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Are You Fit To 'Walk The Walk'?

Can you walk a marathon by moonlight?
Although a relatively low risk activity, walking over long distances can lead to various niggles in the joints of the lower limb as well as the back. Often these aches and pains can develop over time and cannot be related to one specific factor.
However, simply following some basic advice from the McNaughton Physiogrange Clinic can help prevent these problems and help you enjoy a pain-free training programme, leaving you raring to go.

For all participants in this summer's Moonwalk, it is important that you begin your training early and build up your mileage slowly and gradually.

graphic Before you start, wear the right shoes - your feet will need TLC! Injury will be prevented by good trainers. We recommend that you visit a specialist running shop for individual advice but, general pointers include:

  • Having enough room in the shoe around your toes to avoid bruising/rubbing - a 1.5cm gap between longest toe and shoe is recommended.
  • Support and cushioning under the ball of foot
  • Flexibility in your shoe
  • Do not wear walking boots
  • Trial and error is best with socks - some will prefer thicker, others thinner, depending on your trainers

Be comfortable and warm for training. A wind-proof jacket and gloves will keep you comfortable on cold days and stop you wimping out of training if the weather is not good. Having a buddy to train with is also a good idea. Try to make your walks fun and interesting by varying your routes. Remember to try walking in your decorated bra before the big night. Function is more important than looks - make sure it is supportive and won't rub!

  • Blisters - Most common complaint. Be aware of any 'hot spots', which is an early sign that you are developing a blister. New trainers are the main cause. Be prepared! Blister bandaging is the best option to protect the skin, always have some in your pocket as early intervention can save a great deal of discomfort later on.
  • Planter Fasciitis - A painful condition of the foot arch, which comes on with repeated walking over time. The cause is usually poor foot biomechanics and responds well to physiotherapy assessment followed by ultrasound and deep tissue massage. At the McNaughton Physiogrange Clinic we can refer you on to an expert in biomechanical podiatry who can prescribe custom-made insoles to solve the problem.
  • Ankle sprains - Can occur if you accidentally 'turn' your ankle. The more severe the sprain, the less likely you will want to walk on it! More severe cases may require x-ray and physiotherapy assessment. However, for basic sprains, the PRICE principle usually suffices:
  • Protect the injured area
  • Rest
  • Ice, 10 mins every 1-2 hours over the next 2 days
  • Compress - use a tubigrip support to gently compress the swelling
  • Elevate the limb to reduce swelling
Do some gentle range of motion exercises to keep the tissues moving. Arnica cream is a homeopathic remedy which can also help bruising around the joint.
  • Achilles tendonitis - Typically this is an overuse injury which develops slowly over a period of time. Causes can vary from sudden increased mileage to a change in trainers or lack of flexibility. graphic Symptoms include a recurring niggle in the heel cord which eventually becomes increasingly painful and frequent after activity.
    If this stops you from being able to walk and train effectively, then early physiotherapy treatment is important. Regular ice application may help to reduce inflammation and the heel cord should be stretched regularly.
    Anti-inflammatory medication may also help but this should be at the direction of your doctor or pharmacist. You may also need to rest or reduce your walking in order to allow the inflammation to settle down. As the pain subsides, stretching and strengthening exercises are vital and you should be able to build up your walking distance again gradually.
    The best prevention is to notice early symptoms. Do not ignore painful tendons - seek help.
  • Anterior knee pain - Usually felt as a nagging ache at the front of the kneecap which is normally present during activity and worsens going up and down hills or steps. Deep knee bends may also be painful. Often the pain appears over time with no swelling or bruising present.
    The cause of anterior knee pain is usually muscle imbalances or poor biomechanics. Physiotherapy advice and treatment at the McNaughton Physiogrange Clinic is beneficial and you may be referred to a podiatrist for shoe insoles, if required.
    To prevent knee problems developing, keep your knees strong and flexible. Good footwear when walking is essential! Build your mileage up carefully to prevent any sudden stresses on the knee.

Moonwalk organisers recommend following these guidelines when starting your training.

  • Start with 2-3 mile walk 3 times per week for first 2 weeks. Build up to 4 miles on the 3rd week. Your goal is to walk 1 mile in 13-15 minutes. Remember to stretch on your rest days!
  • Aim for 3-4 mile walk 3 times per week for first 2 weeks.
  • Aim for 4-6 miles on 3rd week
  • Aim for 18-20 minutes per mile before increasing your speed/distance

Your goal is to walk 1 mile in 14 minutes, and to complete the marathon in 6 hours.
For more information and advice on the Moonwalk, contact

This article was written by the McNaughton Physiogrange Team and first appeared in the April 2008 edition of 702 Gazette

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