You think it’s all so simple, don’t you? You put one foot in front of the other, you stay upright, surely you must know how to walk. You do it every day! Well, what this story has to say will shock you to your soles. You probably suck at walking.
Don’t take it too hard. As it turns out, most people stink at a proper stride and it’s mangling their poor, tender feet. We’re not even going to start with all the problems shoes are causing. (Why do you think you can improve on millions upon millions of years of evolutionary perfection with your Nikes? Is it the swoosh?) For now, lets just try and get you using your feet the way nature intended. We spoke to Sherry Brourman, physical therapist and author of Walk Yourself Well, to give you some pointers on your strut.
What’s keeping us from walking right?
We’re still kind of backside-heavy. I don’t mean just the buns, I mean the whole backside of the body is heavy. So gravity, because of that, wants us to go further back. Gravity is pulling us down. And to get over, that we need to use all our muscles rather than just putting it all to the joints. Every day I’m teaching people to do this right, every day. It’s like an evolutionary glitch.
Why don’t we just naturally understand the right way to do this? Like, walking, you’d think, would be intuitive.
As toddlers, we all fashion ourselves after our parents, who fashioned themselves after their parents. You’ll see mom and toddler together, dad and toddler and see it. It’s a powerful influence between genetic and environmental modeling. My son picked his father, big mistake.
How do we start correcting this horrible mistake?
For one, start pushing off with the back of the leg. That’s where the power for walking has to come from. Like a Volkswagen, the motor needs to be behind. And we need to have some understanding of how gravity is impacting us. If I press down on the ground walking, I get lifted instead of sucked back down. It’s subtle but it’s significant. Are you sitting now?
OK, relax and slouch a little. Press down with your bones and feel how your head goes higher? OK, now slouch again. This time, don’t press with the bones but try to sit up taller. The only way to do that is by pressing into your chair. Feel how much higher your head feels now? Same with walking. Whatever activity you need to lift yourself up, it’s best if you press the ground.
My god, I do feel it.
And everyone walks with their feet too close together. So, start that ball rolling properly. Imagine the structure of your skeleton as a large, moving ladder. If the bottom rungs were too close together you’d be out of balance. You want your feet as wide as your hips so you have a base. Then unlock the knees and make sure you’re pressing weight on the front of the foot as much as the back. Not saying to bend your knees, but unlock them. A lot of people think they’re supposed to bend and they walk around looking like Charlie Chaplin.
I hear there’s also a problem with shoes that …
It matters, but it’s a complicated question. Most of us do need some kind of arch support. No. No, actually I can’t even say that. I can’t go there. The shoe thing is too complicated, it’s too individualistic. It’s just an entirely different discussion.
So, no advice on shoes.
I can’t even start to talk about shoes.
That’s a bummer. Okay, any final advice?
There needs to be fluidity in the movement. Softness in the movement, yet a sturdy center. A soft landing for the legs, not rigid. Be more like seaweed, be less like reed.
Is there anyone we can look to as a beacon of walking? The Mozart of walking, if you will?
No. No I’m sorry, there’s no one.