A Better Way of Walking...

exercise technique published article safe movement May 03, 2021


Walking outside in Autumn poses an extra challenge – autumn leavesnuts and seed heads on the ground make it more slippery and precarious. 

That’s why this month we’ll discuss the importance of “soft” knees. Did you know walking with “soft” knees gives you suspension to better navigate uneven ground and obstacles? 

You would think we know how to walk – we have been doing it most of our lives – but the fact is most of us have a poor walking technique resulting in back, hip and knee pain and deterioration.  On top of that we walk very inefficiently, making it harder than it needs to be. 

Fortunately, this can be easily improved. 

We have been taught to stand up tall and straight, and to move through our feet heel to toe.  But let’s think about this!  This gives us absolutely no suspension – no ability to absorb impact, making it difficult to navigate uneven ground, and adding extra wear-and-tear on our joints.  We also have no forward propulsion. 

Take the Pressure Off Your Joints 

So, let’s try standing with our knees slightly bent.  If you’re not sure how much, try locking your knees by straightening your legs fully – notice the tension in the muscles in the back of your legs and the slight pinch in your knees at the front.  Now just relax and push your knees slightly forward. Notice how the muscles now feel more evenly balanced through the front and back of your legs! 

Why is this important?  If you lock your knees you rely on your bones to hold you up.  This creates a lot of pressure and wear-and-tear on your joints and makes your muscles lazy.  When you need them to work as you walk, save yourself from a stumble or help with your balance, they won’t be ready to respond the way they should. 

By keeping your knees soft your muscles are working all the time and they will be ready to respond when you need them. 

Use Your Body Weight to Move You Forward 

To get us moving we should be using our body weight to help us.  Keeping your knees soft and your chest upsway slightly forward so you feel your weight move to the front of your feet.   Only once you feel your body move forward, take a step.  Notice how you land on the middle of your foot, with your foot landing below the front of your body.  Notice how your front knee bends to absorb the impact and how it is in fact your back leg pushing you forward, rather than your front leg “pulling” you forward. Think of pushing a heavy shopping trolley!  Swaying forward also protects your back from impact 

The Benefits 

With soft knees and a forward body angle you’ll be able to avoid impact and tension in your knees and back; be better able to draw your belly in to support your spine and use the butt cheek of your back leg to help drive you forward. 

It may feel a little strange at first but every single one of my clients have found it a game changer.  Walking this way gives you suspension, power and protection to get you through those autumn leaves safely and strongly. 

By Marya Hopman – Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, founder of  OptimalMe Fitness and co-founder of seniors exercise providers SuperCue Seniors 

As featured in Seasons Magazine's May 2021 issue.

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