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May 25, 2013 6:09 PM   Subscribe

Can I learn how to walk differently? When I walk, I drag my heels. I always wear Birkenstock sandals, and this way of walking causes my heels to wear away much faster than the rest of the shoe, leading to more frequent (expensive-ish) repairs. Can I train myself to walk another way? I know people do it in necessary times (e.g. loss of limb, spinal cord/brain damage, etc.) but I just WANT to change. Possible?
posted by dithmer to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe you go and get a gait analysis? Sports clinics do this for example, for runners. They will observe you walking on treadmill, diagnose any problems (e.g. pronation in my case), and recommend solutions (orthotic insoles, in my case, that adjusted my footfall). It costs, but may be covered by health insurance.
posted by carter at 6:25 PM on May 25, 2013

I took Alexander Technique lessons in order to address some RSI issues from piano playing, but a lot of people take it to address posture and movement issues. You might look into it. I found it changed the way I walk and move and use my body weight. There are some resources on the web.
posted by mermily at 6:37 PM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Everyone I have ever known who has worn Birkenstocks has had the heel wear out sooner than the rest of the shoe. It's just the way Birkenstocks are made. I wouldn't try to alter your gait over it.
posted by Sara C. at 6:54 PM on May 25, 2013 [6 favorites]

Models and gymnasts both learn to walk a particular way. Yes, it can be done. If you have some issues in this area, some athletic training might help.
posted by Michele in California at 7:55 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would recommend getting a gait analysis done, but not necessarily to change the way you walk. It may be that your gait is just fine, and the shoes need to go.

I changed my walk from hard heel-strike to more balls-of-the-feet when I wore Merrell Barefoot shoes. They take some getting used to, but over time, my footfalls became much lighter, and as a side benefit, I developed much better balance, since the muscles used to counter-balance wobble were activated and strengthened.

I'm not suggesting you need to go with that approach, or particular shoe, but just illustrating how profound an effect the type of shoe you wear can have.

If your gait is healthy -- isn't causing any issues with the rest of your body structure -- you may want to stick with it. The implications for altering your stride artificially can be complex and have long-term repercussions that may not be desirable.
posted by nacho fries at 8:39 PM on May 25, 2013

Physiotherapists deal with this all the time. They'll evaluate where the problem lies (spine/hips/legs/no actual problem) and look into how it came about (i.e. lifestyle habits), then provide both advice on how to change your gait (if they think that it's necessary) and design orthopedics to correct any musculoskeletal issues that might be arising from said (and still currently hypothetical) problem. Hopefully not too many consultations required, so shouldn't be overly expensive, but I definitely advise that you consult a professional on the matter.
posted by kisch mokusch at 9:00 PM on May 25, 2013

I had the same problem with my Birkenstocks, and ultimately I've moved towards very thin-soled minimalist shoes. I've had the same experience as nacho fries above - my balancing muscles have gotten way better and I walk more on the balls of my feet. As a side benefit, my heels don't hurt any more.

Now it feels like I'm wearing weighted balloons on my feet when I wear non-minimalist shoes. I have some Doc Martins and my legs were sore from the unaccustomed weight after swinging those hammers around for a day.
posted by bookdragoness at 10:02 PM on May 25, 2013

Best answer: I exclusively wore Birkenstocks for maybe 5 years or more and had the same issue. You can buy heel taps for a couple bucks and nail them on yourself. Or switch to a different shoe.
posted by latkes at 11:10 PM on May 25, 2013

I also think this is a Birkenstock thing, not a gait thing. When I used to wear Birks, it was always the heel that wore out. Not an issue with any other shoes.
posted by Kriesa at 5:09 AM on May 26, 2013

A wonderful voice teacher helped me change my walk as part of general posture training. He also taught me how to walk in heels.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:33 PM on May 26, 2013

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