10 Dorky Things I've Worn Walking

"You're really going to wear that -- in public?" Sometimes my husband or walking buddies reconsider being seen with me once I gear up for a walk. While many people blend into the walking environment, looking like any other pedestrian, it's obvious when I'm out for a walking workout. One person's fashion crime is another person's essential walking gear. And then you have to weigh whether you just look dorky vs. outdated vs. geeky.

Bold Shoes

Blue Brooks Shoes and Autumn Leaves
Blue Brooks Shoes and Autumn Leaves. Wendy Bumgardner ©

I try to buy stealthy black or tan comfort shoes to wear to work that still let me get in a good walking workout on my breaks or at lunch. But lately, the athletic shoe companies are trending to bright, bold in-your-face colors. These electric blue Brooks Glycerin cushioned shoes not only stand out at the office, they are a bold look for a workout, too. Other walkers sally forth wearing oddball toning shoes, Vibram FiveFingers, or even the dreaded white orthotic shoes. Whatever you walk best in, wear them without embarrassment!

Dork Factor: Medium High

Fitness Walking Poles

Two Women Nordic Walking
Nordic Walking. Scott Markewitz/Aurora Open/Getty Images

Walking poles win the "gear most likely to draw comments from passersby" award. "Where's the snow?" "Did you forget your skis?" And many other things never to say to a walker. I grin and bear it, knowing I'm getting a better workout by using the poles with a nordic walking or exerstriding technique, or enjoying the stability when using them as trekking poles. More: Before You Buy Walking Poles

Dork Factor: High

Fanny Pack

Wearing a Fanny Pack in Front
Wendy Bumgardner ©

It's telling that I had a whole box full of old fanny packs to give away at my garage sale before moving to our new house. They are out of fashion, but they are perfect for when you just want to carry a few essentials and/or a water bottle on a walk. My customers thought so, too -- the fanny packs quickly got snapped up for free, I really should have put a price on them! More: Top Picks for Water-Carrying Waist Packs

Dork Factor: High

Giant GPS or Heart Rate Monitor Watch

Large Garmin sport watch
flickr Editorial/Getty Images / Getty Images

GPS watches are getting smaller and more discreet. But I have been spotted wearing Garmin and Timex GPS watches that took up several inches on my wrist. Some had a GPS sensor that you had to wear separately, preferably on your shoulder or hat where it could catch the satellite signals. More: Walking Speedometers

Heart rate monitors are evolving to be more stylish, so you could wear them as wristwatches when you aren't working out. But I've worn ones that beep or flash, and that I check far too often. That pushes them over into the dork/geek category. More: Before You Buy a Heart Rate Monitor

Dork Factor: Medium High - for outdated models
Geek Factor: High - for current models

Elmer Fudd Hat

Plaid Winter Hat
Don Nichols / Getty Images

My husband sometimes objects to my choice of cold-weather walking hats. I guess he is hot-headed enough that his ears never get cold, but mine hurt once the temperature dips below 60F. I wear hats that have ear coverings or I wear an earband over a ballcap. I may never catch that wascal wabbit, but by golly, my ears are happy!

Dork Factor: Medium

Too Many Pedometers

Wendy Bumgardner ©

"Hold on, I have to start my walking apps." I fiddle with my phone and devices to get all the workout tracking going before I get going. While I'm often wearing a new device or testing a new app to review it, I'm always wearing the Nike FuelBand on my wrist and the Fitbit One on my waistband. At times, I've had three phone apps going that all record my walks for different purposes.

Dork Factor: High

Geek Factor: High


Wendy Portland Marathon Half Marathon Medal
Wendy Wears Pink Headphones at Portland Marathon Finish. Wendy Bumgardner ©

I know it is far more acceptable to wear earbuds. But my ears just don't like earbuds -- especially for a long walk of two hours or more. My ears start hurting and that is unacceptable. I prefer headphones, and not the behind-the-neck kind. I know this is dorky because this year it was almost impossible to find the over-the-head kind for sports use when my old pair broke. I ended up with a pink pair as my only choice. I think they go well with my half marathon medal, don't you?

Dork Factor: Medium and rising
Geek Factor: Fail - no geek would wear these

Camelbak Hydration Pack

Camelbak Marathoner Vest
Camelbak Marathoner Vest. Wendy Bumgardner © 2012

In order to step away from wearing a water-carrying fanny pack, I switched to a Camelbak hydration pack. I could wear a regular backpack with a water bottle holder, but I find that I drink more often from the sucker tube than I do from a bottle. That keeps me better hydrated on my long walking workouts. But it also makes me stand out from the typical pedestrian. When I want to go full-dork, I wear the Camelbak Marathoner Vest. It has handy pockets, although it's also given me the worst torso-chafing I've every experienced after a walk!

Dork Factor: High

Walking Club Patches

Volksmarch Jacket
Volksmarch Jacket. Wendy Bumgardner © 2001

I started my walking life as an IVV volkssport walker, and I am still a faithful volkssport walker. I've earned a passel of patches over the past three decades of walking and even sewn some onto a jacket. And I've worn it in public. But this is a little too dorky even for me to wear except when at a volkssport walking convention. On the other hand, I often wear my race shirts and feel fashionable, especially when greeted by others who ran or walked the same race.

Dork Factor: Extreme

Reflective Gear and Headlamp or LED Hat

Wendy Bumgardner ©

Normal pedestrians wear muted clothing and are nearly invisible on the street. I have an aversion to dying while walking after dark, so I wear reflective clothing, a headlamp or LED light hat, and even my mighty Glo Glovs for safety. More: Top Picks for Night Walking Gear

Dork Factor: High
Safety Factor: Worth looking dorky

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