The title of my last post on forefoot walking may have implied that this walking technique is only for people who are experiencing knee pain. That is not the case. I believe forefoot walking is the way everyone should walk. If you are experiencing knee pain, it can reduce that pain. If you are not experiencing knee pain, it may prevent, or at least prolong the beginning of, knee pain. And, it burns more calories. With that in mind, here are my ideas on how to achieve the forefoot walking pattern.
Performing forefoot walking requires the development of a "Learning Experience".
- Learning experiences are instructional environments that utilize the concept known as “Deliberate Practice”.
- These environments can be self-generated or they can be generated by a teacher, a coach, an instructor, a medical professional, and/or athletic trainer.
- Deliberate practice is a specific type of practice with the following requirements:
- You must be cognitively involved in each and every practice attempt to change/learn a movement pattern.
- You must think about what you are trying to change/learn about the movement pattern.
- You must focus on the proprioceptive feeling of the changes/learning you are trying to accomplish.
- You must cognitively evaluate your movement errors.
- You must cognitively plan to make additional corrections in order to change/learn a movement pattern.
- Requirements 1 and 2 are dependent on the performer.
- The performer must be told what they are required to do. But, ultimately whether or not requirements 1 and 2 are met depends on the performer.
- Requirements 3 through 5 are where instructional assistance may be needed.
- However, a performer should never rely solely on an instructor’s input and/or instruction.
- The performer must be able to self-determine whether requirements 3 through 5 are being met.
- When an instructor is not available, the performer must
- know what proprioceptive sensations to focus on,
- identify and evaluate their movement errors, and
- plan the appropriate corrections that need to be made.
So, as your instructor, I will provide you with information to meet Deliberate Practice requirement number 3: the proprioceptive feelings you should focus on when you perform your deliberate practice of forefoot walking.
- You should feel yourself pushing backwards with the support foot for as long as possible. Focus on the following:
- Feel your heel lift off the ground while feeling your toes are still on the ground.
- Pushing backwards with the support foot for as long as possible will cause you to achieve a forward torso lean as your swinging leg rotates forward.
- You should feel a slight bend (i.e., flexion) of the swing leg knee throughout the entire forward swing. The knee should never be straight. Focus on the following:
- Feel a stretch of the quadriceps muscle group and a contraction of the hamstring muscle group as the leg swings forward.
- A slight flexion of the swing leg knee will make it easier to achieve the forefoot landing position when your swing leg makes contact with the ground.
- You should feel that your toes are slightly lower than your heel when the foot makes contact with the ground. Focus on the following:
- Just prior to ground contact, you should feel a slight contraction of the calf muscles (i.e., the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles). This will provide a slight plantarflexion angle at the ankle. It will also increase knee flexion because the gastrocnemius muscle is a knee flexor.
- When your foot makes contact with the ground, the heel will be barely off the ground. You should feel pressure under the ball of the foot and no pressure under the heel.
- As your body moves over your foot, you should feel your heel make contact with the ground. This will provide maximum stability as the opposite leg swings forward.
Give forefoot walking a try. If you can replace your belief that heel-strike walking is the natural way to walk (and it is not - barefoot walking is the natural way to walk and barefoot walkers do not land with a heel strike; they land with a forefoot strike) and you deliberately practice forefoot walking, I believe you will experience less lower extremity joint pain, less low back pain, and as a side benefit, you will burn more calories.
Good luck and post your experiences with this new method of walking. I want to know what you experience.