How Far Can a Healthy Person Walk?

Could You Walk 20 Miles in a Day?

Trail Walking
Trail Walking. Peopleimages/E+/Getty Images

How far a healthy and fit person could walk continuously in eight hours is a question that can come up when planning an adventure trek. Or, you may be wondering what you might be able to do in case of an emergency.

Even Beginners Easily Survive a 6-Mile Walk in Two Hours

The answer for this question is similar to that of "How far can a healthy person walk with no training?" Many people who enjoy walking volkssport walks with the AVA invite untrained friends and family out to walk a 6-mile/10-kilometer volksmarch walk at an easy pace.

These walks typically take about two hours. They all survive, although many discover they need better walking shoes.

Blisters When You Walk Higher Miles

Walking 10 miles (over three hours), even if you are used to walking for 6 miles, is more of a challenge. You can do it, but most people are likely to develop blisters in new places. Shoes and gear that worked fine for two hours may not be ideal for four hours. Blisters on the toes, heels, and ball of the foot show where your shoes and socks rub you the wrong way. You may also develop chafing at the armpits, under the breast, and in the crotch as sweat forms gritty salt crystals. Using a lubricant can help protect the skin, while you can toughen the skin of your feet by steadily building up your walking time.

You might want to check a chart of miles, kilometers, and typical times to walk that distance.

Training to Build Mileage

You should build up your mileage steadily rather than leaping from no walking to walking for four hours straight.

In training for a 13.1-mile half marathon or 26-mile marathon, you walk a long day every week and increase that mileage by a mile a week or two miles every two weeks.

There is an amazing training effect that happens. Twelve miles may have seemed very difficult the first time you reached that distance.

But six weeks later when you are walking 18 mile days, the first 12 miles are easy and no strain at all.

A Healthy Person Can Walk 20 to 30 Miles in a Day

But how far could a fit, trained person walk in eight hours? Many trained walkers finish the 26.2-mile Portland Marathon in about seven hours, with no breaks. If the walker is taking breaks and a meal stop, then 20 miles a day is reasonable for a well-trained walker. If they took no breaks and were going fast, they may be able to cover 30 miles. Walkers on the Camino de Santiago typically walk 12 to 20 miles per day on terrain that includes many hills.

Walking 20 Miles or More Day After Day

Are you planning to walk for eight hours day after day, such as on a walk across the continent or walking the Camino de Santiago? Those who have done this have plenty of blister trouble the first couple of weeks, but then either drop out or go on covering 20 miles or more each day. The Western pioneers usually covered 20 miles a day with the wagon trains, most of them walking rather than riding. They would definitely be classed as trained walkers.

If you are planning on a big trek, you need to train before you go or you will get to endure blisters, chafing, muscle aches and even stress fractures in the first few days.

Do not listen to veteran Camino walkers who tell newbies to just go and let the Camino train them. This is the most unkind thing they could recommend, basically ensuring the new pilgrim will be in misery and even having to stop due to injury.

Taking a Long Unexpected Walk

It's a whole different ball game if you have to take a long walk when you didn't expect to have to, such as walking out of a disaster area. You need to take steps that include:

  1. Shoes, Socks, and Blister Prevention: Select your most comfortable pair of sneakers, or in foul weather, your best trail shoes or comfortable boots. Don't try anything new for your first long walk. As you haven't been walking much, you'll need to prepare your feet to prevent blisters. Use cornstarch in your socks to help keep your feet dry. A little petroleum jelly on your toes and heels can also help prevent blisters. Select synthetic or wool socks rather than cotton socks - they will help wick away sweat and help prevent blisters.
  1. Layer Your Clothing: As hikers do, you need to fully prepare for a long walk by layering your clothing, if possible. Choose a sweat-wicking inner layer of polyester, not cotton. Select an insulating layer such as a wool shirt, polyester fleece vest or shirt, or a down vest if temperatures are cool. Bring a windproof outer layer. These three layers can see you through most conditions, either on a mountain or in the urban jungle. You will want to be able to add or remove a layer as you heat up or cool down. Also think of the other essentials including a hat, a good pack, a water bottle, sunscreen and lip protection.
  2. Carrying Your Stuff: A purse or briefcase will upset your posture if you carry it for more than a few minutes. For any distance walking, look for a backpack that will allow you to carry your stuff securely while maintaining good walking posture. A backpack with a waist belt distributes the load at your center of gravity, where nature intended it to be. If you only have a few items to carry, put them in a fanny pack or in the pockets of your jacket or pants.
  3. Hydration: Have a big glass of water 90 minutes before you walk. That will give your body good starting hydration and time to eliminate any extra. As you walk, have cup of water every half hour. When you finish your walk, have another tall glass of water.
  4. Eating: Before your walk, have a small balanced meal of protein and carbs. If you are sensitive to lactose, avoid milk products before a walk. You don't want to start on empty, but you don't want too much food jostling around in your stomach as you walk. Have a small snack after two hours if you must go on a very long walk.
  5. Walking in the Dark: Your reluctant trip on foot may extend from dusk till dawn. You will want to wear reflective clothing and preferably wear light-colored clothing. Take precautions as vehicles are less likely to see you. Carry a small flashlight.

Continue Reading