Technique > Lower Body > FEET

Figure 1.
Marinelli Study
race walking in slow motion
Proper foot technique involves holding the toes up during foot contact, land on the heels, "rolling" over the foot, and pushing off from the toes.  When done properly, a race walker makes little sound with the feet.  (As a race walker, you will almost always hear a runner coming up from behind. However, you will probably not hear a race walker coming from behind you until he or she is about to pass you.)
LANDING ANGLE:  Holding the toes as high as possible prior to foot contact has a second, very important benefit. It will help you straighten your knee before heel contact.
ALIGNMENT:  Unless you have a biomechanical problem that limits foot angle, your feet should point forward rather than toed in or toed out.
TRACKING:  The feet should track very closely--as if you are trying to walk on a beam no more than about 4" wide. Some walkers even cross their feet, having the left foot track further right than the right foot (though most instructors argue against this.)
PUSHING:  As a beginning race walker, you will probably not be able to use your ankles and toes to drive your self forward.  As you get better, however, you will learn to use the feet more effectively in propelling yourself forward.
SIDEWAYS MOVEMENT:  Proper foot movement during the driving phase involves landing slightly to the outside of the heel, rolling the foot inward as it passes under the body, and rolling again slightly to the outside as you toe off.
FOLLOW THROUGH:  Runners spend a lot of time between toe off and starting to swing the foot forward for the next step. This follow through is exhibited by their extending the feet more fully and their raising the feet very high (to the level of the buttocks in many cases). Race walkers, however, are advised to shut down foot extension and foot rise as soon as possible after toe off, and to start moving the foot forward as soon as possible. Also, greater foot extension and a higher kick will almost certainly catch a judge's eye and put you under greater scrutiny.
SWING PHASE:  As you toe off, the foward-moving foot should skim very close to the walking surface. This action requires some bending of the knee but it should not be much more than is required to skim the surface. However, avoid the tendency of some new race walkers who, focused on having the knee straight when required to do so, also tend to keep the knee too straight when bringing the leg forward. Walking "stiff legged" significantly limits leg speed.  
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