Reach your step count without injury

Reach your step count without injury

The benefits of walking are widely celebrated. Regularly getting your steps in can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, help manage your weight, improve chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, and lower stress levels. And best of all, it is an exercise that most people of all ages can adopt. But when starting a walking routine, it’s important to recognize that excessive walking can lead to injury.

Dr. Annie Stroze, a podiatrist and foot & ankle surgereon at Aurora Health Center – Pleasant Prairie, offers advice on how to prevent strain on your feet and ankles.

Preparing to walk

“When starting an exercise routine, all increases in activity should be gradual,” says Dr. Stroze. “Too much activity right off the bat can lead to injury. Start small and gradually increase the intensity and duration of whatever exercise you are doing.”

For routine walking, as opposed to hiking, select a flat surface to avoid potential twists and turns.

Dr. Stroze recommends stretching exercises. Specifically, the calf muscle should be stretched to decrease strain throughout the foot. The runner’s stretch and toe touch are good options for before and after a walk. Stretching helps to prevent musculoskeletal injury and relieves muscular stress.


Wearing the proper footwear is critical to protecting your feet and ankles. Dr. Stroze offers the following three tips for selecting footwear:

  1. Pay attention to both the length of the shoe and its depth. “You should have enough room in a shoe for a thumb’s breadth between the big toe and the end of the shoe. Depth of the shoe should be enough to accommodate any hammertoe deformities that may exist.”
  2. Shoes with seams across bony areas often lead to issues with blistering or even wounds. “Make sure the seam on the shoe does not cross a bony bump. Soft, flexible toe boxes are best.”
  3. Your heel should not slip across the back of the shoe and should feel snug. “Changing the lacing pattern of the shoe can sometimes lead to an improved fit. This can be done by threading the lace through the last eyelet so that the lace comes out on the inside of the shoe, creating a loop between the last two eyelets.”
Goal setting

Wearable devices allow us to easily set and track movement goals including walking. “Remember to set attainable goals,” says Dr. Stroze. “It’s great to have a big goal, but sometimes setting smaller milestone goals along the way will help you get to your desired outcome. A general goal is 30 minutes of activity a day.”

Common injury

When done properly, walking will improve bone quality and can help prevent the weakening of bones by stimulating bone growth. But there also are common injuries that can be sustained with excessive walking including stress fractures, inflammation, sprains, and calluses or blisters. When these occur, Dr. Stroze recommends rest, ice and elevation.

Depending on the injury, most soreness and aches should improve within two to three days. If pain is worsening or fails to improve during that time, seek medical care.

Overall, the benefits of walking outweigh the risks.

Are you experiencing hip or knee pain instead? Take a free online quiz to learn more. 

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About the Author

Annette Guye-Kordus
Annette Guye-Kordus

Annette Guye-Kordus is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care.