Humans are bipedal creatures, which means we walk on two legs – we even have our own gaits and ways of moving. One way that humans differ in walking is their foot strike, or which part of the foot first touches the ground. When we sprint, our heel typically does not touch the ground. A heel strike is the heel-toe movement where our heel hits the ground first and our toes last.
The Importance of Heel-To-Toe Walking
Practicing your heel-to-toe walk helps you improve your balance for everyday actions, even walking up and down the stairs. The hell-to-toe walk is simple: you walk forward focusing on one spot in front of you as you set one foot down in front of the other, touching the heel of your right foot in front of the your left toes, and vice versa. You do this for 20 steps, and make sure you’re near a wall in case you need to secure yourself.
Other mammals walk differently than we do by putting most weight on their toes and largely ignoring their heel. This is because four-legged creatures can walk or run on their toes efficiently, but humans need to go heel first to stretch our Achilles tendon. While walking on our toes first may improve our largest calf muscle, it decreases our soleus muscle (which runs from our heel to just below the knee) by a whopping 122%. Tip-toeing is even less efficient than walking toe-first, which expends 53% more energy. This is why practicing heel-to-toe walking is important not only to make our way through life efficiently, but to use and stretch out the proper muscles. Although toddlers can start out walking on their toes, they usually grow out of the habit unless they have a short Achilles tendon.
Recovering from Injury
Heel-to-toe walking not only improves your coordination, but strengthens the muscles in your legs that can help prevent falls. Because it’s just a matter of being conscientious as you walk, you can do this exercise anywhere and at any time in your day as long as you have an unobstructed path and firm flooring under your feet. The heel-to-toe walking exercise is used by physical therapists to diagnose gait disorders, and also to help patients who have muscle imbalances or lower leg injuries. These injuries could be ankle pain that makes it difficult to work out, poor posture that affects your legs, or wearing high heels too often as they have a lack of support.
Frequent use of high heels can lead to an adopted toe-heel gait, which may even eventually alter your pelvic alignment which can lead to back problems. Heel-to-toe walking can help fix that, as well as strengthen the muscles around your legs and feet that help skiers keep their weight shifted correctly. Heel-to-toe walking helps the ankle dorsiflexors that control whether your foot smacks the ground or lands smoothly as you walk. Aerobics instructors will use the heel-to-toe walk to help their class prevent shin splints. Walking heel-to-toe is not only more efficient, but it helps your leg muscles stay efficient and keep their balance.