1. By current race walking rules, the knee of the supporting leg must be straight from the moment of foot contact (normally the heel) until the leg passes under the body.  If the knee is bent on contact or at any time during this period, the walker is using illegal technique.  Meeting the requirements of this rule is easy for some race walkers, difficult for many, and even impossible for a few (primarily due to physical irregularities or limitations).
2. The easiest way to help assure a straight knee on contact is to take a short stride (i.e., to plant the heel just in front of the center of the torso.  The farther in front of the body the heel lands, the harder it is to insure a straight knee. Also, landing too far in front of the body puts such stress on the leg that most race walkers (even very good ones) can not keep the knee straight just after heel contact.
3. Another way to help assure a straight knee is to regularly stretch the hamstrings (the large muscles on the back of the thighs) both after the muscles are warm and after a workout.  Tight hamstrings will make it difficult to straighten the knee.
4. The knee should be straightened more through the normal swinging action of the leg than through the use of the quadriceps (the large muscles on the front of the thighs). Normally the upper leg will swing forward farther than required, then begin backward to meet the lower leg (with the knee then straight) just as the heel makes contact with the ground.
5. When all else fails, a race walker should probably slow down. Trying to go too fast for your technical skills can be a major factor is not having a straight knee.

Again, in slower motion, you can see that Icabod is straightening his knee just prior to planting the heel on the ground. Try not to "snap" the knee into place as it could lead to an injury of the knee.
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