How Far Can a Healthy Person Walk?

Could You Walk 20 Miles in a Day?

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

A reader writes, "For a very healthy and fit person, about how many miles can be walked continuously in eight hours?"

Even Beginners Easily Survive a Six 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 six 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 3 hours), even if you are used to walking for six 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.

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 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 12-20 miles per day on terrain that includes many hills.

Walking 20 Miles or More Day After Day

Is this person going 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. I would definitely class them 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 it you have to take a long walk when you didn't expect to have to, such as walking out of a disaster area. Here are tips for walking when you aren't prepared.

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