Our experts at NWUK HQ have devised a simple head to toe technique guide to help you get maximum benefit from your Nordic walking poles. In this issue we start with the foot strike which is the key way to really engage the leg muscles and help you turn every step into a workout.
The first thing to remember is to ensure the heel of your foot is the first thing to make contact with the ground with the foot angled as shown above and not in a flat position which does not allow for good stride or posture.
Once the heel hits the ground you should literally ‘roll’ through the sole of the foot and up onto the toes. It helps to imagine that you are going to squash a lemon as shown in this picture because you need to actively push off from the toe too. As you do this, you will feel that all the tiny muscles and bones (there are 26 bones and 33 joints) of the foot are working as they were designed to do. This in turn increases the effectiveness of the leg muscles and as a result improves posture. Walking with a flat (or lazy) foot results in a shuffle like gait where knee joints and hip joints are not used effectively and muscles are not actually exercised fully.
Here’s a great little practice drill that will help you to fully appreciate how the foot roll action helps to fully engage the leg muscles and how to perfect it as you Nordic walk.
- Stand upright holding your poles out in front of you with the tips firmly on the ground and your hands strapped in as usual – arms wide enough apart to allow you to step forward.
- Take a step forward with the right foot and actively roll from the foot to the heel – allow yourself to pause for a second when your weight is transferred to the ball of the foot and toe. (using the poles to support you)
- Step back to start position and repeat with the left foot
- Repeat several times paying attention to the work each leg is doing as you roll through the foot.
- Next, repeat the steps with a flat foot and note how this does not impact as much on the legs but also does not require as much support via the poles or action from the upper body.
Now simply Nordic walk with a concentrated foot roll and experience how you should feel a slight lift and be able to push off from the toe. Note, how the pole provides support at this point as well as propulsion as you push off from the toes into the next step. This means both your upper and lower body are being engaged effectively.
To test you are getting this right, simply repeat with a flat foot and see how you fail to get the lift and do not experience the same upper body engagement or propulsion.
Next time……………… we will explore this further and also the propulsion gained from using the poles and straps effectively.