Diversity of Hiking and Walking Styles and Philosophies

 . . . it is very easy to improve [the act of walking] by a little conscious thought what I regard as the most important single element in the physical act of walking: rhythm. An easy, unbroken rhythm can carry you along hour after hour almost without your being aware that you’re putting one foot in front of the other . . . . . With experience you automatically fall into your own rhythmic pace. But when you first take up real walking you may have to think deliberately about establishing a stride and a speed that feels comfortable . . . . You’ll almost certainly have to concentrate at first on the important matter of not disrupting the rhythm unless absolutely necessary. I can’t emphasize this unbroken-rhythm business too strongly.

—Colin Fletcher and Chip Rawlins, The Complete Walker IV, p. 115

Central Issues Addressed in This Article

Which of the many styles and philosophies of walking and hiking do you prefer? What specific values underlie your preferred styles? If efficiency is an important value, how efficient is your current style? What would make your style even more efficient? Do you enjoy the act of walking and hiking itself? Are you willing to develop your walking into an art form?

Sixteen Styles/Philosophies of Walking and Hiking: Thumbnail Sketches

Below are thumbnail sketches of 16 selected walking styles and philosophies, starting with the more common and moving to the less common and more esoteric. The explanations for the more common styles are relatively brief, becoming more detailed for the less common.

Minimalist or Barefoot Walking

Walking in sandals, moccasins or barefoot has probably been and may still be the most common style of walking, worldwide, through the history of human movement. This style of walking often involves a mid-foot or fore-foot strike as contrasted with the more traditional heel strike. Without padding, this mode of walking utilizes what can be described as a “walking softly” technique. With minimal foot covering and without distinct heels or padding, this style definitely puts one in touch with the terrain under foot, strengthens the lower leg muscles and tendons and allows one to walk more upright than with footwear with distinct heels and cushioning. Some have conditioned their feet and legs to use this style in adverse conditions (snow, off-trail, rocky trails).

Power Walking

Power walking is roughly synonymous with fitness walking, aerobic walking, speed walking, power striding and fast packing. Power walkers move at a brisk pace with a longer-than-normal stride. This style involves pushing off aggressively with toes, ankles, knees and hips fully involved. The arms often pump aggressively back and forth to increase both energy expenditure and forward momentum. This type of walking can be practiced anywhere—on trails, paved or asphalt surface, indoor or outdoor tracks, treadmills, shopping malls, etc. Power walking is good for training and increased speed, but is energy draining and not usually efficient for longer walks. It is often competitive in nature (with self or with others).

[Plus 14 additional thumbnail sketches in the complete article]


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Selecting your preferred style and philosophy of walking and hiking — Word Format

Selecting your preferred style and philosophy of walking and hiking — PDF Format

The sub-topics listed below are developed in this complete article: 

Sixteen Styles/Philosophies of Walking and Hiking: Thumbnail Sketches

Additional Walking Styles Identified

Criteria for Making Judgments About Various Styles

Values Implied by Styles Thumbnailed Above

Acknowledging Personal Walking Styles and Values

Author’s Values Relative to Chosen Walking Styles

     My “Aha” Experience

Current Style(s) Maximize Efficiency and Stamina?

Integrating Techniques from Different Styles

Generalized Conclusions About Walking/Hiking

Additional Issues for Reflection