Coach Mike Mead

February 2013

Learn to Walk Before You Run

As I have observed some folks run over the years, I’ve always thought that perhaps they might cover just as much ground walking than running. They either pound the pavement too hard or travel more vertically than horizontally with each stride. I have also pondered how people walk might determine if they may be more prone to injuries when running.

With some beginning runners who I have instructed over the years, I have asked them to be aware just how they take each step when they walk. Are their toes pointed straight ahead in the direction they are walking? Where is their foot-strike – mid-sole or more heel? How long is their stride? How steady is their stride?

These basic mechanics in walking are important to the basic mechanics when it comes to running. When we were infants, we first learned to crawl. Not a whole lot of mechanics involved there, but at times, it wasn’t pretty!

As infants transition from crawling, to first standing and then walking, there are a whole lot of new muscles being used. Infants develop their own sense of balance by how they position their little feet. Some have to position their toes either inward or outward to stay up.

I think this is where an efficient runner develops. We tend to overlook those kinds of things with babies because they are so cute!

So, when you walk do your toes point outward, straight, or inward when you walk? I think if they point out or in they will affect your efficiency if you run like this, too. So, try walking with your toes pointed in the direction you are walking. It’ll take some practice, but this simple correction -- over time -- should help you when you run, too!

What about your foot-strike? When you walk, does each foot tend to strike/touch the ground around the mid-sole or is contact more heel? If you are not sure, just check your shoes to see where the most wear is located for the answer.

If you see a lot of heel wear, pay attention about your stride. If you tend to strike heel first, your stride may be too long. This results in constant braking action with each stride, which isn’t good for the joints over the long haul! . If you take too big a stride when you walk, shorten it up, and work on a steady pace or rhythm that is comfortable for you.

I have always thought of myself as an efficient walker and runner. My toes naturally point forward on walks or runs. I never have had any serious mechanical issues and I have stayed relatively injury-free during my almost 40 years of running.

Yes, proper walking mechanics can transfer to a more efficient running form. Being aware how you walk can help you run more mechanically sound and reduce injuries down the road.

Learn to walk before your run. Otherwise, you may end up doing a lot of crawling around!