Do you think of yourself as having a walking style? Are you aware of how you walk? Or of how you look when you walk?
Recently, a popular actor shared a hilarious story about how he learned to walk “normally” on a popular British talk show.
This led us to wonder whether there is, in fact, a normal way to walk. A walking standard, if you will.
The short answer is no!
We don’t imagine that will surprise you since our EverWalk Nation has speed walkers, distance walkers, slow walkers, strollers, hikers, etc.
First off, there are five types of walking: Intermittent, Strolling, Fitness, Power, and Race.
Digging a bit deeper, psychologists in the late 1980s determined there are two kinds of walking styles — the more youthful vs the older style. They called these Swing or Sway.
Swing is bouncier with some hip movement, as well as larger arm swings and more frequent steps. Sway is stiffer and slower, with the walker usually leaning forward. Most interestingly, studies showed that the style did not always correspond with age! But those with a younger style did generally proved to be happier and more powerful!
According to some sources, our walking styles can reveal quite a bit about our personalities. One study goes so far as to say that a “faster pace is linked to higher levels of conscientiousness, and openness, and lower levels of neuroticism.”
Could this be true? And if so, what does how you walk say about you?
Let’s start by looking at a few “types” of walkers:
The Foot Dragger or Shuffler: A person who drags their feet is thought to be less energetic, perhaps sadder, and usually more lethargic. Someone who carries the weight of the world on their walks and has a difficult time detaching themselves from their work and worries.
The Thinkers: These are the dreamers, lost in their thoughts. Not distracted by noises, lost in their own reality. Walking for them is equal parts physical and mental exploration.
The Cautious Quiet Ones: These walkers are often wary of their surroundings and can be aloof, shy, or reticent to connect with others.
The Stamper: The heavy stepper or stamper can be heard as much as seen. These walkers are thought to be short-tempered and childish.
The Lunger: Lungers are usually multi-taskers who expect others to meet their level and expectations.
The Easygoer: Everyone’s favorite walking companion. They take things as they come, fast or slow, stroll or stride, explore or amble. Nothing seems to faze them, but they are also aware of their surroundings.
The Fast Walker: Fast walkers walk fast. Period! These are the go-getters, the achievers, the planners. Confident and energetic, ready to take on whatever life brings.
The Loud Walker: People usually tell you that they’ve heard you before they saw you. Confident, outgoing, and never afraid of a little attention! Walking is as much about being seen as seeing.
The Swinger: You have your own swagger — and if it means people give you a litle bit of a wide berth, you don’t care.
Which one of these are you? Or are you a combo? Tell us in the comments! 🙂
Here’s another fun angle to consider? Do you think someone can read your personality from your gait? Do you develop impressions of others by how they walk?
You’re not alone. Psychologists have been studying these assumptions for almost 100 years — and have determined that, yes, we do judge people by their gaits.
One recent study compared people’s assessments of their own personalities with the assumptions other people made about them based on their walks. Interestingly, results once again distilled down to two main walking styles. The first was described as “expansive and loose,” which people saw as adventurous, trustworthy, extroverted, and warm. The second was slow and relaxed, from which observers inferred emotional stability. But here’s the fascinating part: How observers viewed the gaits did not correlate with the walkers’ ideas of their own gaits!
So it boils down to this: We assess a person by their gait much like we do their face or clothing. But where we do a pretty good job with the latter, we’re not always right about the former! We tend to make false assumptions about others based on how they walk!
In short: Don’t judge a walker by their gait.
How we walk is also influenced by other factors such as upbringing, ethnicity, nationality, as well as our reasons for walking.
Indigenous tribes who walked to hunt, walked to avoid enemies, walked without padded shoes, and walked in respect for our planet walked far more silently than we do now. Walking silently means walking toe to heel as opposed to heel to toe the way most of us do. And also in smaller steps. Toe first with the weight of the body on the back leg so you can test the ground before you put your weight on it. This enables a quick change of footing if needed.
Posture is essential to quiet walking. Most of us walk with our backs hunched forward and our heads up. This naturally puts most of your body weight on your front foot. To walk silently, you will also need to bend at the knees to keep yourself lower to the ground, while still keeping the upper part of your body erect. This happens to also be good for your leg strength!
Where we walk determines a lot, too. City walkers look up and around. English walkers look right where the rest of the world looks left first. Hikers look down for branches and rocks.
In one sense, how we walk comes down to pure physics: Newton’s third law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So, when you put your foot on the ground, you are applying a force to it. In doing this, the ground also actually applies an equal force onto your foot, in the opposite direction, pushing you forward.
At the end of the day, we all gang our own gait (to quote Einstein quoting an old Scottish expression). Meaning, we march to our own tunes.
But as we do gang our own gaits, please — during these challenging times — let’s all learn how to do walk together with with respect and kindness for the wellbeing of everyone and everything on this planet.
As Herman Melville wrote: “But after all, every one in this world has his own fate intrusted to himself; and though we may warn, and forewarn, and give sage advice, and indulge in many apprehensions touching our friends yet our friends, for the most part, will “gang their ain gate;” and the most we can do is, to hope for the best.”