|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – August 2011
Yes, there's a better way to put one foot in front of the other. Improve your stride, trek farther, and end leg and back pain with our guide to the new science of healthy hiking.Stride Right
1) Heel strike
Avoid Over-striding Taking giant steps—by flexing your foot and swinging a straight leg far out in front of your torso—can lead to overuse injuries like strained quads and hip bursitis. Shorter steps minimize pounding and muscle exertion, making each stride gentler on the body and more energy efficient, even though you take more steps overall.
Avoid Overpronating While your foot should roll slightly inward during the step, if it rolls too far, it can torque your foot and leg, potentially causing pain from heel to hips. Likely causes are flat feet or muscle weakness. Fix the former with supportive insoles, and the latter by strengthening your quads, hip flexors, and hip abductors. Our hiker-specific training plan starts on.
The foot rotates slightly to the outside of the midfoot, allowing the longitudinal arch to absorb shock as your torso aligns above the foot. This phase serves two key purposes: It’s vital for shock absorption and stabilization, and it allows the foot to form a rigid structure for propulsion in preparation for toe-off.
Avoid Forefoot striking Don’t shortchange this important stage by simultaneously striking your heel and forefoot—or by hitting the forefoot before the heel—and eliminating the midfoot phase. Pounding on the forefoot (rather than gradually rocking the foot from back to front) can cause foot and leg problems, including the very painful metatarsalgia.
Avoid Shuffling From the toe take-off position, lift your foot behind you as your opposite foot hits the ground. This promotes a nimble, rocking weight transfer rather than a pounding one. Omitting this final toe-off phase (by shuffling or dragging your feet) jars joints from head to toe. Also, avoid pushing off with your toe so forcefully that you bounce, which wastes energy.