More things your walk reveals about your health
Walking Problems: Page 5
Walking clue #13: Walking on tiptoes, one foot
May reveal: Stroke
Doctors assessing toe-walking look for symmetry: Is it happening on both sides or only one? When a person toe-walks only on one side, it's an indicator of stroke, which usually damages one side of the body. When polio was still a scourge in the U.S., affected people often had one withered extremity and one-sided toe-walking was more common.
Walking clue #14: A bouncing gait
May reveal: Unusually tight calf muscles
One unusual stride is a gait that causes the walker to literally bounce a bit. Specialists can see the heel-off, the first part of a normal step, happen a bit too quickly, because of tight calf muscles. Women are the most vulnerable, because of chronic high heel use, podiatrist Andersen says.
"I've seen women in their 60s who have been told to exercise -- sometimes for the first time in her life because a doctor is ordering it for a health issue -- and she can't because she can't comfortably wear a flat shoe," she says. "The same thing can happen much earlier in life, too, such as with a 25-year-old who's been wearing stilettos since she was a teenager."
Walking clue #15: One higher arch and/or a pelvis that dips slightly
May reveal: One leg is shorter than the other
Limb (or leg) length discrepancy simply means that one leg is shorter than the other. Experts can spot this in several different ways. One is by looking at the foot while you take a step, says podiatrist Andersen; one foot will have a higher arch and the other will look flatter. The flatter foot usually corresponds to the longer leg, she says.
Also, because the shorter leg has to go a bit farther to get to the floor, the pelvis may drop down slightly in the stride, adds Bailey. "If you pull up the shirt you can often see changes to the lumbar spine -- a horizontal crease along the spine on the side with the longer leg, because the spine is bending in that direction."
You can be born with limb discrepancy or get it as the result of knee or hip replacements, if limbs don't line up perfectly after healing. But unless the discrepancy is three-quarters of an inch or more, Blitzer says, studies indicate it probably won't cause health problems. Shoe inserts usually can make up for a quarter-inch discrepancy; surgery is sometimes recommended for larger differences.