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Learning to Walk Fast: My First Steps


Updated November 13, 2008

Why Walk Fast?

Many people are happy walking at a comfortable, easy pace. While there are many health benefits to walking easy, there are special benefits to picking up the pace.

1. More distance covered in the same time: Whether your walking workout is around your neighborhood or on non-competitive 10K walks, you can save time walking faster while still burning the calories. In today's busy world, this can mean you take your walk instead of skipping it due to other commitments.

2. More calories burned over same distance: The racewalk technique uses more muscles than easy walking, so you burn 1.5 - 2 times as many calories over the same distance.

3. Build and tone muscles: By using those muscles, you are building hungry muscles which will burn more calories each day whether they are in use or not. Eat more, weigh less - a food lover's dream. You also tone your muscles for a sleeker body shape - racewalking exercises the glutes, thighs, hips, shoulders, upper back and abs. No, you aren't going to get musclebound - racewalking stretches out the muscles for that great long, lean line.

A Beginner's Progress

Toning: After three weeks of learning to racewalk, I can report that I am toning up all over, especially the thighs and, surprisingly, the arms. My weight is also beginning to drop at the same time, despite vacation eating.

Shoes: This week I walked in Las Vegas, up and down the Strip as I vacationed. The racewalk stride felt good. But I noticed that my shoes, New Balance 851, seemed to be more in my way than helpful. They were chosen for me for stability and work great for walking at moderate speed, but with racewalking I needed something more flexible so my foot could roll through the step easily. Upon returning, I went to my local technical shoe store, Portland Running Co., where I was fitted for a shoe many local racewalkers use, the Asics GT-2020.

Knowing that the last thing you should do is wear a new shoe out on a 10K walk, I did it anyway on Saturday. The shoes felt great, I was able to racewalk through all of the 10K whereas before I had to stop at 1-2 miles due to foot and ankle fatigue. As a bonus, I met up with a local racewalker and for the first time showed my style to somebody who knew what racewalking SHOULD look like. He said my legs and footwork were great but I was chicken-winging my arms too much. Now, THAT I can correct. I took time at the checkpoints to talk with folks, which I could do easily since my pace was trimming a half hour off my usual 10K time.

The walk was the 10th Anniversary Walk for the Vancouver USA Volkssporters and passed through the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site where crowds were gathering to view the biggest fireworks west of the Mississippi later in the evening. I smiled at a nice older gentleman using a walker and he commented that my walking must be what was keeping me so slim. I could have kissed him!

Shoe Tips

John from Pace Setter Athletic gave a lecture on how to choose a walking shoe. I got confirmation that the Asics GT-2020 was a good shoe for racewalking and was interested to discover how many others in our volkssport audience were interested in racewalking or walking fast.

At a technical shoe stores, the salespeople are not on commission and will steer you to the best shoe for your activity, not the highest priced stylish shoe they can sell you. Walkers should be wearing running shoes fitted for their walking pattern, service you can only get at a technical shoe store. Good running shoes should be in the $70-$90 price range. A listing of technical shoe stores is printed every couple of months in Runner's World magazine.

Those folks like me who can't resist wearing that new pair of shoes immediately should take the insoles out of your old pair and put them in the new pair, as they have already conformed to your foot. Your foot will slide around on the new slick insoles and can cause blisters until they have been worn for a few dozen miles.

Shoe Rotation: To extend the life of your shoes, buy two pair and rotate them. The lecturer suggested rotating them every 2-3 weeks, although some say to alternate every day. Rotation allows the shoes to dry out and allows the foam to rebound. Rotating your shoes will clue you in faster when your shoe's suspension dies, something you may not notice if you only wear one pair. I will be using different pairs for different speeds, the New Balance for walking moderate speed and the Asics for fast speed.


  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Walking
  4. Walking Fast
  5. Racewalking
  6. Racewalk Technique
  7. Learning to Walk Fast - My First Steps to Learn to Walk Fast

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