By Dr. Gail Rosenberg
In my non-force chiropractic practice I frequently ask patients to walk while I observe their gait. Young and old alike can use tips for better walking. Many people do not utilize the entire foot during the gait cycle. What does this mean?
My observation tells me that many people place the heel and mid foot down at the same time, roll onto the fore foot and push off with the toes. In doing so, they do not get the most out of every step. A better way to walk is to plant the heel first with the toes a tiny bit more elevated in the front of the foot, then roll to the mid foot, then roll to the fore foot, then push off with the toes. This is best practiced very slowly and if your balance is not as good as it once was, take care to use a wall or counter to hold onto as you practice.
Heel plant, mid foot, fore foot, toe push off. That is a complete gait cycle. Senior citizens need to be particularly conscious of keeping their toes up so as not to trip and fall while walking. Trekking poles make practicing this better walking easier so you can concentrate on all four parts of the gait without having to worry about balance as much. Many seniors tell me that when they stumble, it is usually because their toes scuffed against something on the ground. If your toes are a bit more elevated with each step, this problem can be minimized.
Additionally, by planting the heel first, the calf muscles and Achilles tendons get a minor stretch with each step! This is important because walking the other way leads to tight calves and inflexible Achilles tendons which are associated with instability in the pelvis and low back. Keeping the calves stretched and supple can help with low back conditions. When President Kennedy was under care for his WWII low back injury, his doctor had him use a rocking chair. As he rocked, the President stretched his lower leg muscles and tendons that benefited his low back.
Better walking has the same benefit and is well worth the effort to practice it until it becomes something you can do without thinking about it. And it will reduce fall risk too.
To comment on this article, write Dr. Rosenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. She practices in Soquel Village.