Learning to Walk the Right Way
If you're like me, you probably never thought there could be a right and wrong way to physically take a step when you're hiking. I figured I would just put one foot in front of the other like every other walking activity, but it turns out that I was gravely mislead. By walking, or in this case hiking, properly, you can minimize damage to your feet and increase endurance all the while being far more happier on the trail.
It makes sense to learn to walk the right way though right? Runners perfect their strides for years so why wouldn't backpackers do the same? We're not only carrying our own body weight, but we're carrying a pack full of gear too so wouldn't it be even more important to ensure we're taking the right strides?
On Episode 25 of The By Land Podcast, I had the pleasure of learning from John Z how he is able to hike 50 miles in a single day. Fifty-freaking-miles!! It turns out that John has a background in long distance running and was able to adapt his running techniques to hiking. The thing is though, he didn't transition over night. He had to practice over and over again and even after thousands of miles of hiking he still finds himself having to concentrate on walking the right way sometimes.
John describes his hiking style as taking small steps while slightly bending at the knees. He's a tall dude that could stretch out his legs, but still doesn't do so. Instead, by taking a lot of small steps, he's able to reduce that impact to his feet, knees, and the rest of his body. He does this so well that he can cover crazy amounts of miles per day because he's not hammering his body too hard at any given time.
Hiking isn't easy. Toss a backpack on and it's even harder. Your feet are the only mechanisms that bring you from one place to the next and if they're not happy, then neither are you. Sure choosing the wrong shoe, wearing the wrong size, and not airing your feet out can cause foot problems, but so can walking the wrong way. No one likes a backpacking trip that feels like you're walking on glass shards from blistered skin.
The next time you're headed out for a hike or even a walk around the neighborhood, practice taking small but intentional steps. Do your best not to strike your heal too hard and remember to bend at the knees slightly. If you're doing it the right way, you'll look like you're floating over the ground like a ninja.
If you want to see how John hikes, check out his YouTube channel at the link below.
Walk light and take lots of small steps,