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Walking During Races: How to Maximize the Technique

Posted by on Jul 5, 2012 | 4 Comments

Walking during races? For ultrarunners, it’s often a necessity. For new runners, it’s the preferred method to build endurance. For serious road runners, it’s considered a mortal sin. But it’s rarely something we practice.

Jeff Galloway has made a living coaching runners to use a run-walk strategy when racing… and it really works! The idea is simple- by interspersing walking breaks with periods of running, you can run faster and cut time off your finishes. Galloway has published a ton of books to help guide runners to the finish line using the run-walk-run method, including this one.

You don’t necessarily need a book, though. I prefer to use the run-walk-run method based on feel. I run until I need a break, then walk until I feel recovered enough to run again. Then repeat.

I don’t do this is training too often, but I DO like to work on fast walking skills. Since we see the walk break as a rest period, we tend to stroll along at a leisurely pace. Unfortunately this wastes a lot of time. If we can cut our walking pace from 20:00 miles down to around 10-12 minute miles, we’ll dramatically improve our finish times while still benefiting from the recovery periods afforded by the walk breaks.

Much like speed training for running, speed training for walking will make your “cruising speed” more comfortable.

So how do you get faster?

Luckily, becoming a faster walker is much easier than becoming a fast runner. It’s more about learning technique than actually improving aerobic or anaerobic conditioning.

I recommend two different workouts, each done once per week.

Workout one– walk as fast as you can for two or three miles. This is a sustained effort. Try to maintain as fast of a pace as possible without breaking into a running gait.

Workout two– alternate between walking fast and running. Again, I recommend a two to three mile route. Start by walking a quarter mile, then run at a slow pace for a quarter mile. Repeat for the entire distance.

Since neither of these workouts are high-impact, they can be added to whatever routine you’re currently doing. If needed, adjust the distance. Personally I haven’t found much benefit to walking more than 2-3 miles in one session, so it’s not a workout that will grow longer with experience.


Many people, especially barefoot and minimalist shoe runners, ask about walking technique. Do you land heel-toe or toe-heel?

I alter my technique based on terrain. On flat, smooth terrain, I use the heel-toe technique with slightly longer steps. On rough terrain, I shorted my stride and use a toe-heel technique (much like I do when running).

Since walking produces only a fraction of the ground reaction force of running, use whatever technique feels most comfortable.



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  1. Barefoot Tyler
    July 13, 2012

    What about for power-hiking up hills? What technique do you recommend? I tend to do large almost lunge-like steps, which goes against the gait of barefoot running.

  2. Rebecca @ Runner with an Appetite
    July 6, 2012

    In my first 100 two weeks ago, I learned quickly how slow of a walker I am! I am a fast walker when causally walking down the street, but got blown out of the water by other racers when trying to walk during the race. I definitely need to work on speeding up my walk!

  3. Jesse
    July 5, 2012

    I like to use a run/walk technique to get me up tough climbs. I run until my legs are burning. Then I walk. When I get tired of walking, I run again. The differences between the two seem to allow me keep moving forward. More useful when attempting fast ascents than in ultras, but its fun to play with it a little.

  4. Barefoot Jake Morrison
    July 5, 2012

    I’m a Minimalist Backpacker and this is my short take on Walking. Just like Minimalist Running. The strike point on your foot varies by the speed your going. Even tho your arms move more naturally while walking; the posture stays the same as a Barefoot Runner.
    So slower you walk; the strike point is toward the back of the Arch. Body leans forward like stepping on the Gas. The strike point shifts toward the Forefoot. Always using Balance and Forward Progress to increase efficiency. Cheers – Jake