Proper planting of the foot with a smooth roll through also helps avoid premature knee bending. Prove it to yourself. Try to land flat footed with your leg straight. It’s not very easy, especially if you race walk with any speed.
Because of body build, some walkers naturally place their feet with toes pointing out or in. Observe U.S. National Team member Sean Albert in the figure to the right. Albert’s foot points outward, nearly at a 45-degree angle. It should be pointing straight ahead. Unfortunately, this foot position occurs because of body structure; it may be a contributor to the many injuries that have plagued Albert over the years.
If you face similar problems, do not try to change your foot placement as you learn to race walk. Instead, focus on using your hips properly so that your footfalls occur in a straight line, even if the feet are not parallel. While improper foot positions are less efficient, the alternative—forcing yourself to correct foot placement unnaturally—may cause extra stress on legs, feet, and knees, leading to strain and injury.