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10 Tips for Walking to Work

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Updated June 02, 2014

Walking commuters
Stuart Dee / Photographer's Choice RF

Walking to work is a great way to stay healthy and save money on commuting costs. How can you prepare for walking to work?

1. Plan Your Route

The best route to walk to work may be different from what you prefer for driving. I like to use quieter side streets or greenway paths as much as possible. Look for a route that is a block or two off of major roads. Consult your local parks department web site for the location of greenway paths. I also like to skip crossing major streets to avoid the noise and delay. You can use an online walking route planner or app to find, draw, and measure a local walking route.
My Kind of Walking Route - 14 Points to Planning a Great Walk

2. Predict Your Walking Time

Don't be late for work. How long will it take you to walk to work? For your first walking commute, plan on a pace of 20 minutes per mile or 12 minutes per kilometer. If you have many streets to cross with walking signals, you may want to increase that to 25 minutes per mile. Time your first couple of walks so you can better predict your walking pace.
How Do You Know How Fast You Walk?

3. Wear the Right Shoes and Socks

I recommend wearing athletic shoes for any walk of over 10 minutes. You may need to change to shoes more appropriate for your work environment when you arrive, either by leaving them at work or carrying them with you. Athletic shoes support your feet correctly for walking any distance, preventing foot pain and problems. Get fit for good athletic shoes at the store in your area that caters to serious runners. They will be able to recommend the right shoe for your stride.
How to Choose Walking Shoes
Socks that wick away sweat will help prevent foot blisters.
Before You Buy Walking Socks

4. Wear the Right Walking Clothes

Can you walk to work in your usual work clothes? This will depend on the weather, the length of your walk, and whether you wear casual clothes or suits. Your walking clothing should allow a proper walking stride. Pants or skirts that restrict your leg motion should be avoided. For walks of more than 20 minutes, you may want to consider wearing proper walking clothing and changing when you get to work. At a minimum, I recommend women wear a sports bra and an athletic shirt that wicks away sweat and change, if needed, when you arrive at work.
What to Wear Walking

5. Protect Your Head and Skin

Hats are a good idea for walking for more than 10 minutes. Many of us try to avoid "hat hair" by not wearing a hat. But you will need to keep your head warm in winter and shielded from the sun in summer. Try a different hairstyle if you see this will be a problem. As a long-haired person, I braid my hair to keep it from being windblown and tangled. Wear sunscreen in all weather to prevent wrinkles, aging skin, and skin cancer.

6. Carrying Your Stuff

Your usual briefcase or shoulder bag is likely to be uncomfortable to carry for more than 10 minutes. Switching to a backpack or messenger bag will allow you to carry the load while maintaining good walking posture. That can help prevent back ache from walking with poor body alignment. Avoid carrying anything in your hands, which can lead to repetitive strain for your neck, shoulder, elbow or wrist. Lighten the load -- papers and books weigh a lot. Every 5 sheets of paper equals an ounce. Aim for a load of five pounds or less (including the weight of the bag) for the best walking comfort.
Lighten Your Backpack

7. Be Prepared for Bad Weather

I like to carry along one of those cheap folded plastic rain ponchos just in case of an unplanned downpour. Dressing in layers can help you prepare for unexpected heat or cold - remove or add a jacket, microfleece vest, or windbreaker. Umbrellas may work in some climates, but I find the poncho to be the most effective answer to wind and rain.

8. Sweat Happens - Sprucing Up at Work

Even in cool weather, you may work up a lather on your walk. Give yourself an extra few minutes after arrival to cool down and dry off. Locate the best washroom for this purpose. If you find you are sweating on the way to work, switch to wearing a sweat-wicking athletic shirt for the walk. Use a washcloth or moistened paper towels to give your armpits a sponge bath. Change into a fresh shirt. You may want to choose work shirts that are wrinkle-resistant so you can bring them with you. Some athletic shirts are adding an anti-microbial finish that helps prevent body odor.

9. Replenish Your Body

If your walk will take more than 20 minutes, plan for a cup of water every 20 minutes by carrying it with your or locating water fountains. After arrival, have a glass of water. For walks of 30 minutes or more, it is good to have a small post-walk snack that includes protein and carbohydrate to help your body build muscle and restore energy. A drink that includes non-fat milk or soy milk is a good choice.
Drinking and Walking
Recovery Drinks

10. Plan B

Those used to car commuting may feel uneasy in not having a car to use for errands or emergencies. What public transportation is available between home and work? Learn the bus and rail routes and have the fare on hand. Would any of your co-workers give you a ride if needed? Can friends or family be on call to pick you up? Planning this ahead of time will relieve stress and make you a more confident walking commuter.
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