Effects of Walking on the Beach

By Nikki Clayton, PT, DPT, ATC

Why is Walking on Sand Difficult?

The quick answer to this question may be more complicated than you think. Walking on the beach can be bad for your knees, especially in the case of symptomatic knees. If you are already experiencing knee pain, have had a recent surgery, or are walking with a limp, then walking on the beach is not recommended. This is due to the fact that the beach sand provides an unpredictable and uneven walking surface. This can place increased stresses, strains, and loading on your joints.

Running cardio workout

Woman Jogging on Beach

Walking in the softer sand requires increased energy expenditure, forcing you to work harder compared to walking on an even, firm surface. The foot will sink slightly into the sand. This will provide the least amount of stability, which forces you to use muscles throughout your legs more. Also, in the event that you already have pain and swelling in your knee, the receptors within the joint that control balance, and make changes for the joint position on uneven surfaces, get shut down. This also shuts down the smaller stabilizing muscles around your knee thus, potentially, increasing your risk for further injury.

Additional Hazards of Walking on the Sand

Walking on the firmer sand near the water is likely a better choice but that also doesn’t come without risk. First, you must make it through the softer sand to get there. (Don’t forget you have to get back as well.) Near the shoreline, there is a slight slope to the firm sand. This can be compared to walking on a sloped road or curb. This can provide additional stresses to the entire kinetic chain from the foot up to the knee, hip, and back. You may not notice it at the time you are walking, but increased symptoms of pain and swelling may follow. This can result in setting you back even further.

Knee pain walking on the beach is common

Effects of Walking on the Beach

Why Is Going to The Beach Good For You?

Walking or running on the beach can be fine for people without knee symptoms. It can be a great way to exercise, relieve stress, fight certain diseases, improve strength and increase energy. If you are not used to walking or running on the beach it is advised that you start very slowly and work your way up, even if you are feeling fine throughout your walk or run. Some believe you should limit yourself to 10 minutes for beginners to see how your body responds before gradually progressing. To reduce the risk of an injury, prepare for walking on the sand with the right strengthening exercises. Also, be sure to consistently vary the surfaces you walk or run on.

What Causes Knee Pain When Walking?

The most common cause of knee pain when walking is usually some type of arthritis or degenerative changes in the knee joint.  Other reasons for pain in the knee can be injuries to the ligaments or tendons in the joint.  When your walking, these structures provide stability and the dynamic functions which are needed to walk.

If you have questions about walking or running on the beach is right for you, be sure to consult with your physician or physical therapist.

If you don’t think walking on the beach is the source of your pain, you may be able to find out more about what causes back, hip and knee pain. Read this article for more information.

JOI and JOI Rehab Have an Office in Jacksonville Beach

Whether you are suffering from back issues, joint pain, or injuries resulting from any type of activity, JOI has physical therapy clinics conveniently located in Jacksonville and Northeast FL who specialize in orthopedic rehab.

If you are interested in scheduling an appointment at JOI Rehab for physical therapy, call (904) 858-7045. If you would like to make an appointment with an orthopedic knee specialist, click below.

By: Nikki Clayton, PT, DPT, ATC

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