A Step In The Right Direction

by DavalosMcCormack on September 5, 2008

I love watching people move. There is something fascinating in observing something so simple, yet so complex and so varied. If you go to the park or beach and see people jogging you can watch 20 or 30 runners go by and each one has a very different style, very different stride.

The same is true for walking. I ride a scooter to work through the Financial District and it’s fun having to stop at traffic lights because you get to see so many different kinds of people, so many different styles of walking. Who knew you could do something so basic, something so primal, in so many different ways. But what really intrigues me is how badly most people walk.

Most people have a pretty, for want of a better word, shlumpy way of walking. They plod, landing heavily on their feet, or shuffle along with little sense of rhythm and no sense of style. Some have a very choppy style, lifting their legs high before dropping them almost straight down. Others walk with the same stylized strut they used to have when they were a youngster, trying to look hip and cool. On a 17 year old it can be ok, on a 57 year old not so much.

For many people the way they walk looks as if they are just uncomfortable in their own bodies, and it certainly looks as if they have little or no awareness of how they move.

That’s not too surprising. Of all the things we do walking is probably one of the things we take most for granted. We’ve done it since we were a baby. No one ever taught us how to do it, no one ever told us we were doing it wrong. We learned by watching others, copying others, and if they were doing it wrong to begin with then the chances are pretty good we’re going to grow up doing it badly too.

That can have long-term consequences not just for your feet but also for your ankles, legs, knees, hips and back. Over time, that constant pounding in irregular and inefficient ways can cause problems with bones, muscles and ligaments, leading to strains, sprains and even breaks.

While I was thinking about this I found a fascinating – if rather lengthy – article from the New York Times about walking. It shows that one of the biggest contributors to bad walking is our shoes. I’m not just talking about women wearing very high heels but how even flats can cause problems because they interfere with our ‘natural’ way of walking, one that evolved over hundreds of thousands of years.

Now, I’m not advocating that we throw away our shoes and start traipsing around barefoot (too much broken glass and dog poop on the streets to even suggest that) but it might get us thinking about how we walk.

So, next time you are stuck at a traffic light on a busy street, or just waiting with other pedestrians to cross the road, watch how other people walk. Look at the different styles, at how some people have an uneven plodding gait, others a bouncy one.

If you are fortunate you might even see someone walking with ease and elegance and style. If you do you’ll appreciate just how relaxed and comfortable it looks. How natural it looks.

Then think about the way you walk. If you don’t walk in an equally relaxed and natural way, maybe it’s time you took steps to change that.

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