For a pedometer to measure distance, you must measure your average step length or average stride length. First, read the instructions on your pedometer carefully. Most ask for the step length.
Step Length: The distance from the heel print of one foot to the heel print of the other foot. This is the distance traveled forward by a single leg. An average that you will see listed in many places is 2.2 feet (0.67 meters) for women and 2.5 feet (0.762 meters) for men, but it depends very much on height.
Stride Length: This can mean the same thing as step length, or it can mean the distance traveled by the heel of one foot to the next time that same foot strikes down - in other words, two steps, since in that time the other foot has also touched down once. If you set your pedometer for your step length and discover it seems to be halving your distance, read the instructions again - it may want the stride length, which is two steps. Also, the reverse - if you at first thought the pedometer needed the stride length but you seem to be getting double the distance, read again as they may have really wanted the step length.
The Wet Foot Walk
Rob Sweetgall of Creative Walking, Inc. touts this method of measuring step length to set your pedometer. Create a puddle of water on a stretch of sidewalk or street where you can be walking your natural speed before and after you reach it. Start walking at your natural pace and walk through the water. Keep walking naturally for about 10 more steps.
Now measure the distance from the heel of your left footprint to the heel of your right footprint on several of the wet footprints and average them. If your pedometer is set in feet, divide the inches by 12 to get feet. Step length in inches/12 inches = Step length in feet.
Measured Distance Short Walk
Measure off a known distance - 20 feet or 50 feet. Then get up to speed in your natural walk and count the number of steps it takes to cover that distance. Divide the number of feet by the number of steps. Feet/steps = Step length in feet.
Measured Distance Long Walk
Use a football field, which is 300 feet from goal line to goal line. Count your steps. Divide 300 by the number of steps.
Use a regulation track at the local high school. This is tricky because some are 1/4 mile = 440 yards = 1,320 feet, while others are 400 meters = 1,308 feet, so you may have to ask the coach. Walk in the inside lane only. Count your steps. Divide either 1,320 or 1,308 by the number of steps.
This should be more accurate than the short walk because your stride will vary over the distance.
Check Your Distance With Online Mapping Apps
Use an online mapping app to draw your and measure your walking route. Then check this against your pedometer reading.
Ten Step Measure
Make a mark at the heel of your right foot and then walk 10 steps, marking where the heel sets down on your tenth step. Measure the distance. Divide that distance by 10.
This method can be inaccurate because you start and end at a dead halt, which is not your normal stride.
Estimate by Height
These are rough estimates, but useful to check your results by the other methods:
Females: Your height x .413 equals your stride length
Males: Your height x .415 equals your stride length
Source: Yamax Digiwalker Pedometer Instructions based on paper: HATANO, Y. "Use of the pedometer for promoting daily walking exercise." Int. Council Health Phys. Educ. Recreat. 29:4 – 8, 1993.
Pedometer Instruction Manuals
Sportline: Click on the "Learn More" link for your model and there is a link to download the manual. Older models are grouped as "Legacy Products."
Models SW-201, SW-651, and SW-701 .pdf
Omron Pedometer manuals .pdf
Next page > Before You Buy a Pedometer