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Walking Mistakes That Are Killing Your Knees, Experts Say

If you want to keep your joints healthy, make sure you're not making these critical walking errors.

Walking is an amazing form of exercise and an easy way to tone up, slim down, and keep your heart healthy. However, despite the many benefits of walking for exercise, there's one part of your body that may feel majorly worse for wear after those long walks: your knees.

The good news? With a few simple changes to your routine, you can avoid knee pain without ditching your workout of choice. Read on to discover which walking mistakes could be hurting your knees and how to avoid them, according to experts. And for more easy ways to get in shape, check out these 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.

Wearing the wrong shoes

Woman putting on shoes

When choosing shoes to wear while walking, it's not just aesthetics or foot pain you should keep in mind.

"The wrong type of shoes can make pre-existing knee problems worse," says Jerome Enad, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician.

"For example, if you have patellofemoral syndrome (kneecap pain on the outer side due to poor alignment at the front of the knee), then you should be wearing a shoe that is intended for over-pronators (i.e., stability control and arch support) to put your knees in better alignment for walking. On the other hand, if you have been diagnosed with arthritis on the medial (inner) part of the knee, then you should be wearing a shoe that is intended for over-supinators (i.e., low arch) or should use an insert that has a lateral post to put your knees in better alignment for walking," Enad explains.

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Not treating fallen arches

man walking and experiencing knee pain
Shutterstock / Rich Bundy

If your feet land flat on the ground while walking due to fallen arches, you could find yourself with worsening knee pain over time.

"The arch of the foot is very important as it provides stability to the foot and the rest of the body. When the arch collapses, the foot loses that stability which puts more stress on the knee and can also cause the knee to slightly cave inward with it, potentially causing pain in the medial part of the knee," explains ACE-certified personal trainer and functional range conditioning mobility specialist TJ Mentus, a member of the expert review board at Garage Gym Reviews.

Not engaging your hip and glute muscles while walking

Young woman walking on beach

While walking can be a mindless activity for some, your best bet for avoiding knee pain is to be conscious about where—and how—you're walking. This includes engaging your hip and glute muscles while moving to avoid knee strain.

"The glute muscles are a big and strong muscle group, but if they are not engaged during lower body movements, it can lead to issues to joints, like knee problems. Without engaging the glutes, the knee then takes on more weight or load with each step," says Mentus. "In order to try and prevent this, think about pulling the ground behind you with each step."

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Walking through the pain

Man with knee pain possible broken bone

While everyone finds themselves experiencing some discomfort during their workouts from time to time, if you're simply brushing off the pain, you could be setting yourself up for serious knee damage.

"Pain is a warning sign that something is wrong and you need to stop," says personal trainer and kinesiotherapist Kent Probst of LongHealthyLife. "Anything that causes pain should be avoided."

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more about Sarah