers’ market, through the mall, or down to the watering hole across relatively flat ground. Lead with the heel, a straight but not locked leg, touch down briefly and lightly before transferring the weight onto the balls of your feet. What you get is a smooth rolling sensation. Check to make sure your glutes are firing by walking with hands on cheeks. You should feel your glutes tense up with each step. In public, this looks suspect, so do the self-assessment from the comfort of your own home. This is not heel-striking, which is a running style characterized by repeatedly slamming one’s heel into the ground to the ultimate detriment of one’s lower extremities. This is heel-touching, and it’s far less abrasive.

The Stalk

When you’re hunting something or making your way across an uneven landscape dotted with rocks, sticks, and (like, maybe, you’re hiking off trail) other bits, use the stalk. Keeping your knees slightly bent at all times, walk by focusing on the balls of your feet. Your heels will touch, but your midfoot lands first. Take shorter steps than you would when heel-touching.

Walking Uphill

Land fore/midfoot first. Touch down with the heel and engage your glutes to propel you upward. Repeat with other foot.

Walking Downhill

I like landing with my entire foot. Maybe the heel hits first, but I try to land with my whole foot. Walking downhill is an exercise in stopping yourself from hurtling downward, so this can get tough. Absorb the impact with your hips by keeping the weight on your heels, rather than your toes.

Whichever method of walking you use, always keep your torso on top of your hips. Stay upright (you’re a biped, so act like it!). A floppy torso that bends and sways throws off your balance and wastes valuable energy. Stay tall.

In my experience, it’s the easy, seemingly inconsequential stuff that’s the hardest sell. The crazier, more unconventional stuff gets all the attention. Tons of people get out there and do heavy squats, order grass-fed cows, buy the latest Vibram model, learn to love liver, and proudly stride barefoot into the grocery store – but they drove to get there. It’s the easy things, like walking regularly and often, that are somehow the hardest to do. They’re the easiest to ignore. Walking? Yeah, it’s nice, it’s relaxing, but it won’t put on the mass and elicit the hormonal response of a set of heavy deadlifts. It isn’t sexy.

Walking matters, folks. Big time. If we stop moving, even if we’re standing at our desks and hitting the gym every other day, we’re dying. We’re telling our bodies that we’ve given up, that it’s okay to shut down, that all those millions of years of daily, constant walking were an aberration, a mistake, a fluke. That’s folly. I think you know it, but I don’t know if you know it.

So get moving – starting tomorrow. Wake up ten minutes early tomorrow and use that extra time to walk around the block. Practice the different walking techniques. Go barefoot. Feel the ground beneath you. Enjoy the still dewy blades of grass slipping between your toes. Feel the serrated edges stimulate those long-dormant nerves. Ignore the mythical broken glass, infected syringes, and rusty nails littering the ground and welcome the occasional uncomfortable rock digging into your sole. It happens, but that’s life, and it’s okay. Just keep it moving and leave it all behind.

Do you take time out of your schedule to walk? Should you? Do you have better things to do? Let us know how you incorporate walking into a world where walking is a leisure activity!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. When first replaced my regular shoes with Invisible Shoes (“barefoot sandals”), I was shocked to discover how aggressively I walked, slamming my heel into the ground, jamming force into my knees and hips.

    I felt like I was late for a business meeting in New York, even though I was strolling through idyllic Boulder, Colorado.

    Happily, the feedback from being barefoot — but with a layer of protection — totally changed my gait. I usually land midfoot, or I sort of roll past my heel (it’s more of a flat footed stride). And I tend to search out beds of rocks or mulch, because walking over those in my sandals is like getting a reflexology treatment ;-)

    Steven wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • I have noticed that exact problem with myself. Slowly but surely my gait is becoming more relaxed, but it was just so surprising to find that I didn’t even know how to walk correctly!

      Shamra wrote on June 8th, 2011
  2. Great post! When I started wearing Vibrams and walking barefoot, I felt like I had to completely relearn how to walk. I found that I walked much harder than I expected and always struck with my heel first… probably from years of wearing heels.
    Now that I’ve adjusted to walking barefoot, I find that I walk much more softly and with a mid-foot strike, even in non-barefoot shoes.
    Thanks for the reminder- walking is something almost everyone can do. Added bonus, if you walk outside, during the day, you get fresh air and Vitamin D!

    Katie wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • I love walking barefoot! I have a 17 month old and I think he has only worn shoes a handful of time… the rest of the time he is barefoot.

      Lindsey wrote on June 8th, 2011
      • I really strongly think that this is why being barefoot as adults is so liberating and stress relieving, it brings us back to the peace of mind we had when we were children. I notice a distinct difference in my mood when I go a few days without a quiet walk in the woods.

        Nutritionator wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • I totally agree. I do a lot of walking since I live close to everything. But once I changed from running shoes to the vibrams my stride, and posture changed for the better. I love how my body feels now, with no more pain in knees, or lower back.

      christine wrote on June 20th, 2011
  3. I LOVE walking rather than driving but find it a bit difficult in the suburbs where I bought a house (bad decision!) I looked up the “walkability” of my address and it was only a 5 out of 100! Laughably awful and definitely not primal!!

    You can check out your score at walk score dot com. Hopefully you live somewhere more pedestrian friendly than I do!

    Crunchy Pickle wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • Cool website, but sorta slanted. My address got a score of 35, apparently because I am too far from downtown, which I could easily reach by bike. I live a stone’s throw from a fantastic riverside trail. I can easily walk to grocery stores, banks, Borders, a university, a bus stop and good restaurants.

      Harry wrote on June 8th, 2011
      • It’s not the best data, because the (rather large) neighborhood my address is lumped under gets a 42 (despite my house being within a mile of all kinds of amenities) while the next neighborhood over, which is one street away from me (and closer to my house than the majority of the one they lump me in) gets a 73. Quite a difference for walking one street up, lol!

        Erin (Pretty in Primal) wrote on June 10th, 2011
        • yeah, the scores seem to be based upon some advertising of the listed locales. My home is under 1 mile from a theater, a library, a shopping area (cobbler, anyone?), a movie theater, a gym, a YMCA, schools, a few restaurants, and a train to a major city and 2-ish miles from major stores and amenities. 48??? I chose it for complete walkability 25 years ago.

          doctorkira wrote on April 9th, 2012
    • i get a 97 out of 100. that is one advantage of city life, despite the other potential downsides.

      shz wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • The key to walking is slowing down. You can walk no matter where you live. it doesn’t really matter how close things are.

      I grew up in the suburbs and I walked everywhere! It was slow going but so far superior to driving. I had the opportunity to see so much and think so long. I loved spending my days on foot. I didn’t even bother to get my drivers license till I was 19.

      I have only owned cars for a few years here and there in my life and again I don’t. I walk and ride my bike everywhere. It is satisfying to get myself around with my feet or my pedals instead of letting a car do it for me.

      Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on June 8th, 2011
      • Just out of curiosity PPP do you wear your helmet all the time now after your accident?

        Being Primal Dude wrote on June 8th, 2011
        • Quite obsessively, yes. Funny you ask though. Just on Monday it was 90 something degrees here and I took it off while I rode to pickup my daughter from preschool. I rationalized that it’s just a ride on quiet neighborhood streets, plus my reflexes are super fast since the accident. I’m wondering if I’m kind of obsessive about wearing my helmet now. It was a mountain biking accident after all and I only ride around my neighborhood anymore. I’m trying to convince myself that I don’t need a helmet. Maybe the accident really did do something to my brain!

          Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on June 8th, 2011
        • dont forget… it is not the speed we are moving forward, it is the fall from our saddle to the ground that breaks our noggin… use yer brain bucket whenever you are on a wheel!

          Notch wrote on July 29th, 2011
    • Thanks for the link! My good ol’ town has a walk score of 94, a “walker’s paradise.” But I knew that. :-)

      lyra wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • I’m not sure that motivation isn’t more important. My address is scored 20, but across from our suburban allotment is a nice 3 mile dirt trail. As often as possible when I need to run to the grocery for one or two bagfuls, we walk and talk the “long way” as often as possible. I just have to convince wife to do the possible more often ;)

      Be wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • i missed this…how do I get my score?

      Dasbutch wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • oops! never mind, got it.

      Dasbutch wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • it sucks, only a 15

      Dasbutch wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • I agree with one of the other responders. The website thinks it is great if you have to walk 20 feet to something. Also where I live it is 102 degrees reight now at 5 pm with 6% humidity. You don’t walk around in that stuff. A freind of mine broke down not 1 mile from my house and had to walk down the road (downhill literally) to another intersection about 3 miles away. I stopped by to see him the next day (I wasn’t home and where I work you cannot have a cell phone) and he was suffering from severe dehydration and still had symptoms of sunstroke. He is in shape and regularly walks the dog every day, but now that it is getting a bit warm you got to be very careful. Last week my GF saw a motorcyclist fall off his bike and collapse face down in the pavement because of the heat. Fortunately she was able to render aid and get the paramedics to get there fast. And forget about walking at night. You will run into rattlesnakes and other such nuisances out here at night. And vibrams? the pavement gets to nearly 300 degrees in the day and litrally melts. But I can go 1 mile down the road to the river park and walk to my hearts content. And the distances on their map are wrong too. I just drove to one of the spots and they overestimated it by about 50%. Yet this site will list a place in the middle of the urban area as having a really high score. Sure – if you don’t walk (at least more than 100 feet.)

      Primaldog wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • Thanks for the link. The itty bitty town I live in out in the boonies has a score of 51.

      hiker wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • My score was 0 out of 100! I live smack in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch farmland the benefit is there are alot of Amish selling their own eggs and produce!

      Maria wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • Well, at least its not a zero like I got.

      Steve wrote on June 11th, 2011
    • Too funny. My neighborhood gets an 83, which is definitely true on the surface: I’m close to all kinds of things. Unfortunately, it’s not the BEST neighborhood (though it’s near some nice ones), and as a woman, I don’t feel safe walking around alone. *sigh* I end up driving to the grocery store – a half mile away. :(

      Marste wrote on June 13th, 2011
    • My score was a 32 and we have all kinds of grocery and restaurants close by but it’s decidedly pedestrian unfriendly because we would have to walk along Rt. 40 with limited sidewalks and crosswalks where even though the speed limit is 50, people drive 60 and above.

      Lynna wrote on June 29th, 2011
    • I live out in the county in a small community around a lake. I walk or bike the lake daily with my 2 year old son. I want to bike into town (approx. 8 mins driving) but I’m a bit nervous about it. I checked out that site just for fun to see the rating my location got… yeah 0 out of 100 and I totally agree with that. I will work up the courage though to bike into town soon.

      Julia wrote on August 29th, 2011
    • This is funny, I didn’t look mine up, but I know that mine would have a horrible score since I live in the country and the nearest town is 8 miles away!

      Beth wrote on May 21st, 2012
  4. I’d love to ditch the car completely and walk everywhere, but my husband would have a fit like an 8 year old.

    Primal Palate wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • :)

      Lindsey wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • Then you get to do what you would do with an eight-year-old throwing a temper tantrum… walk away!

      Dani wrote on June 8th, 2011
  5. I love walking! My hubby and I were just talking on how times have changed. We often walk over to our local WF if we need to pick up just a few things but really I do not see it ideal to walk with 2 small ones 2 miles! I also love watching this neighbor of ours walk to get her weekly groceries. She even carries the bags on the way back – no cart just arm strength!

    Only if we could live in the Grok time! or even Jesus! I mean he walked everywhere. We walked the desert for 40 days — AMAZING! :) Wish I could do that! :)

    Great post!

    Lindsey wrote on June 8th, 2011
  6. I feel much the same as Steven above, but I get that feeling on Dublins cobblestoned streets in my VFF’s. The inconsistancy under foot just stretches it all out nicely!

    John Little wrote on June 8th, 2011
  7. I walk on my lunch break (~30minutes/1mi) but the summer heat is making it less attractive. I don’t like coming back to the office sweaty. I also try to walk about a mile in the evenings. And weekends are great for longer hikes.

    yodiewan wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • Have any staircases in your building? I’m in NC and the heat has been terrible already this year and only getting hotter. I make sure to do a couple “laps” on the stairs in my building (only 3 stories but it’s something) a day just to keep my blood flowing. Makes a big difference.

      Nutritionator wrote on June 8th, 2011
      • I second that comment on the heat. It has jumped to August here in NC already. I go out twice a day for ten minutes, so not too sweaty. Try to break it up

        Mike H wrote on June 8th, 2011
  8. Mark a great post and just what I needed. I’ve lost 50 lbs so far with just primal diet and this is a great way to transistion into working out. Thank you.

    primal tree top wrote on June 8th, 2011
  9. Got Nike Frees about 3 months ago and had to re-learn how to walk with a more mid to forefoot strike. Now when I put on my more conventional shoes I feel like I am wearing cement shoes.

    My next “steps” are some VFFs and some Sanuk sandals…and to figure out what to wear in Alberta at -40 that doesn’t feel like a boat!

    Chris Sturdy wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • Maybe should have mentioned that I (and my wife and 2 Westies) walk my daughter to school each morning (about 20′ round trip) and we typically get at least another 30′ walk in later. Yesterday we had 20′ in the am and then 2×30′ later in the day.

      Chris Sturdy wrote on June 8th, 2011
      • I wouldn’t recommend running in the Free’s, but they’re a good walking or gym show

        Nic wrote on June 8th, 2011
        • I like running in my Frees and my Merrell barefoot shoes.

          Lynna wrote on June 29th, 2011
  10. Walking feeds my brain. I don’t know how to explain it, but the more I walk the happier I get.
    And when my leg bones hurt from all the walking or hiking I’ve done all day I fall asleep with a smile on my face.

    Bicycling or swimming doesn’t give me that feeling at all.

    Katzenberg wrote on June 8th, 2011
  11. This is one of my favorite of your posts, Mark! I don’t own a car or a bike, so I do lots of walking every day – in addition to working out! I’ve always gotten a kick out of folks who drive to the gym to get on a treadmill – gotta love ‘em!

    Al Kavadlo wrote on June 8th, 2011
  12. I got to spend almost all last weekend completely barefoot. It was really great, and a lot of fun. In addition to this, it’d be a great idea to look at the mechanics of running, also. POSE method seems to work best for barefooters (or near barefooters). It’s really interesting to realize and feel how much easier running gets when you lean your chest forward and let gravity help you move.

    I’ve been using barefoot analog shoes for almost two years now, and they’ve been fantastic. I am a big fan of Merrell’s new “glove” series. They’re seriously comfortable and are pretty much stealth barefoot shoes. Especially handy for someone that has some level of toe or foot dysfunction, or just can’t stand the feel of things between their toes.

    Another thing to look at when improving the mechanics of your gait (too many hours/years/decades sitting in front of a TV or computer) is mobilityWOD. Kevin Starrett does a fantastic job of explaining the why, how, and what’s of increasing your range of motion as well as improving the mechanics of how you walk, lift, or do just about anything. He spends a LOT of time focusing on the legs (hip flexors, ankle ROM and flexibility, etc. VERY highly recommended.

    Hal wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • Thanks for those suggestions!!

      Gabrielle wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • Correction: I said Kevin Starrett runs mobilityWOD. It’s really KELLY Starrett. Apologies to ‘kstar’.

      Hal wrote on June 8th, 2011
  13. Walking has been a big, big part of me going primal. Before, at 280+, I was getting plantar fasciitis. It was brutal to walk at all, let alone walking enough to count as exercise.

    Once I committed to going primal I looked into how to walk barefoot (the Stroll, as you describe it above), and adopting that method, even in shoes, helped me get past the plantar flare-ups. Losing weight made them less frequent and milder, too. Now I walk quite a bit more — as exercise, and as practice to re-train good walking habits.

    I’m a big fan of the pedometer as a tool, too. Not very Grok-like, but it helps to have a stride-count to think of as a “score” for the day. I immediately went from less than 5k strides a day to 8-10k. Pretty useful, for a widget the size of a pack of gum.

    Mark wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • I seem to have all of the same problems that you did (palntar fascitis etc) is there a place you can point me to learn how to do “the stroll”?

      Gabrielle wrote on June 8th, 2011
      • I believe this was the most useful bit I read:
        http://nymag.com/health/features/46213/
        (Big article/ad for minimalist shoes, but there’s a good infographic on page 5)

        I seem to remember doing some searching in Nikolay’s “Free the animal” blog, too.

        Basically, for me, it was:
        1) Shorten my stride dramatically. (If I really am in a hurry, I just hustle a bit faster.) This keeps me from landing on the back of my heel and rolling through it. Instead the heel strikes more in the middle, very lightly, and just for a split second before rolling forward on to the balls of my feet and my toes.
        2) I found I was walking with my feet far apart and pronating my feet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pronating#Pronation_of_the_foot), so I started emphasizing walking with my feet further together. I actually bring the behind-foot forward and partially *around* the front one when walking (almost like a field sobriety test, but less-so.) This forces me to roll my weight forward along the outside of my foot, like it says in that infographic.

        I still get the odd bit of soreness in my feet, but it’s mild enough that I don’t mind “stretching it out” by taking a quick walk. (You know how PF is — it’s bad when you’ve been immobile for a while)

        Mark wrote on June 8th, 2011
        • thank you so much!!!!

          Gabrielle wrote on June 8th, 2011
      • I had problems with PF last summer when I jumped into minimal running with both feet – pun intended. Had to ho back to regular shoes for awhile and eased back into it with Nike Frees then easing into the Merrell barefoot shoes wearing them for short periods, then to work, then for longer runs (1 to 2 miles) and walks and no longer seem to have PF issues.

        Lynna wrote on June 29th, 2011
  14. I agree that so many people are daunted by the small stuff, particularly the sense of scale. When I lived a mile off campus, getting people to come over was difficult. Then, I moved farther off campus to a more walkable neighborhood, and I have to do virtually all the commuting because two miles is “too far”, even for those with bikes. But that being said, I walk everywhere, time permitting, and only bike or bus as a last resort.

    Ware wrote on June 8th, 2011
  15. Great post. Walking is my favourite activity (rock climbing a close second) and should be done daily for at least an hour in my opinion. I try to aim for 2. It’s the most natural thing a human being can do, and it just feels right to walk in the woods with nature. It’s not hard to sell me the simple things Mark, they’re the best and easiest to follow!

    Mauricio wrote on June 8th, 2011
  16. Did anyone see that documentary (maybe it was Human Planet) about how they teach children in Africa to walk much sooner than they do in Western countries?

    I thought that was pretty cool.

    NomadicNeill wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • I heard about that in my psychology class! Psychologists think it might have to do with how mothers carry their children. Here, our babies are in strollers, and we tend to carry them sideways. In Africa, women wrap their babies in a cloth so they’re upright and attached to their mothers’ backs, looking over their shoulders as they walk.

      Reiko wrote on June 8th, 2011
  17. Hi Mark,

    enjoyed your post. Talking about form is part of perhaps the most important part of walking- mindfulness and relaxation. I hope everyone stops to smell the roses on their walks :)

    Greg wrote on June 8th, 2011
  18. I walk to the “corner” store when I need some quick food (as opposed to our CSA which requires driving), and to our not so corner store about a mile away, uphill (both ways :) ). Good exercise.

    EvansMama wrote on June 8th, 2011
  19. Great post, but I’m wondering about the walking downhill part. Since I switched to Vibrams, I’ve found I prefer keeping my weight forward on the balls of my feet, even when going downhill. So long as my knees are bent slightly – but not so much that they extend beyond my toes – I find it much more comfortable.

    Anybody else like that?

    Adrian Betts wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • Yes, I know what you mean. As you pick up speed, I think your body naturally wants to move to the balls of the feet. I make a concerted effort to land on my mid-forefoot – think just slightly behind/off the ball of the foot. It feels a little strange, at first, but as I’ve gotten better/more consistent at it, I find that it gives me better control and/or stability through the step. Particularly when moving downhill.

      Hal wrote on June 8th, 2011
  20. Start tomorrow? No! Now! Fellow groks and groketts… walk now! Are you on lunch break? Walk. Skip lunch and walk. Get into the habit NOW. Do NOT put if off another day. If you do you may forget about it.

    Ask your boss if you can take a quick 5 minute walk. Can’t do it? Walk as soon as you get home. I don’t care if you have to be somewhere. Cuz guess what? You don’t be 5 minutes late. Just walk. Even for a minute.

    I walk daily. On purpose. I love it. I sometimes walk in silence. Most of the time I am talking up a storm to myself. I am simply thinking out loud.

    I am the most productive when I am walking. Its aamzing but its true.

    Most of the time I read when I am walking. Why? Mycomprehension improves ten fold. Like Mark says, our genes expect us to walk. A lot.

    Sit down with your boss and make him let you walk for 5 minutes every our at work. I GUARANTEE your performance will skyrocket.

    Try it. You have NOTHING to lose. Everything.

    Walking is awesome. I love to run too. Walking is better.

    Lucky me is going to Harry Potter world this weekend. I’ll be sitting in a plane for 3 hours but then I will be walking pretty much all day long for 3 straight days. Yay!

    Walk. Now. Go!

    Primal Toad wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • Hell no I’m not walking right now.
      The rain’s coming down like cowpiss on a flat rock.

      Seems that the only overcast is in Idaho and Montana, rest of the US is sunny…odd.

      Primal Palate wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • I always walk during my lunch break. It’s an entire 30 minutes of walking and getting fresh air! Why would I want to go sit again at a table when all I’ve done sit at my desk? Walking everyday at lunch seems to help with my muscle soreness from Cross Fit and other exercises. It helps keep my muscles loose!

      Brittany wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • Love the enthusiasm Primal Toad!

      Robin wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • Nope!
      I walk for a living (about 15 miles a day outdoors) and I had a whole week off!

      But then again, what does someone like me do on vacation? Go hiking…

      Never mind.

      RitaRose wrote on June 8th, 2011
  21. I’ve recently gotten into the routine of walking a mile or two with my 5 month old in a sling most nights of the week. It gives us both a chance to wind down and gives me an extra little workout boost. She sleeps better since I started doing this, too, which is a definite plus.

    Nicole V. wrote on June 8th, 2011
  22. I have an “ADHD” Collie that needs to burn off energy, so I “kill two birds with one stone”, I walk him on a 12 block circuit most nights after work and we walk at a local State Park for 2.5 miles most weekend days. It helps him mentally and physically and it helps me mentally and physically. It is a win/win situation.

    I have put a pair of Vibram fivefinger shoes on lay away and when I get them I’ll add walking “barefoot” to the walks.

    Lori wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • If you want to walk more, as in every day, GET A DOG. Whatever the season or weather, my dog requires walking every day. She doesn’t care if it is a frigid, crystal clear dark December morning with the Moon still shining at 6:00 am or a warm drizzly summer afternoon – she wants to go OUT!

      Living with a dog – one of the most primal promoting things you can do to improve your health and well being.

      – requires daily walking/exercise
      – promotes play
      – decreases stress when you pet and stroke a loving,happy dog
      – silly behavior makes you laugh

      Barb wrote on June 8th, 2011
      • I 100% agree. :) No matter the weather, the time of day, or how much I’d rather flop on the couch and watch tv, I have to get my two dogs out. Before work, after work, and before bed. And yes, they make me laugh every day. There is a reason that man and dog have been evolving together for so long!

        Tara wrote on June 9th, 2011
  23. Walking IS my life. I spend a good 3 hours a day walking on most days and up to 8 hours on days where I need to get stuff.
    Just yesterday I spent 4 hours walking to buy a sledgehammer.

    Alex Good wrote on June 8th, 2011
  24. This whole article was quite, quite helpful.
    At 21, I only realized 6 months ago that not only do I have fallen arches, but that they’re the cause of the ridiculous amounts of neck, shoulder, back, hip, knee, etc . . . pain and imbalance I’ve been experiencing for years now! Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time not only walking, but learning for the first time in my life how to actually walk properly. This article answered some questions I’ve either been unsure of how to ask, or felt silly asking. Thanks so much!

    ElleHad wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • Also, I can’t stress enough how much the mobilityWOD website has helped me. Be sure to check it out, as he talks about neutral positioning and how to stretch/massage your musculature to help your body re-learn some of that neutral positioning that goes away when your arches fall.

      Hal wrote on June 8th, 2011
  25. Funny you mention the bit about scope. I felt like walking during my lunch break yesterday. I used google to see how far Trader Joes is from my work, and saw that it was a mile. My first instinct was “man, thats kinda far”. Then I snapped out of it, and walked there – barefoot, at a nice combination of a brisk and leisurely stroll. With shopping, I made it back to work in 47 minutes, and really enjoyed getting some sun at the same time!

    Ryan Denner wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • Our perception of distance has really become skewed. I work in bike/ped planning and research, and we are trying to figure out ways to help re-align people’s perceptions – because most of our daily trips are less than 2 miles, and that is easily done on foot or by bike!

      Tara wrote on June 9th, 2011
  26. Hi Mark,. What about observing our biomechanics at walking?..I have learned until very late how to parallel my footprints as I walk. Observe a cat while walking they almost draw a straight line. It took some time, but it is possible. Thanks,lmb (mexico).

    Luis Martinez wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • I’ve been experimenting with this too Luis Martinez, and I’ve found it really easy to do with a bit of practice. Don’t know if it’s the proper way too walk but it feels good and I can actually get a brisk pace going and still keep my footsteps inline. Foxes also walk like this and they look very graceful, they also usually trot at a good pace rather than “strolling”.

      Robin wrote on June 8th, 2011
  27. i run a small retail store so i’m on my feet literally all day long. plus my wife and i walk 3ish miles(we dont really care to count) about 3-4 times a week. i went barefoot in dec 2010 and haven’t looked back. my legs are alot stronger, my posture is better, the chronic upper back pain i’ve had for years is gone. also, as a martial artist, i’ve noticed a dramatic increase in overall balance and leg coordination. barefoot rules! oh, and so does walking!

    daniel wrote on June 8th, 2011
  28. Walking has become for me what a cup of coffee or a shower is to a lot of other people: it’s how I wake up.
    I walk my dog ~5:30am every day before going to work. No vitamin D at that time, but it’s still relatively cool out in FL if you wake up before the sun.
    On the weekends (we start ~6am), our walks are longer and usually we don’t finish until the sun is up. It’s great to watch the world come alive in the sunlight. 8)

    Ali wrote on June 8th, 2011
  29. Great post! My hubby and I are always preaching the benefits of simply walking. And we love our new Vibrams that we learned about when we found your site recently. Thanks for all the amazing information and everything you do!

    Jessica wrote on June 8th, 2011
  30. Check out Esther Gokhale’s magnificent book “8 steps for a pain free back” for walking instructions. Don’t walk, glide!

    WildGrok wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • I recently started having heel pain in my right foot. I walk a brisk 3 miles a day. I am wondering what the recommendations are for foot wear. Maybe I am wearing the wrong type?

      Donna wrote on June 8th, 2011
  31. It didn’t make sense to walk barefoot at first. Our landscape isn’t the same as it was back then.

    Back then how we used to walk barefoot treading over twigs and other debris on the natural ground is now replaced by a nice flat cement-paved pathways to get to our destination.

    I see the shape of my feet, and the curvature on my feet make sense for unpaved grounds becuase its usually uneven but would its design make sense for a flat surface?

    At least when walking on natural ground it is soft but sidewalks are rough, just running on it cuts my skin (not always). So in the end, perhaps these modern shoes have a purpose, to be a replacement for walking on uneven surfaces, since it adjust to the way my feet are formed.

    Then i bought vibrams, that changed a lot, i mean a lot! i wear them quite often now, would wear them more if i had enough toe-socks to accomidate it but i feel lighter on my feet. Only problem is that they’re not designed for prolonged periods of standing, neither do i think prolonged moments of standing is part of our natural way since i read that we used to always be on the move.

    Our bodies are highly adaptable, what started as an uncomfortable feeling with these vibrams is now more a relaxing experience but is it really becuase it works or just one more thing i’ve forced my mind to deal with?

    Does barefoot walking still apply to today’s landscape? It’s a question that still stalks me to this day, replies will be greatly appreciated, even more if Mark sisson helps me out with this plauging question, not to depreciate any one elses reply.

    Carlos wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • In my experience, barefooting on sidewalks is just as easy as barefooting on dirt. In some ways, it’s even easier; the force of your stride is not absorbed into the ground. It is instead returned to your calf muscles, which work sort of like springs to recapture the energy.

      The one problem, as you mentioned, is that the surface is rather scratchy. If you’re used to wearing shoes, like I was, it will probably take months before your soles are thick enough to go long distances on concrete or asphalt. However, it does happen. I’ve gone from wearing shoes all the time, to wearing vibrams all the time, to running up to six miles barefoot on pavement, and my feet never get cut anymore.

      The only remaining hazards of barefooting in the urban landscape are large shards of glass (very rare), tree seeds and large rocks (a little less rare but easy to avoid) and dog waste (appallingly common).

      Carlos, I would encourage you to try barefooting on pavement once you get used to the vibrams. Just walking a mile or so at first is a good start. Then very gradually you can increase the distance and the speed.

      Timothy wrote on June 8th, 2011
  32. I don’t think the link you showed is a human footprint?
    If you look how the toe’s shaped, it’s bent inwards. this shows up on people who have grown up wearing toe-covering shoes.

    Olive wrote on June 8th, 2011
  33. Love the mental boost gained while walking. I’m so much more aware of surroundings. Thanks, Mark, for this topic!

    Mary Anne wrote on June 8th, 2011
  34. I try and do fasted walks 4x a week for 30-45 minutes. In vibrams of course!

    Gary Deagle wrote on June 8th, 2011
  35. I got rid of my car a few weeks ago because I choose to walk or ride my skateboard everywhere. I walk many miles a day, and I actually just won a gift card and a feature article in my local co-op’s newspaper for alternative transportation.

    I think going to the store for what you plan to eat that day is a great way to get in a ton of walking. I only eat twice a day (lunch and dinner) so I will walk to the grocery store in the morning to buy what I’m cooking for lunch, and then I’ll walk to the store later that evening again for what I’m cooking for dinner. Other than my meat CSA and a few condiments, I don’t really keep anything in my refrigerator anymore.

    Rhys wrote on June 8th, 2011
  36. I’m wondering if Grok had thick padding on the bottom of his feet.
    If we walk for hours over rough terrain wouldn’t the bottom of the feet be bloody and totally banged up?
    I know for sure the Neanderthal already had ‘shoes’. They’ve also found leather shoes/booties made by american indians about 5000 years ago.

    I wonder at which time (or era) mankind started to craft ‘shoes’.
    Anyone know?

    Primal Palate wrote on June 8th, 2011
    • I know the bottoms of my feat are hideous by normal cultural standards. I do amost of my exercising barefoot or on occasion in Zems. Either way I have calluses from hell and I love them, they keep my feet from hurting.

      An answer to your question. Probably, judging from personal experience, although I could be just as wrong as I may be right.

      Shaun wrote on June 8th, 2011
  37. Agreed. Barefoot is the way to go. I damaged my knee pretty bad, wearing sneakers incedentaly, and thought I was down for a good month. The solution- just took the shoes off and all those squats, deadlifts, runs,and jumps magically stopped hurting. My knee was a little stiff, but it’s finally back in full form and now I’ve gone from psuedo-barefoot exercise to all out barefoot exercise. People may stare as I’m sprinting and lunging the length of a football field, but it feels great. Also helps keep the athletes foot away.

    The only downside, my soles of my feet are a lovely shade of brown, no matter how hard I scrub them.

    I’m really going to be disapointed when winter rolls around. :(

    Shaun wrote on June 8th, 2011
  38. I walk everyday, an average of 3 to 4 miles, it has made dramatic changes to both mine and my wifes activity level. If you want to do the same, get an active dog :). I am up at 5:30 am every morning to start my hike wearing my 5 toes and usually get home around 7:00 am. to start my day.

    Jim wrote on June 8th, 2011
  39. One thing I didn’t see mentioned is how instrumental owning a dog can be in putting more miles on your own “dogs.” Pun completely intended.

    Both my dog and I are so much happier when we get a walk in the morning and evening and he gives me that extra incentive I need to get off my ass and get the hell outside on some days.

    Nutritionator wrote on June 8th, 2011
  40. Flat soled super cheap thin Chinese shoes..4 miles on gravel and sand and dirt up hills and down…1 hour or less..3 times a week..and I walk to the post office..1/2 mile RT…IF you use thin soles or the gloves or moccasins..you will re-learn to walk without the impact damage!! Grok did protect his feet…especially in colder climates..and walking on 90-100 degree stuff barefoot is just plain DUMB..blisters on the sole of your foot are no fun(did that-ouwwwch!)..So walk..but do protect your feet when it is called for…This Grok knows how to walk…anyone for a few miles barefoot in the sand near the waterline?..
    GROK ON>>>

    Daveman wrote on June 8th, 2011

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