4 walking problems that are warning signs for runners

walking, warning signs for runners

When you walk, your toes point in or out

Your natural position could be more in-toed (pigeon-toed) or out-toed, than straight. This is normal, but you may compensate elsewhere to walk efficiently. Over time, in-/out-toeing can cause muscle imbalances.

What to do: Don’t try to walk with your feet straight; this will cause problems elsewhere. Address imbalances in the hips and pelvis, where compensation often occurs. Walk with your bottom tucked in and push further through your hips at the end of a stride to extend through the hip joints. Engage the hip and pelvic muscles correctly.

Related: Running injuries - when to run, when to stop 


When you walk, your knees knock

If your knees are closer together than your ankles when you’re standing, you have knock knees. It can be structural (angle of your leg bones) or functional (weak hip, foot and leg muscles).

What to do: Practise sitting, standing and going up and down stairs with the hip, knee and foot in alignment. Your hip should line up over the centre of the knee, which should line up over the second toe, with your foot straight ahead. This will help retrain movement for running. Try to prevent your knees from rotating inwards as much when you’re running.

Related: The difference between calories burned running and walking 


When you walk, you land with a heavy heel strike

This is an indication that the shock your body endures with each step is not being dispersed effectively – this may be caused by a high-arched foot, bowed legs, or stiff ankles, hips, knees or back.

What to do: When you are walking or running, try to strike the ground more quietly – shorten your stride in front of you and increase stride length behind you. Ensure there is enough cushioning in your running shoes. Avoid flat and/or thin-soled outdoor shoes when you are walking on hard surfaces.

Related: Why all runners should be walking more 


When you walk, your feet roll in

This doesn’t meant there is anything wrong, but it does mean you are generally more mobile/unstable when you are walking, which will weaken the muscles required for running.

What to do: Strengthen your calves, glutes and pelvic floor muscles to increase your stability. If you are a heel-striking runner, a running shoe with more stability and a wider sole will be more suitable than a flexible or overly cushioned shoe. When you are walking, try to avoid flat, flexible shoes and slip-ons.