Footgear for Walkers: A Few Steps Behind

(Illustration: Richard Thompson/Post)
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By Vicky Hallett
Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Q Appreciated your advice on how to buy running shoes. Is there a parallel specialty world for selecting the correct walking shoes (for those of us who have long ago seen our last running day)?

-- Kathy

AWalkers' World sure sounds like a nice place to visit, and you don't need a spaceship to get there. The smart way to pick walking shoes isn't all that different from the running shoe rules I explained two weeks ago: You still want to think about finding that comfortable fit (give your longest toe a finger-width's room to the end of the shoe), and keeping your pronation in check.

In fact, if you're like Lea Gallardo -- she's a runner turned walker, too -- you'll ditch walking shoes in favor of the running variety. The owner of Metro Run & Walk, a local chain, Gallardo says walking options have been around for decades, but they leave something (well, several things) to be desired: "Walking shoes are all white leather -- they're not breathable -- with a semi-curved last [shape] and no stability built into the medial side of the shoe," she complains.

Maggie Spilner, author of "Prevention's Complete Book of Walking," is less negative. She finds walking shoes lower to the ground and less apt to trip you, and their beveled heels give your foot a steadier plant. But even Spilner readily admits that her favorite pair is, in a word, ugly.

Your best bet, in any case, is probably going to be a running specialty store. The staff there will have a better sense of gait analysis and fit than a sporting goods behemoth. And many of the specialty stores (including Metro Run & Walk) stock both running and walking shoes, so you can find just the right pair, whether you're planning to conquer the mall or a marathon.

I've been trying to get back into strength training after about a year of focusing on cardio, and have run into an unexpected problem. I'll work out at or below my previous level (never pressing to muscle failure) and have no problems during the workout or immediately thereafter. But about 36 to 48 hours later, I am in major pain. How can I figure out the right workout level if my body is not giving feedback for a day and a half?

-- Anonymous

Your body is giving you feedback, all right. It's just not the kind you were hoping for. Such are the joys of delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. As someone who samples new exercise routines for a living, I feel your pain.

Like so many things in science, DOMS is still a bit of a mystery. "We don't know the mechanism that causes it," says Stephen Roth, a kinesiology professor at the University of Maryland at College Park.

Whatever the instigator, what's happening is that damaged muscle has summoned help -- in the form of inflammation -- to repair itself. So you're thinking, "I'll take an anti-inflammatory," such as ibuprofen or naproxen, right? Turns out that's controversial, says Roth, because several studies have shown that those sorts of drugs can decrease protein synthesis. "You may feel better, but [you're] prolonging the muscle adaptation process," he says.

The better solution is to cut back on how often you're lifting. Twice a week is plenty for the recreational exerciser, says Roth, who guesses you may be overtraining.

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