When it comes to foot placement, your hips and your vision play an influential role in where your foot lands. Because walking is a repetitive activity that puts stress on the joints in your feet and legs, proper form is essential for preventing injury. The way your foot strikes the ground is also important; it determines how the rest of your leg absorbs the shock of impact.
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The movement of the hips is your primary source of forward locomotion, according to WalkingHealthy.com. When one side of your hip rotates forward, it pulls your rear leg off the ground, acting like a motor to move your knee. When your knee reaches a peak distance in front of your hip, your lower leg brings your ankle forward. Muscles and tendons in the foot flex your toes upward to allow the sole to contact the ground. At ground contact, the heel is slightly forward of the knee.
Walking the Line
As a pedestrian out for a walk at a leisurely pace, your footprints will be about hip-width apart. When you speed up to a brisk pace and use your hips correctly, your feet will almost fall in a straight line. You can test this theory if you have access to a track with lines. Experiment with your speed and your hip movement, finding the pace where you naturally bring your feet into a straight line. Do not place your feet in a straight line unless you are walking briskly and the movement is natural; you can injure your knees if you force the movement.
Watch Your Feet
Your vision also plays a part in where you put your foot down, especially if you are walking on rough terrain. When you walk, you are not usually staring directly at your feet as you place them on the ground. Your eyes are looking ahead while your brain is processing information, deciding on a course of action. When your eyes are not on the the road, you are more likely to step down incorrectly, potentially leading to injury. While you walk, focus several feet ahead of you to ensure proper foot placement.
Striking the Ground
The way your foot strikes the ground can impact the health of your leg joints. Overpronation, where your arches are flatter and more of your inner foot hits the ground, can cause injuries like shin splints, knee pain and plantar fasciitis. During oversupination, more of the outside of your foot hits the ground, also leading to ligament and joint injuries. Talk to your doctor or specialist about your feet. Corrective shoes or orthotics can remedy both gait types, helping to reduce pain and prevent injuries.