Walking is great for your mental and physical health, so it’s good to know how to walk on a variety of surfaces such as sand, gravel, mud and even snow as they all need different approaches.
An important part of walking is the terrain you’ll be encountering, and being well prepared will contribute greatly to your enjoyment.
It will also avoid the possibility of injuries. Usually the different approaches are quite simple, and you’ll only need to tweak your walking style.
As a general rule, you can hike on any surface, whether it’s mud, loose sand you have to plow through or hard asphalt. The difference lies in how to approach different ground by adopting the right pace, gait and equipment.
Scroll on to learn more about walking techniques that will help you cover any terrain.
Table of Contents
Walking on different walking surfaces: Tips & tricks
Walking in the snow
It is wise to adjust your walking technique slightly in the snow to prevent slipping. Walk a little more in a waddling style, like a penguin.
Take small steps without completely relaxing your feet. That way you keep contact with the ground.
There are even special non-slip soles that you can tie under your shoe. Hiking poles also give you more grip in the snow or on frozen ground.
Walking on grass
Grass is a pleasant surface to walk on, especially if it is not too long. You have cushioning, but you also have grip (wet grass can be slippery though).
Always watch out for potholes and bumps, though, as they can be hard to see when the grass is a little longer.
Step into a pothole, and you have a chance of spraining or breaking your ankle.
In the spring and summer, especially when walking in tall grass, wear socks and long pants to reduce tick and other insect bites.
Walking on paved surfaces
Walking on asphalt has advantages and disadvantages. On a smooth asphalt road, you don’t have to pay as much attention to where you put your feet.
This makes it easier to walk at a fast pace.
For sidewalks or roads paved with bricks, not so much. So here you should always be attentive to crooked or loose tiles.
The disadvantage of asphalt is that you have little cushioning. This makes walking on paved surfaces, such as asphalt, a greater strain on your muscles and joints.
If you are recovering from an injury, already have cartilage injuries, or are prone to injuries, this should be avoided.
Walking on asphalt can cause another problem in hot weather: asphalt burns. You then suffer from red bumps that itch, especially on your calves.
The summer sun can make heat up asphalt unbearably and your uncovered calves are close to the hot asphalt. This causes your skin to burn.
Sand and how to walk on it
Walking through loose sand is tough. Your heart rate is higher on average and you need more oxygen than on a hard surface.
Each step takes more muscle power to push off, and you have to make more effort to find your stability. With each push-off, your foot sinks back slightly.
The drier the sand, the harder it is to walk.
Therefore, the tide line is the best place to walk on the beach. Have other hikers walked through the loose sand before you?
Then, literally step into their footsteps to walk more smoothly in the sand. The sand is already somewhat compressed in the shoe impressions, so you don’t sink as deeply.
Take smaller steps than on harder ground when walking in loose sand.
Although heavier and more difficult, walking in sand is less stressful on your joints than walking on hard ground.
This is because the soft sand provides good cushioning.
On the other hand, in loose sand, you have a greater chance of spraining an ankle.
In that case it is better to wear sturdy walking shoes that give your ankles enough support.
Related post: What are the best shoes for obese walkers? A Guide
Hiking in the mud can be quite a challenge. You can sink in up to your ankles and risk slipping.
So take smaller steps and watch carefully where you put your feet. Place your feet on straight parts of the path, not on crooked sections.
Keep in mind that you will need to maintain a slower pace on muddy trails.
Good footwear is essential for muddy terrain. Wear shoes with adequate tread that give you plenty of grip.
If you are going to hike on hilly terrain over muddy paths, for example, during the rainy season, trekking poles are recommended.
They help you stay more balanced and less likely to slip.
Cleaning your hiking boots is important after a hike.
Walking on different walking surfaces: Conclusion
Not everyone is aware that different surfaces need different strides and indeed different shoes. This post is a gentle guide in the right direction, so remember, planning is always key.
Part of planning a hike is considering what to bring with you as fuel, check out these posts on nutrition while walking: