4 Major Walking Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

by Jodi Helmer
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4 Major Walking Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Walking is great exercise. It burns calories, strengthens muscles and bones, improves balance, boosts mood and helps prevent health problems ranging from heart disease to Type 2 diabetes. But walking is about more than putting one foot in front of the other.

To reap all of the health benefits — and avoid injuries — it’s important to avoid making these four common walking mistakes:


Warmups aren’t just for marathoners and professional athletes. In fact, Kathy Kaehler, author, celebrity trainer and host of the “Fit and Sexy For Life” podcast, believes the more often you skip the warmup, the more likely you are to get injured.

For a proper warmup, Kaehler suggests walking at a comfortable pace for five minutes and then stopping to stretch all the major muscle groups from head to toe, including shoulder rolls, side stretches, hip circles, quad stretches and ankle rotations. Once your muscles are warm and stretched, proceed with your walk.


It’s OK to have a favorite walking route and a comfortable pace, but refusing to change things up could be bad for your body. “You want variation of terrain so your body can also have different muscular reactions and challenges with varied routes, inclines and steps,” says Ashley Borden, Los Angeles-based master trainer whose celebrity clients have included Reese Witherspoon and Mandy Moore.

To mix it up, Borden suggests incorporating intervals into your walk, switching speeds every block. A few times per week, try a different route. Adding variety to your workout will prevent burnout and keep you from hitting a plateau.


When you start a new workout, even if it’s “only” a walk, it’s important to ease into it. “Your muscles need to be developed and strengthened for flexibility and endurance and that doesn’t happen the first week out,” says Kaehler. “You need to focus on progression rather than going all out right away.”

Doing too much too soon can leave you with sore muscles and, potentially, injuries. Instead, work up to faster speeds and longer distances.


Taking pounding steps while staring at the ground might get you from point A to point B but poor walking posture takes its toll on your body. “Posture is so critical,” Kaehler says. “When your form is bad, you’ve got muscles doing jobs they are not qualified for and, over time, that creates muscle imbalance that leads to injuries.”

For the best walking posture, Borden suggests imagining a string lifting you from your breastbone toward the sky to keep the hunch out of your back; keep your eyes on the horizon, engage your glutes and abdominals and pump your arms.

Walking is a safe and effective workout if you take the time to prepare and avoid making these common mistakes.


  • Good tips!

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  • I have discovered on a long walk – like 8, 10 or 12 miles – that my neck and shoulders are more sore at the end than my legs or feet. I have a bad habit of looking right in front of my feet when I walk. I’m serious, I have to consciously work against it to keep my head up and forward looking. Warming up, dynamic stretching and good posture are necessary.

    • Anthony Bear

      Agreed! Posture is SO important! I have to consciously work against looking in front of my feet, too! I’ve had an ankle turn out on me a couple of times and it has trained me to be very conscious of where I’m stepping. I’m now wearing an ankle brace when I hike to help stabilize my ankle and allow me to improve my posture.

    • Carol Carrasca

      I took classes in racewalking and learned to look 6 to 10 feet in front of my feet instead of directly down. I am able to keep good posture by using my eyes instead of moving my entire head to watch for holes or dips where I am walking.

  • nancycanfield

    What’s the best way to choose good walking shoes for yourself?

    • Deep_C_Diver

      I find that good running shoes make great walking shoes. I am 6’2″ and 230lbs so I need the cushion and support. I walk 4-5 miles at a time 4-5 days per week. I have three pair of shoes that I rotate. I also use premium cushioned socks.

  • Yvonne Rakowitz

    I can’t get miles walked to register.what am I doing wrong?

    • Joshua S Bond

      if you have the app on your phone you need to let it use your location.