What do people do wrong when walking? That is the interview question that I am asked most often. Unfortunately there are many options to choose from when answering. People tend to walk like a duck, lean backwards, tuck their pelvis under and more, but this post will focus on a major issue that almost everyone should be dealing with—locking the knees when walking.
Locking the knees, or hyperextending, means to straighten the knee joint past its normal range of motion. The bones of the upper and lower leg, the femur and tibia, should sit directly on top of one another. This is a crucial factor in the transfer of weight through the body when we are standing and even walking. When we move, the knee bends, which is normal, but what we don’t want is for the knee to move backwards, or straighten too much, into hyperextension.
Walking should be accomplished with short steps. A standard question that I ask clients in initial sessions is—what makes you go faster, long or short steps? The answer I get is invariably long steps, which is incorrect. More steps rather than longer steps will get us where we want to go in a more efficient manner.
Locking the knees can have a load of deleterious effects. This type of hyperextension can be connected to knee pain, lower back pain, neck pain and even headaches. Many people lock the knees while standing which needs to stop but most people don’t realize just how much they hyperextend when they walk.
Whether or not one is locking their knees when walking is predicated on the length of stride that we take. If a stride is too long there is no way to avoid hyperextension because in order to walk with a long stride the calf must move backwards to propel the body forward. Only by shortening one’s strides can the hyperextension be eliminated.
The first thing would be to pay attention to the way you walk in order to see if in fact you are locking the knees when walking. If you are locking the knees shorten your stride only enough to stop pushing the calf backwards in order to move forwards and you have found an acceptable length of stride.