As podiatrists, we are always looking for ways to help our patients walk more easily. Many of us have issues with our health, whether it be low back pain, extra body weight, diabetes, heart or breathing issues. How wonderful that you can vary your pace, customize your activities and rhythm with the poles, and still benefit from the remarkable effects of Balance Walking.
The best walking poles will withstand leaning into them, stabilize you while squatting, and even hold up to running with them. While inexpensive poles from a “Big Box” store may hold up for a while, they are probably not going to be your long term friend.
We emphasize a Neutral Wrist position while using the poles: the practice of keeping your index finger pointed in line with your straight arm- as if being pointed from your shoulder joint. Most times an open palm helps to prevent white knuckle syndrome- grabbing the handles as if your life depended on it. We want you to practice pressing the outside border of your hand down into the wrist strap and feel yourself walking tall.
Another tenet of Balance Walking is creating the connection from your Neutral Wrist through a straight elbow, which will direct a lot of the lifting force through your arms into your shoulders. This lifting force will also increase your breathing capacity, as the rib cage is floated off your hips and your spine elongates.
Open your shoulders, lift your chest, and feel your neck getting long while your head floats over your spine. One opening technique we commonly teach is called Cloud Gazing; this means you lean with the poles angled behind you for stability while arching your back and smiling into the heavens. This is a marvelous way to stretch out your neck and back, and is also great for bird watching.
Many times, our classes are focused more on balance, stretching, and moving your spine, legs and arms to help your flexibility. Walking long distances is sometimes out of the picture for those with various physical ailments. But as you get more comfortable with your poles, you will start to feel confident, strong, graceful, and balanced. The powerful ease of a jaguar; you, a four legged urban jungle creature. Walking poles give you freedom: freedom from pain, freedom to walk and explore to your heart’s desire.
Written by Drs. Greg and Dan Stilwell, DPM's