Can Walking Better Help You Run Better?

I talk all the time on this blog about what we loosely call “natural running form,” or how to run barefoot or in minimalist footwear, regardless of what’s actually on your feet. Hopefully my work has been helping your running feel better and maybe even faster. But now let me ask you another question: how is your walking?

There’s a saying that you have to walk before you can run, but in fact that’s seldom true in any endeavor; learning is much more complex than that. It’s especially not true when it comes to actual gait! If you’re a devoted runner it’s possible to feel great midrun but inflexible and creaky the entire rest of the time, including when you walk. I’ve had many clients who could run a marathon but felt too stiff or gimpy to be able to suddenly run for the bus in the middle of their day.

It’s also very common for people who’ve been working on their forefoot strike in running to feel like using their heels to walk is jolting and uncomfortable and makes their backs hurt. Very often, those runners are also struggling with achilles tendon problems in their running, and the very same changes in movement that would make walking more comfortable also relieve stress on the achilles when running.

Mastering running and walking, and being able to switch skilfully between the two, will take you to the next level. Really great, coordinated running that gives you a large margin of safety against injury and true pleasure in the process develops through variety and versatility, and the most fundamental versatility is the ability to switch gaits at will. I’ll be writing about this and giving you as many resources as I can find to help you do it, beginning with this:

I recently came across a great little series of Feldenkrais videos for foot/ankle stability and barefoot walking created by Annie Thoe. I’m going to share them with you this week and next so you have something interesting to work on while I’m on holiday. They focus on how to feel the relationships between the heel, knee, and hip joint, and if you do them slowly and with attention – feel free to pause the video so you can take extra time with any of the movements — they can dramatically reduce the tension in all three areas, making your legs feel longer and more supple. And though you won’t be landing on your heels when you run, the clearer sensation you will have of your ankle and hip joints will help you run better as well.

Here’s the first of the videos. I used rolled up blankets to sit on though a foam roller will also work great, and I used a rolling pin with a tea towel wrapped around it for underneath my foot.

Give this a try whenever it’s convenient, then walk a bit afterwards to see how you feel. You can try it pre-run too!

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