Q: Sometimes I hurt all over when I come home from a walk. How do I know when my aches and pains are a normal part of exercise and when they are something to worry about?

AT: A little soreness and stiffness is normal, especially when you’re just getting started, but real pain isn’t. Experts say if you find yourself adjusting your gait to compensate for the pain, call your doctor. She may modify your walking plan, but will most likely encourage you to keep walking.

Q: Whenever I walk fast, I get shin splints. How can I avoid them?

AT: Usually, pain in the front of your shins occurs for two reasons: you’re wearing the wrong kind of shoes, or you’ve suddenly increased how fast or how far you walk. Avoid shin splits by warming up before you walk and gradually adjusting the speed and distance of your walk. Make sure you’re wearing shoes designed for walkers. Look for low, rounded heels and a smooth heel-to-toe movement.

Q: How can I keep the right pace?

AT: Turn on the tunes, and your pace will naturally adjust to the rhythm of the music.

Q: Is there a better time of day to walk? I heard if you walk first thing in the morning, you get more benefit from it.

AT: You don’t get more benefits from walking early in the morning, but studies show you may be more likely to stick with your walking program if you step out early in the day.

Q: I can’t walk for more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time. Is that even enough to make a difference?

AT: You bet! Studies show that taking a few shorter walks during the day can have the same positive health benefits as taking one long walk.

Q: I’m just starting to walk regularly, but the weather forecast shows rainy days ahead. What can I do to stay on track?

AT: If it’s warm enough and the rain isn’t heavy, wearing a light rain jacket should do. Just remember to thoroughly dry your sneakers after walking in wet weather. If it’s too wet outside, consider heading for an indoor walking area, such as a shopping mall.

Q: I love to walk on the beach. Is it better to walk on the wet sand or the dry sand?

AT: Neither. Wet sand is so packed that it’s actually harder on your feet than concrete, and dry sand’s uneven surface may cause injury or leg pain. The best surface for walking is even, grassy terrain.

Q: I’ve seen people walking backwards. Why would they do that?

AT: Walking backwards makes you stand up straighter and distributes your weight more evenly, reducing joint pain. It also develops the hamstrings that run down the back of the thigh, helping to balance quadriceps muscles in the front of the thigh, which an Arthritis Foundation study showed may contribute to knee osteoarthritis (OA) in people with misaligned knees.

Q: I hate the way sneakers look. Are there any walking shoes that don’t look like athletic wear?

AT: Aerosoles, Easy Spirit and Naturalizer all make fashionable, comfortable shoes for walkers. Try them on in the store to make sure they give you the support and comfort you need.

Q: I’ve been walking for a year, and I’m really pleased with the effects it’s had on my pain and overall health. But sometimes it can get a little boring. Any ideas for shaking up my routine to reinspire myself?

AT: In addition to being good for you, walking can be a lot of fun. Here are some walking basics that will get you all revved up again:
•  Venture through a maze. Give your mind and body a workout by embarking on a cornfield maze walk – riddles and trivia at each intersection help point you in the right direction.
•  Take a ride and discover a new route. Explore areas outside your usual walking area. Chances are, there are plenty of places near your community to find a change of scenery.
• Take a walking vacation. If you’ve developed a strong walking routine, reward yourself with a walking vacation.
• Indulge your passion. Walk where there’s something to interest you – a neighborhood of beautiful homes or landscaping, nature, practice fields, great shops, urban architecture or history.