How to Racewalk

The Racewalking Form

You've probably seen proper racewalking form somewhere. You may have seen racewalkers on television or watched them "wiggle" past you in the local park. You may have wondered about their unusual technique -- vigorously pumping arms and exaggerated hip action. Some people find it comical, but racewalkers know that it's this unique form that allows them to reach high walking speeds.

Racewalkers generally walk at speeds ranging from about five miles per hour to about nine miles per hour (walking at speeds of five miles per hour or more without using the racewalking technique is very difficult, if not impossible, for most people). Record-setting elite racewalkers, however, have achieved astounding speeds nearing ten-and-one-half miles per hour.

As you begin to racewalk, however, it is important to concentrate more on the proper form, which is no cinch to master, than on speed. Speed will come later, as you master the racewalking technique.

There are three main features of racewalking form; they're in the official rules that govern the sport. Those rules, according to the International Amateur Athletic Federation, state that:

  1. One foot must be in contact with the ground at all times.
  2. There must be a two-leg support period during each cycle of pushing off, swinging, and weight acceptance.
  3. The weight-supporting leg must be straight for at least one moment when it's in the vertically upright position.

In other words, in racewalking, you must have one foot touching the ground at all times. The heel of your front foot must touch the ground before the toes of your back foot leave the ground. And, during your stride, the leg that is supporting your weight must be straight for at least a moment as your torso passes directly over it.

As you incorporate all of these movements into your form, you probably will be walking at a fairly slow pace. That's fine for this stage. Just walk at a pace that's comfortable and focus on your form. Once you feel comfortable with these movements, you can begin to increase your speed and raise your heart rate into your target zone. Be sure, however, to increase your speed gradually. Don't push too hard or walk to the point of exhaustion.

In the next section, we'll continue our racewalking discussion with tips on how to adopt the proper form.

To learn more about walking, see: