Learn How to Walk Faster

Brisk walking woman with good walking form
Walking Fast. Sri Maiava Rusden/Taxi/Getty Images

Do you want to speed up your walking pace? Using these tips will help you walk faster and more efficiently, turning more of your exertion into speed. Good technique can make it feel easier and more fluid to walk, even though you are going faster.

The following techniques borrow good posture, proper stride, powerful arm movement, foot motion, and other elements from racewalking, but without the hip motion.

4 Great Reasons to Learn to Walk Faster

  1. Finish your walking workout faster at a set distance. If you walk the same route every time, you will be done sooner. If you walk for a set period of time, you'll be going farther and therefore burning more calories.
  2. Get your heart rate up to the level of moderate-intensity exercise. This will bring you a better fitness boost from your walking workout and reduce your health risks.
  3. Increase the calories you burn during your walk by being able to walk a longer distance in the same time, or by increasing speed to the point you are burning more calories due to using more muscles (12-minute miles and faster).
  4. Finish walking races and charity walks in a better time and be able to outpace your walking friends and loved ones.

Gear Up for Faster Walking: Shoes

Your shoes can be slowing you down. You need to make sure you have the right shoes to walk faster. They need to be flexible and lightweight.

To be sure you have the best ones, learn how to select the right shoes for faster walking.

How Fast are You Walking Now? Measure Your Baseline

Take some baseline measurements to see how fast you are now and to see what your heart rate is when you are walking at top speed. Cell phone apps use GPS for walking speed and can be inaccurate.

You should check them by timing yourself over a measured mile. Walking/running speedometers are usually more accurate, but often costly.

You can use a local track, or you can measure out a mile or kilometer to walk using tools such as a bike odometer, car odometer, or GPS. Warm up with a walk of five to 10 minutes so you are ready to walk at your top speed. Time yourself two or three times over this mile to get a good average. Take your pulse to see what your heart rate is at the end of a mile.

Warm-Up and Cool-Down for Fast Walking

Be sure to include the warm-up and cool-down phases in each workout. Start each walking workout with a slow, easy pace. Spend the first five minutes walking casually and transitioning to good walking posture. You may want to stop after five minutes and do stretches or flexibility drills to further loosen up. At the end of your fast walking workout, budget five minutes as a cool down so you can slow to an easy pace and allow your breathing and heart rate to return to baseline.

Posture: Head and Torso Position for Faster Walking

How you hold your body is very important to walking comfortably and easily. With good posture, you will be able to breathe easier and you will avoid back pain.

  • Stand up straight.
  • Think of being tall and straight, do not arch your back.
  • Do not lean back or sit back on your hips.
  • Don't lean forward, this was recommended by some coaches but most walkers end up leaning too far forward.
  • Keep your eyes forward, looking 20 feet ahead.
  • Keep your chin up and parallel to the ground.
  • Shrug once and let your shoulders fall and relax, with your shoulders slightly back.
  • Suck in your stomach. Keep your abdominal muscles firm but not overtightened.
  • Tuck in your behind. Rotate your hip forward slightly.
  • Your head should remain level as you walk.
  • Your hips will rotate front to back as you walk. Avoid side-to-side swaying which is wasted motion.

    Arm Motion for Faster Walking

    Using your arms correctly can boost your walking speed. Forget what you may have seen of powerwalkers as often they are shown using improper technique.

    • Bend your elbows at 90 degrees.
    • Relax your hands. Then close them into a partially closed curl, not clenched tightly.
    • It is best not to carry anything in your hands.
    • Hold your elbows close to your body.
    • Your arms will work opposite of your legs. Your right arm is back when your right foot is forward. Close your eyes and let your arms assume this natural motion at first.
    • For the backward arm motion, exaggerate it slightly so as your arm goes back, that hand is reaching towards your back pocket.
    • As your arm comes forward, keep it moving straight forward rather than crossing your body. It is like extending for a handshake. You might also think of a choo-choo train motion back and forth. Any diagonal motion is wasted energy.
    • As your arm comes forward, keep it level, don't raise it up past the level of your breastbone.
    • Don't overexaggerate the backward motion of your arm to the point of leaning.

    Foot Motion for Faster Walking

    Your feet will take an active role, using your heel and ankle to roll through the step and push off powerfully at the end of your stride.

    • Your heel should hit the ground first, before the rest of your foot.
    • Keep your ankle flexed as your foot comes forward.
    • Once your heel lands, your foot flexes and rolls through the step from heel to toe. It will naturally rotate as long as your shoes are flexible enough in the sole.
    • As your foot rolls through from heel to toe, it passes underneath your body.
    • The power portion of your step is the push off in back when your foot is behind your body. As you push off with the back foot, your opposite leg is moving forward to strike again with the heel.
    • The power and speed in your step will come from getting a good push off with the rear leg.

    Fast Walking Stride

    To walk faster, you will be taking more steps in a shorter amount of time rather than taking unnaturally long steps. Many people make the error of overstriding when trying to walk faster. Instead, you will keep your natural stride length but learn to use it powerfully.

    • You want your stride to be longer behind your body, with your toe pushing off. It should be shorter in front of your body, with the forward foot landing closer to your body rather than overstriding.
    • Try to keep your rear foot on the ground longer to give a full push-off with your toes.
    • After pushing off, your rear foot passes under the body and your knee flexes, driving the leg forward but not up.
    • Now your ankle flexes and your knee straightens so your heel is ready to contact the ground on your forward stride. You might imagine you are showing the sole of your shoe.
    • Your heel should strike the ground close to the front of your body. At the same time, your rear leg is rolling through the step and preparing for a powerful push-off with the toe.
    • Your hips should naturally rotate with each stride front to back, not side-to-side. Don't try to add any hip motion.
    • Fast walkers take more, smaller steps rather than longer steps.

    Walking Workouts to Build Speed

    Put your fast walking technique to work during your walking workouts. Build your time incrementally as you get used to a new way of using your body posture, arms, feet, and legs. A good starting point would be to practice the technique for 10 minutes at a time after warming up. You can lengthen this time after a few days if you don't have any new aches or pains. Shin splints are common when you change your walking technique, so take it easy at first.

    Once you have built your fast walking time to 20 to 30 minutes and you are used to the new technique, you can begin to use it with speed workouts. Try this set of three speed-building walking workouts that will help you go faster and develop your aerobic capacity to maintain a higher walking pace.

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