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Wendy Bumgardner

How Far Can a Healthy Person Walk?

By March 19, 2007

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A reader writes, "For a very healthy and fit person, about how many miles can be walked continuously in 8 hours?" I answered a similar question on how far can a healthy person walk with no training. I have lots of experience with dragging untrained friends and family out to walk a 6 mile/10 kilometer volksmarch. That takes about two hours at an easy pace. They all survived, although many discovered they needed better walking shoes.

From personal experience, exceeding 8-10 miles, even if you are used to walking for 6 miles, is more of a challenge. You can do it, but are likely to develop blisters in new places. Shoes and gear that worked fine for two hours may not be ideal for four hours. This is why you should build up mileage steadily rather than leaping from no walking to walking for four hours straight. In training for a 13 mile half marathon or 26 mile marathon, you walk a long day every week and increase that mileage by a mile a week or two miles every two weeks. There is an amazing training effect that happens. Twelve miles may have seemed very difficult the first time you reached that distance. But six weeks later when you are walking 18 mile days, the first 12 miles are easy and no strain at all.

But how far could a fit, trained person walk in eight hours? I've always finished the Portland Marathon in about seven hours, with no breaks. If the walker is taking breaks and a meal stop, then 20 miles a day is reasonable for a well-trained walker. If they took no breaks and were going fast, they may be able to cover 30 miles.

Is this person going to walk for eight hours day after day, such as on a walk across the continent? Those who have done this have plenty of blister trouble the first couple of weeks, but then either drop out or go on covering 20 miles or more each day. The western pioneers usually covered 20 miles a day with the wagon trains, most of them walking rather than riding. I would definitely class them as trained walkers.

Comments
March 22, 2007 at 8:41 am
(1) Barry says:

Your comment about 20 miles with breaks is spot on. I walked all 12 Breast Cancer 3-Day walks last year. I used to walk 15 minute miles; on the 3-Day is is more like 20 – 25; the journey is more important than the finish time.

March 24, 2007 at 12:40 pm
(2) Jon says:

I agree. Not long ago, I was doing 100 miles a week in 5 days of 16 miles plus a 10 mile day.
I’d stretched it out to 20 miles one cool & beautuful day. And thought why not go for 26.2 miles. Good grief! the last 6.2 miles was like day one of running. I needed, I learned, to come up slowly to any new distance.

March 30, 2007 at 2:04 pm
(3) lauferein says:

Hi I just want to add to your walking information that the way to increase endurance is with the weight walkinig vest specifically I use the NYK walking
vest it fits perfectly no bulk no belts no crap just a sleek vest that is weighted slim cut bars so you look cute not like dog the bounty hunter and it has the perfect amount of weight for all not for body builders. see it nyknyc.com

June 26, 2009 at 11:36 pm
(4) Mmikey says:

Just work at toys r us. 20 mile days are the norm trying to keep that place picked up

March 14, 2010 at 10:22 am
(5) Jerry Combs says:

As far as blisters go, trained or untrained as you may be, the solution is vasoline – lots of it. Put globs of it on and you will NEVER have a blister regardless of the distance walked.

May 12, 2010 at 1:44 pm
(6) Johann says:

I just walked approximately 28 miles in 8 hours, plus taking a 2 hour excursion to climb a steep, rocky mountain with no trail (total = 10 hours) with having only walked about 3-5 miles max prior to that in my life. I also had miserable shoes, and now I have very sore feet and legs.

October 11, 2010 at 7:58 pm
(7) Gene says:

I just walked 16 miles cross country with 1500 ft of vertical climb over a half mile in the the middle. Does that make me “experianced.”

March 10, 2011 at 10:11 pm
(8) Adam says:

You are probably right as far as taking a healthy approach, but I don’t think it’s completely necessary to work up slowly. I am a college student, pretty much sedentary, overweight, don’t exercise, have asthma, have had foot surgery…several things that would exclude me from the categories of experienced walker or healthy person. For one of my finals, I was worried about falling asleep while cramming, so I just hopped on my brother’s treadmill while I was reading. I ended up walking 30 miles in about 10 hours. I did have a blister or two and was pretty sore the next day, but it didn’t kill me and I didn’t fall asleep.

May 3, 2011 at 1:56 am
(9) AWON ALI says:

ye you are absolutly right .

May 12, 2011 at 2:58 pm
(10) Tom says:

I have recently started conditioning my body to climb the 3peaks of the united kingdom, i started off with 20miles along a coastal route near me and the last 4miles was very difficult, i did walk none stop 8am got back to my car at 3pm, please note i have not exercised to any level for the last 3years. i have since done this 3 more times and have actually realised how difficult this was the 1st time. I have also done some 15mile walks and they were nothing (a warm up). grit your teeth and push yourself through that pain barrier the benifit is astonishing and your tolerence curve is a lot higher if you do. remember just do not give up and think of children in africa who have to travel these sorts of distances everyday with half their body weight of water on their backs just to survive, this was a great way of pushing through the barrier for my self after all im a “healthy” brit whos also overweight eats and drinks to much, so i put it to you, i think a good starting distance is 20miles and expect blisters even with my 140 walking boots

May 16, 2011 at 4:20 pm
(11) Brooke says:

I am 14 years old, and I walked 12 hours with out stopping and coverd 21.2 miles.

June 29, 2011 at 9:49 pm
(12) mike says:

I’m a meter reader I walk about 5-23 miles everyday on heavy boots uphill, uneven terrain, climbing fences and getting chased by dogs. I do this 5 days a week, and I feel like total crap can someone call my company and tell them that we shouldn’t be walking in 4 pound boots :) thank you.

July 15, 2011 at 4:10 pm
(13) jihad says:

get new boots sonnn

September 6, 2011 at 10:44 pm
(14) Todd says:

so i got kinda depressed the other day (im 17) walked 19 miles n 4 hours lol.. i feel proud

November 22, 2011 at 9:00 pm
(15) don says:

I am now 66 and I walk 8 miles a day 5 times a week . I feel great . My feet have now hardened ane the only important think is good footware .

February 3, 2012 at 1:41 pm
(16) james says:

myself and a friend are attempting a track across England (wainwright’s coast to coast) we have achieved the 3 peaks yorkshire and the national challenge are have decided to attempt in 4 days. Approx 50 miles a day, we are expecting to be walking for close to 16 hour days. Has anyone else attempted?

August 19, 2012 at 4:15 am
(17) Hugh says:

Never tried vaseline to ward off blisters but I was worried about blisters wearing newish walking boots on a 70 mile walking trip to Romania, the Carpathian Mountains (recommended!), I had not got in training so wouldn’t have made it – but I put my trust in a pair of 1.000 miles socks from Go Outdoors, worked a treat! Developed dreadful shin splints tho’, so training is essential really….

December 15, 2012 at 4:57 pm
(18) Brandon says:

I searched for this after walking over 18 miles yesterday. I did not WANT to, but had to get somewhere and had no choice. I dont excercise at all.
Approximately 5 hours later i reached my destination, limping from a sore knee.
Hats off to folks who walk that far….it was an experience. One I will not attempt ever again.
I consider myself healthy, but definitelynot as fit as I thought I was. …

April 20, 2013 at 5:44 pm
(19) . says:

No previous training. Walked 75 miles in 3 days with a 25kg pack over mountain terrain. Legs ached but nothing i wouldent do again!

May 12, 2013 at 2:53 am
(20) John says:

I walk 40 miles a day for work nonstop. I’m not allowed breaks. Tomorrow I have a 12 hour shift. Most of the time I’m also carrying 50lbs of weight with me.

August 24, 2013 at 4:17 am
(21) neil spencer says:

Ive just walked the taff trail a 55 mile route from brecon to Cardiff bay for the army charity scottys little soldiers,I started at 03:00 and finished at 19:15 some 16 hrs later while carrying a 30lb backpack ,that was hard going

October 29, 2013 at 1:38 am
(22) tyson says:

I wanted to get back into trekking. When I was younger I did Outward Bound that lasted for about 10 days of trekking up and down mountains. We hated the experience at the time, but look back on it fondly. After the first few days you really begin to get used to it.. Walking up and down mountains for miles becomes a breeze. Dont give up people.. its going to hurt a lot at first if you are not used to it but if you stick with it, you will demolish terrain like nobodies business

November 11, 2013 at 6:54 pm
(23) Tasos says:

Right now I came from a very long walk without stop, without even 1 stop.
I did go from Corinh, Greece to Kiato, Greece which is almost 21 km or 13 miles and came back part jogging, part walking. So 41 Km or 26 miles, without previous training and even smoking. But I am 18 years old. :D

Sorry for any grammar mistakes.

January 2, 2014 at 4:12 am
(24) rfs says:

How many days do you think it would take me to walk a 1100 kilometers (680miles) distance? I want to walk for a journey.

January 2, 2014 at 6:30 am
(25) Wendy Bumgardner says:

rfs, if you average 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) per day, it would take 55 days.

January 3, 2014 at 7:05 pm
(26) ralph058 says:

In the early 60s, the US Army marched at 120-30 inch steps per minute with a ten minute break every hour for five hours. Then a lunch break of a half hour and then another five hours marching for a one day march. If a “forced march” was taking place, another five hours were marched.

This is an effective 2.84 mph (3.4 mph peak). A normal march would be roughly 28.4 miles. A forced march would be 42.6. A multi day casual march would be around 23 per day.

If you are considering a very long walk, I would use that as a guide.

January 6, 2014 at 2:35 am
(27) Jake says:

I walked 38 miles in August of last year. It took me 10:31:00, though I had less than a 15-lb pack. I did about 35 to 50 sprints intermittently to break up the monotony and repetition of endless walking. I was disappointed because I had planned on 50 miles, but the ball of my left foot was on fire for the last 12 miles, so I didn’t finish. If it were an event, or if a 50 miler were my only physical goal, I would have finished–though I was tremendously disappointed I missed the goal.
A clear goal is mandatory if you are going to finish. The mind can think of a thousand excuses, and they all seem real toward the end of a long walk.

March 18, 2014 at 11:46 am
(28) Rob Santiago says:

Clearly your statement is in error. The average army can march 30 miles in one day. This standard was set in the days of the romans and is still the standard used today by most militaries. The goal is to move an army with their gear and be ready to fight after the march. Marathon runners on average can complete 26 miles in under 3 hours, so it is clear that your 20 mile per day mark is low. The average person can walk at a pace of one mile in 20 minutes or 3 miles per hour. Depending on the length of the day i.e. and 8 hour day means that the average person could walk 24 miles, 30 miles in 10 hours, 36 miles in 12 hours and so forth. With breaks the distance would be less, but you get the point.

April 3, 2014 at 1:14 pm
(29) Barry W says:

Late last summer in one day I walked 61 kms .Obviously it was not done in 1 continuous walk.I am 53 now and never felt better.Walking is a wonder excercise to me. I started 2 years ago and was in horrilble shape,120 pounds heavier and new I had to do something or else.My goal this summer is 100+ kms in one day. I will do it !

thx Barry

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