We love a good coastal walk, and a lot of our favourites include sections of beach walking. To enjoy your walk on the sand and make sure you stay safe and enjoy the rest of your walk too, here are our top tips for walking on the beach.
If you picture yourself strolling along the beach on a warm sunny day, chances are you’re imagining enjoying the sand between your toes as you walk along barefoot. While this might be fine for a short stroll, if you’re planning on a longer walk, we highly recommend a sturdy pair of walking shoes!
Walking barefoot is hard work for your feet and ankles, and the more you’re sinking down in the sand each step, the harder your muscles and tendons are having to work to lift your foot up and out of the sand after each step. If you’re doing this repeatedly over long distances, the repetitive strain could end up causing you pain and injury in your lower limbs.
Not to mention the likelihood of hot sand, glass and shells getting under your feet and causing discomfort! You will be thankful for the protection of your shoes when you’re continuing on your walk without burnt or cut feet!
Go barefoot – sometimes!
Wait, what’s going on? We just told you to wear shoes!
While shoes are optimal for protecting your feet and the stress on your joints, walking barefoot also has benefits for building up strength and proprioception. The key here is keeping the barefoot walks to short distances!
As mentioned earlier, the foot needs to work harder while walking on sand, so taking your shoes off and giving those feet a little workout can be beneficial. With each step the body has to adjust and find balance, much more so than walking on flat ground – and we all know how important balance is for hiking!
Don’t underestimate the slope.
Often when you’re walking on a beach you’ll be walking with one foot slightly higher than the other, due to the slope of the sand down to the ocean. You might not see this as a worry – but over long distances, this can really affect your body, especially if you’ve also got the added weight of a pack! Walking in a zig zag can help to reduce the effect of the slope and even things out – spend a small distance walking gradually up the slope, then the same distance walking gradually down. Or, depending on your walk, you could just turn around and even it out on your way back!
After a long distance beach walk, treat your body like it’s just had a hard workout – because it has! Anyone who’s done any walking on sand for long periods of time knows how tough it can get, like walking uphill over a long distance. Drink lots of water, stretch, rest and sleep well, especially if you’ve got more walking to do the next day!
Prepare your body with training drills.
Workouts will often include compound exercises like squats and deadlifts, step ups and lunges, that strengthen many of the muscles in your lower body. We highly recommend strength training to prepare your body for long walks, and a long life! But to specifically prepare for walking on sand, we also need to do some more isolated exercises to target the smaller muscles around your feet, ankles and calves.
Balance – include single-leg balance exercises in your training. Start with simply standing on one leg and holding for 45 seconds to a minute. Progress to doing this with your eyes closed, doing it on an unstable surface, and doing it while moving the rest of your body to challenge the balance even more.
Calf raises – Do these on both legs, on one leg, with knees straight (targets the bigger gastrocs muscles), and knees slightly bent (targets the smaller but equally important soleus muscles). To progress these further, use a mini-band around your ankles, so you have to consciously resist against the band to keep your ankles straight as you rise up and down.
Take your workouts to the beach! If you’re lucky enough to have access to a sandy beach nearby, do your squats, lunges, walking and jogging at the beach! Just be sure to start with a small amount of beach training and gradually build it up to give your body the best chance to adapt without risk of injury.