Do You Have Proper Walking Form? Probably. A Physical Therapist Makes Sure

Let’s get one thing straight from the jump — there’s no one walking form to rule them all. From folks with scoliosis to people of all body shapes, sizes, and abilities, there are as many ways to walk as there are people. Still, there are some generally recommended yeses and probably-not-the-bests for most people’s walking strategy.

Credit: Bignai / Shutterstock

So, do you have proper walking form? It depends on what the best way to move for you is. But to give you some general insight into the topic, I sat down with Heather Asti, PT, MPT, who’s been a practicing physical therapist for nearly two decades, for insights into avoiding the injury bug with your walk.

Key Takeaways

Proper walking form is different for everyone but generally involves upright posture, step rolling from heel to toe, arms swinging from your shoulders, and taking strides that fit your body.

Proper walking form helps with injury prevention, improved balance and stability, and improved circulation, especially in older populations. (1)

Suboptimal walking techniques can cause increased risk of falls and injuries, increased risk of arthritis, and muscle weakness. (2)

Walking form is especially important when starting a new workout program as it helps to walk faster for longer. (3)

Good shoes can support good walking form by allowing a generally more comfortable heel-to-toe rolling motion. (4)

How to Walk with Proper Form

Any discussion of proper walking form should begin with the disclaimer that the optimal walking form for your body type may not match that of someone else. Always strive to find the walking form that pairs optimally with your own body structure and optimizes your personal well-being. A qualified physical therapist may be able to help you do this.

[Read More: Is Walking Good Cardio? Certified Personal Trainers Explain]

While you wait to consult your own physical therapist, I chatted with one to get some general advice for you. From her multiple advanced degrees and certifications in physical therapy, Asti is also an APTA Advanced Certified Clinical Instructor. She is well-versed in spotting and correcting all of the postural issues that might cause you not to walk as well as you could.

Head to the Sky

A common sign of a suboptimal walking form is if you appear to be hunching over or slouching while you’re in motion. One of the hallmarks of good posture for most people is a straightened upper body position. This requires some involvement of your abdominal muscles and other core muscles to stabilize your frame and help you maintain proper posture.

[Read More: How Long Does it Take to Walk a 5K? (+ Tips to Walk Faster From a Walking Coach)]

“The best way to maintain proper walking posture is to imagine someone pulling up on your hair [toward the sky],” advises Asti. “This causes you to lengthen your spine and activate your core muscles.”

Mind Your Feet

People tend to place less emphasis on walking form than running form, given the comparatively low-impact nature of walking. Still, walking is a weight-bearing exercise. This means failure to maintain good form throughout a walking workout, or even during an extended walk of a casual nature, can cause pain and discomfort.

[Read More: Best Running Shoes for High Arches, Flat Feet, Cross Training, and More]

“The gait cycle starts with what we call initial contact with the ground, or heel strike,” explains Asti. “Your heel should make contact with the ground first rather than your whole foot, and with an unlocked knee. As your foot loads your body weight through the stance phase of gait, the foot should feel as though the weight rolls from the outside edge of the foot forward toward the base of the big toe in preparation for a solid push-off from the ground. Throughout that transition, the knee should continue to flex, and the hip gradually moves into extension as the heel lifts. Then the toe lifts to swing your back foot forward into the next stance cycle.”

Walking Stride

So much of walking speed is dictated by the length of your stride. This has led plenty of people to believe that they could speed up simply by lengthening their stride slightly while taking the same number of steps. Not only does this tend to lead toward overstriding—which is not an optimal solution to the perceived issue—but walking stride is so subjective that you may not even have a problem to correct.

[Read More: How Many Steps in a Mile? Calculate by Height and Pace]

“Stride length is usually a function of height, leg length relative to trunk, gait speed, and just personal comfort,” states Asti. “Your walking stride should feel comfortable for you and allow you to go through proper phases of the gait cycle without feeling the need to compensate or otherwise change your normal gait. If you are looking for a number, the average walking stride should equal about 2,000 steps per mile [when walking].”

Arm Motion

Although a pronounced arm swing is more common when it comes to your running form, you may fall into a category of people that has an atypical arm swing while walking. Usually, an arm swing is an unconscious movement that complements your foot-based motion. As long as you remain relaxed and you’re not using your arm swing to drive your walking motion, your arm swing is probably nothing to be concerned about.

“Arm swing is a wonderfully automatic rhythm for most people,” describes Asti. “Proper arm swing while walking helps the legs move more efficiently. Relaxed walking should result in relaxed shoulders, arms, and hands that move without conscious effort. Forcing additional arm swing—or otherwise trying to reduce arm swing—will alter the efficiency of your overall gait and cause more work from your legs and trunk.”

Benefits of Walking

Despite being such a basic movement for many people, the health benefits of walking are considerable. In fact, the positive outcomes of walking are so vast that pairing ordinary walking with strength training can be a perfect formula for a healthy lifestyle for most people.

[Read More: The Best Treadmill Walking Workouts From a CPT (+ Insight From a Conditioning Coach)]

Here are just a few of the benefits that you can achieve through a regular walking program:

Low-impact exercise

Calorie burning and weight loss (5)

Improved blood pressure (6)

Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (7)

Lower risk of all-cause mortality (8)

Increased bone density (9)

Frequently Asked Questions

So how do you walk, anyway? Here are some top questions we see.

What is the correct way of walking?

While there is no one correct way of walking, many forms of walking come with easy, natural movement in the upper body and lower body. This means an upright body position, a natural arm swing, and steady foot movement without overstriding.

How should your feet land when walking? Should you walk toe first or heel first?

When you walk, the ball of your foot should typically make contact with the ground first. The rest of your foot should make contact with the ground starting with the heel first, and then traveling from heel to toe as your weight shifts forward.

How does sitting affect walking posture?

Desk jobs often encourage you to lean forward, which causes an arching of the upper back. This tendency can cause back pain—especially in the lower back—as the pressure builds in your spine. It also encourages your body to maintain its forward slouch while walking, thereby compromising your walking posture.


Merchant RA, Banerji S, Singh G, Chew E, Poh CL, Tapawan SC, Guo YR, Pang YW, Sharma M, Kambadur R, Tay S. Is Trunk Posture in Walking a Better Marker than Gait Speed in Predicting Decline in Function and Subsequent Frailty? J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2016 Jan;17(1):65-70. 

MyClevelandClinic. (2023) Gait Disorders and Abnormalities.

Perfecting Your Walking Technique. (2020) Harvard Health Publishing.

America’s Walking: Picking the Right Walking Shoes. (2001) PBS.

La New JM, Borer KT. Effects of Walking Speed on Total and Regional Body Fat in Healthy Postmenopausal Women. Nutrients. 2022 Jan 31;14(3):627. 

Lee LL, Mulvaney CA, Wong YKY, Chan ES, Watson MC, Lin HH. Walking for hypertension. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021 Feb 24;2(2):CD008823. 

LaCroix AZ, Leveille SG, Hecht JA, Grothaus LC, Wagner EH. Does walking decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease hospitalizations and death in older adults? J Am Geriatr Soc. 1996 Feb;44(2):113-20. 

Inoue K, Tsugawa Y, Mayeda ER, Ritz B. Association of Daily Step Patterns With Mortality in US Adults. JAMA Netw Open. 2023 Mar 1;6(3):e235174. 

Krall EA, Dawson-Hughes B. Walking is related to bone density and rates of bone loss. Am J Med. 1994 Jan;96(1):20-6. 

The post Do You Have Proper Walking Form? Probably. A Physical Therapist Makes Sure appeared first on BarBend.


您的电子邮箱地址不会被公开。 必填项已用 * 标注