10 - HOW TO TAKE EACH STEP
1. The position and length of a race walker's stride is very important. Most of the stride should be behind an imaginary, vertical line drawn through the center of the walker's torso, and the length should be no more than the skill of the walker allows. Both position and length are defined by the locations of the heel plant and the toe off.
2. The heel should be planted at, or in front of, the torso's centerline but at a distance no more than about 1/8 of the walker's height. For example, a 6-foot (72-inch) walker should plant the heels no more than about 9 inches in front of that centerline; for a 5 footer, it's about 7½ inches. Planting the heel too far in front of the body makes it much more difficult to have a straight knee, requires more energy to vault over the angled leg, and tends to cause a braking action upon heel plant (which slows the walker down).
3. Toe off (the last point of toe contact) should be further behind the torso's centerline than the heel plant is in front of it--considerably more. Most new race walkers, however, will find it difficult to extend toe off very far behind the body until they have race walked a while.
4. The ability to effectively and legally do it requires learning how to rotate the hips, strengthen the calf and foot muscles, and effectively stretch the quads and muscles in the groin area.
5. New race walkers should initially focus on keeping heel plant close to the centerline of the torso, use the longest stride they can while confortably remaining legal, and use an increased step rate to achieve higher speeds. They can then use part of their training sessions to work on delaying toe off--realizing that, like everything else, such a skill has to be learned gradually. As they develop their hip rotation skills, strengthen the required muscles, and increase flexibility, they will find they can comfortably extend toe off further behind the torso's centerline for prolonged periods of time.
Notice how, when he has both feet are on the ground, the step of this top race walker is about one third in front of his body and two thirds behind it.