Many Americans experience issues with excess weight retention. This is caused largely by a sedentary lifestyle, a high stress environment, and poor food choices encouraged by a frenetic life pace. Selecting and preparing quality foods takes time, and many often only have the “spare” time to exercise before or after an extra-long stint spent in a chair at work. They are mentally exhausted and they’ve also been conditioned by society and personal experience to associate aerobic exercise as painful, time-consuming, and boring. Weight accumulation and the accompanying health issues tend to first creep up and then escalate when lifestyle changes are not made.
You’ve decided you want to end this cycle because you don’t feel well, you don’t like the way you look, and maybe you even want to be around to enjoy your retirement. But what’s the first step? Do you pursue a drastic exercise program with a restrictive diet plan? Only if you want to know what failure feels like, because that’s what happens for most people who try to shift immediately from no activity and a diet heavy in fat, salt, low-grade protein, and simple carbohydrates to a high-intensity work-out program and a diet program filled with none of the things you have come to enjoy eating over the course of your life. Your best bet is gradual change from one state to the other, with plenty of leeway. One of the most optimal exercises for people of all fitness levels is walking. It’s low impact and aerobic, so it burns fat, and you can do it just about anywhere—be it at the park, around your neighborhood, or in a gym.
But there are some very important things to keep in mind once you are ready to embark upon this enormous and positive life change. Walking is your weapon of choice, but are there issues of which overweight walkers should be aware? Yes. First, not all shoes are created equal. Don’t just rush out and buy the cheapest pair of “athletic” shoes you can lay hands on. Take time to do a little reconnoitering. You’ll find that shoes are often separated into activity-specific styles that vary in levels and types of support, firmness, and general design. Many types of walking shoes are currently designed with very thin soles, which won’t give the support any heavier walkers need. Cross-trainers are made for a variable range of activities and are often too stiff for many walkers. Comfort during and after walking is essential, or you won’t stick with it.
Other considerations that must be taken into account to achieve an optimum level of comfort and effectiveness are dependent upon the individual. Many of those who are overweight do not walk in a squarely situated heel-toe gait. Rather, pronated or supinated gaits are common. This means walking with weight shifted to either the outside edge or inner edge of your foot. There are a number of custom shoe stores that will provide you with an analysis of your gait, so you’ll know which shoe is for you. Shoe makers design different models of shoe that will give you the type of support you need most, so just take the time to be sure you know what you need. Your feet will thank you.
Other issues you need to take into account when shoe shopping are the degenerative aspects of excess weight. Your joints have likely been protesting for some time before you decided to start a walking program, so treat them gently and avoid shoes that fit your feet too closely. This places pressure on stiff and swollen joints, as well as creating friction at pressure points that will lead to painful blisters. Additionally, your range of motion and energy levels have probably been lower than others in your peer group who maintain a healthy weight. Assessing these concerns will help you to maximize your program without wearing yourself down completely. To review: Start slow and don’t expect overnight results. Buy the shoe that fits you in every respect, right down to the amount of toe room and heel insulation, as well as arch support if its determined you need it. Respect your body and care for yourself in your efforts, that’s how you improve.
Some of the best shoes recommended for new walkers with weight concerns are New Balance 793’s, with additional cushion and support to help you distribute your weight and preserve ankles, knees, and hips; Drew Men’s Force Shoe offers both antimicrobial protection to prevent sweating and chafing, as well as offering additional cushion and support in the rubber outsole; Spring Boost Tour Walking Shoes help you correct your gait and remedy the issue of fallen arches that many overweight people experience. It also comes equipped with features that protect and support your foot while maximizing the kinetic output of your leg muscles, which means you’ll be less worn out afterward. Dr. Scholl’s also offers a comfortable, easily available shoe that provides all these benefits. Good luck. You can do it!