Walking is a relatively low-impact exercise that can be very beneficial for weight loss, as well as improve overall health by encouraging circulation and safely raising your heart rate. While there is a possibility for injury with walking, just like any exercise, a few precautions can ensure that you have an enjoyable and pain-free walking experience.
Have the right footwear. The Cleveland Clinic reminds runners that "running shoes are the only protective equipment runners have to safeguard themselves from injury." Prevention of walking injuries starts with choosing the right shoes. Many people are tempted to go with what’s cheap and readily available, especially since the supports in walking shoes tend to break down quickly so that they require regular replacement. Don’t sacrifice your health for low price — even the most expensive shoes are a lot cheaper than knee surgery. Go to a specialty shoe store where knowledgeable people can help you choose the right shoe for your foot shape, step type, activity level and any other specific considerations, such as weak or arthritic knees.
Protect your feet. One of the most common forms of walking injuries are blisters, sore spots, or chafing on the feet and ankles. The right shoe fit will go a long way toward preventing these, but then you also have to properly cushion and protect your feet. Choose the right socks for your needs — in most cases, they won’t be the typical cotton blend socks with bulky seams that are available in any department store. Foot specialists may recommend wool or silk walking socks that will hold up for a long time, protect your feet from mechanical damage and keep potentially damaging moisture away from your skin.
Don’t overdo it. The most important consideration in preventing walking injuries is to know your own strength and limitations. Start small and slow, especially if you haven’t walked for a while, are recently recovering from illness or injury or are starting at a low fitness level. As your legs tire, the chances that you will trip or your knees will hyperextend increase significantly. Start with easy distances that are close to home or other forms of transportation until you know what you can handle, and then slowly increase from there. Listen to any pain that results from your exercise; it’s your body’s way of warning you that something isn’t up to the task just yet. If there are any recurring or persistent concerns, discuss them with a doctor before continuing your regular walks.