When we traipse around the house or step out for a stroll, most of us don’t think twice about putting one foot in front of the other. For many people, it’s a given to take the ability to walk (and to walk well) for granted. That is, until something goes wrong. Then we develop a newfound appreciation for our former ambulatory prowess.
Your walking style can reflect a host of physical, physiological, neurological, and even psychological influences and problems. “Your gait reveals a lot,” says Jessica B. Schwartz, a doctor of physical therapy and a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association. “I see health issues manifested not only in my patients’ steps, but among the general public when I see people walking in a mall or airport,” says Dr. Schwartz, who is also a physical therapist at Physical Therapy to Go based in New York City.
So, wonder what your walking style can reveal about your health? We spoke with medical experts who share how certain walking styles can shed light on specific health conditions. (Also, here are the health benefits and risk of walking barefoot.)
Favoring one leg when bearing the weight and impact of each step suggests that a joint injury is present. This can come from structural problems like a muscle strain, sprained ligaments, a torn meniscus, or other damaged joint structures, arthritis, leg length differences, or foot problems. And it can get worse because an off-balance stride affects other body parts, too.