About 67 million adults in this country have discovered that walking is one of the most fun, natural, and inexpensive ways of keeping your health—and your feet—in top shape. Walking can be enjoyed almost anywhere, any time, and year around. It's also a good way to get exercise, particularly for people who are out-of-shape.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, exercise offers a host of benefits. Walking helps control weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. A brisk walk can burn up to 100 calories per mile or 300 calories per hour. Walking also improves cardiovascular fitness. As an aerobic exercise, walking gets the heart beating faster to transport oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the muscles. The heart and lungs grow more efficient with a regular walking regimen, reducing blood pressure and the resting heart rate. Walking is also a central element of medical rehabilitation for a wide array of health problems. For example, recovery from a heart attack can be facilitated by a regular walking regimen. Additionally, walking creates an overall feeling of well-being, and can relieve depression, anxiety, and stress by producing endorphins, the body's natural tranquilizer. A brisk walk will relax you and also stimulate your thinking.
To gain the most health benefit from walking, it is important to pay attention to your feet. Shoes that don't fit properly or provide adequate support, lack of stretching, and improper gait can lead to foot injuries or pain. The most common foot problems are blisters, corns, calluses, and plantar fasciitis.
The only equipment you need to enjoy walking for fitness is a good pair of shoes. But before you can shop for the best shoe for your foot, you need to identify the natural inclination of your foot and gait. There are three basic foot types:
- Pronators are people with relatively flat feet, caused by low arches, which generally leads to overpronation, or a gait in which the ankle rolls inward excessively. People with this foot type need motion control shoes that offer support for mid-foot. Motion-control shoes are more rigid and built on a straight last. These are generally board-lasted shoes, which have a piece of cardboard running the length of the shoe for greater stability. Look for sturdy uppers for added stability and avoid shoes with a lot of cushioning or highly curved toes. Also look for a reinforced heel counter to maintain foot support and stability.
- Supinators are people with high arches, which can lead to underpronation that places too much weight on the outsides of the feet. People with this foot type need stability shoes designed for extra shock absorption and often having a curved or semi-curved last. A slip-lasted shoe is also recommended, because the sewn seam runs the length of the shoe giving it greater flexibility. Also look for shoes that are reinforced around the ankle and heel to stabilize the foot and extra cushioning under the ball of the foot.
- People with normal feet can wear any type of walking shoe, although a curved last is generally preferred.