Many walking injuries can be avoided with proper conditioning and equipment.

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A well-designed walking program should enable you to enjoy the benefits of walking without injury. However, no matter how carefully you follow the Consumer Guide® Walking Program, you'll probably experience a few minor aches and pains -- simply because you'll be asking your body to do things that it might not have done for years.

This article includes tips on coping with pain so a few minor physical discomforts don't discourage you from continuing your walking program. You will undoubtedly gather your own little private collection of twinges and throbs that may be completely new to you. You are the best judge of what they mean, so pay attention to them.

Pain is one way your body has of communicating with you. Most of the time, your pain will be caused by improper walking technique; improper shoes or socks; walking surfaces that are too hard; or too much walking, too soon. If you can't pinpoint the cause of your pain, talk with your doctor.

The ironic thing about aerobic exercises is that those organs we mainly want to exercise for the aerobic training effect -- the heart and lungs -- aren't the chief source of most of our discomfort. Instead, it's the feet, ankles, and legs -- which have to work so hard to exercise the heart and lungs -- that get into the most trouble.

To help prevent injuries and keep your walking pain to a minimum, you should do three things: Take good care of your feet; strengthen the muscles in your feet, legs, and abdomen; and develop flexibility throughout your body.

Conditioning of the muscles in your lower body will take place naturally and automatically as you walk. But you can help your muscles along by supplementing your walking with calisthenics, weight training, or other activities that help you build strength. To maintain and develop flexibility, however, you'll need to include plenty of stretches in your walking routine.

This article includes a brisk summary of the types of aches and pains that walkers may experience, from injuries of the feet to tightness in the chest. (It's important to note that people suffering from diabetes or circulatory problems should consult their doctor before embarking on a walking program. These individuals are particularly prone to ailments of the feet, and the consequences of even a minor cut, bruise, or blister can be severe.

We'll take a look at common foot injuries first. Continue to the next section for more information.

To learn more about walking, see: