Step Wisely to Avoid Injury

boot about to step on a nail

Watch your step! Image: succo, under Creative Commons CCo

In my many years of walking to work, I have sometimes been too enthusiastic and not smart enough. It’s true: I’ve hurt myself a little bit now and then. Today I’ll share my three top tips for making your walking commute easier on you.

1. Use a backpack

Backpacks get a lot of bad press, but I find them absolutely wonderful. Many years ago I had the advice from a physiotherapist to use one instead of a cross-body bag. I’d had a sore neck. I switched to a backpack and my neck pain gradually went away.

The fantastic thing about a backpack is that it distributes weight evenly to the strongest muscles of your back. It also leaves both your arms free to swing naturally while you walk. My walking posture is probably better when I wear a backpack than when I don’t. No more pain in the neck for me – at least not from walking!

For larger loads, I use a heavy duty ObusForme backpack which I want to mention because it is far more comfortable than any other backpack I’ve used. I can cram pack this backpack to the point where I can barely pick up the strap, but once it’s on and adjusted properly, I don’t feel like I’m carrying extra weight. I am careful when wearing a heavier backpack to maintain a steadier pace than usual – no last minute sprints to beat the light – and to make sure I don’t pull forward with my head.

A few tricks to using a backpack to best advantage:

  • Maintain excellent posture while wearing one.
  • Ensure it fits well, has comfortable wide straps and is as lightweight as possible.
  • Pack heaviest items closest to your back and don’t overload – 10% of your body weight is a reasonable limit – up to 20% if you are very strong and fit.

features of a backpack Image:

Most of the information on wearing backpacks safely is aimed at children, but the advice applies equally to adults.

From CityTV: How to properly wear your backpack

From Boston University: How to choose a backpack

2. Protect your skin

When you spend more time outside and in motion, paying a little extra attention to your skin prevents problems. I’ve subjected my skin to a variety of ills: sunburn, windburn, chafing and blisters. All preventable! Please take some advice, from someone who’s learned the hard way, about how to keep your skin in fine form despite daily walking.

  • Choose socks and footwear to prevent blisters. There is a lot of information out there – check out this article from Blister Prevention which goes into great detail on the topic.
  • Use a blister stick on skin that chafes. Read up on chafing at WebMD.
  • Use extra facial moisturizer in winter to prevent windburn. Here’s a great article on prevention and treatment of windburn from POPSUGAR.
  • Wear long underwear in winter from -5C and below to prevent chapped skin on your thighs.
  • To avoid sunburn, use SPF60 sunscreen and wear a hat (or use an umbrella).

3. Replace your shoes when worn

One of the best things you can do to keep yourself comfortable and injury-free while walking is to replace your shoes on a regular basis.

The repetitive motion of walking thousands of steps every day is something your feet can handle without complaint. But ill-fitting or worn shoes can change how your feet function by altering stress points – maybe from a stronger part of the foot to a weaker part – and pain can be the result.

For more detail on how often you should replace your shoes, consult Prevention’s “When to Get New Shoes.”

Paying attention is a wise step

I hope my top tips will help you avoid some of the problems I’ve foolishly endured.

Clearly, it’s wise to pay attention to your body. Listen to the feedback you get and then take action to solve little problems before they become big ones.

universal health symbol

Talk to your doctor if you experience discomfort or pain

If in doubt, the very wisest step is to see your doctor. Wishing you good health!
Tweet: Step Wisely to Avoid Injury-3 top tips from #thewalkingcommuter #digitaledu

The Walking Commuter SURVEY closes Friday, March 31 at midnight – please act now if you’d like to participate – thank you!


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