It’s the oldest form of transportation in the world and allows you to get almost anywhere: walking. Your own two feet carry you over varieties of terrain, for long distances, and throughout your life. Your body was made to walk. Naturally, walking and your feet have an important give-and-take relationship, so issues with one affect the other.
Benefits of Natural Transportation
Your feet were designed for walking, and this oldest form of transportation is also a great form of exercise. Your whole body can benefit from it. It’s a low-impact activity that boosts your circulation and breathing. It can help you lose weight, decrease your risk for heart disease or stroke, encourage bone density, strengthen your muscles, and improve your balance. It can help lower blood pressure, which benefits many systems in your body. It even releases hormones and boosts neurotransmitters that improve your mood and decrease your anxiety. This can be helpful for preventing and warding off depression, Alzheimer’s, and age-related dementia.
For your lower limbs, walking strengthens your feet and helps keep your joints lubricated and functional. It conditions your feet to handle other activities and can help combat foot pain. It also improves circulation to your lower limbs, which can help you recover from injuries. Even people with many foot health issues can walk for a little while and experience some benefits.
Problems with Pain
Of course, problems with your feet or with your walking can impact your overall comfort and fitness. Biomechanical issues that impact how you walk can cause many types of foot pain. Overpronation is one of these issues—it involves the arch rolling too far inward whenever you take a step. This can lead to flat feet, midfoot pain, stress fractures, heel pain, shin splints, and other conditions. Overuse from walking too much, particularly if your feet aren’t conditioned for the activity, can create problems as well.
Conversely, preexisting foot pain can make walking normally very difficult. Heel pain, tendonitis, bunions, toe deformities, flat feet, and nerve damage are often exacerbated by pressure or movement. As you walk, then, you aggravate the conditions and make the discomfort worse. This starts a negative cycle for walking and your feet.
Staying Safely Mobile
Fortunately, you can take steps to protect your lower limbs so you experience the benefits of walking without the problems. Dr. Robert Parker and our staff here at Parker Foot & Ankle can help you establish healthy habits and check for preexisting issues with walking and your feet. That way you experience the good effects of walking without worrying about pain.
Your shoe choice is one of the most important factors for walking comfortably and safely. This is especially true if you have any preexisting conditions or systemic diseases that negatively impact your lower limbs, like diabetes. Choose shoes that support your arches and sufficiently cushion your soles. Make sure you select styles that are made for walking and not just for their looks, so they protect your lower limbs. If you have biomechanical issues, you may need orthotics in your footwear to help accommodate your needs.
Don’t underestimate the value of preparing your limbs for activity, too. Condition your feet to handle regular walking. Start slow and increase the distance and time you spend strolling over an extended period of time. Walking with good technique can make a difference, too. Allow your arms to swing as you move. Keep your head up, your back straight, and your strides the right size for your height. Don’t take steps that are too big; this can strain your joints. If you struggle with pain when you walk, take a break and investigate the problem rather than pushing through the pain.
Walking is a great form of exercise that benefits your whole body. Like any other activity, though, you need healthy feet to walk without pain. Let Parker Foot & Ankle help you care for your lower limbs so you can stay active and mobile. Contact our Houston, TX, office for an appointment by calling (281) 497-2850 or by using the online request form to reach us.