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Walking is one of the easiest fitness activities. Almost anyone can start a walking routine and you don't really need any gear to get started. As time goes on many of us do get more serious and slowly we can collect special clothing, accessories and gadgets. To get started - what do you really need? Below are a few items to consider. The first four are essentials. The rest are nice to have if you are training for an event or walking is a primary fitness activity.

Shoes - The most important item you need is a good pair of walking shoes. Shoes should fit comfortably, have a flexible sole and plenty of toe room. Read more about shoes here.

Socks - Your choice of socks is almost as important as what shoes you wear. Be sure to wear the socks you will walk in when trying on shoes. Choose socks intended for running or walking made of cool max (or other wicking fabrics). Your feet will be much more comfortable, dryer and more likely to stay blister free in wicking fabrics than standard cotton socks.

Clothing - Wear what is comfortable for you. Wicking fabrics can make walking more comfortable. Also be sure to dress for the weather. On cold weather days, layer your clothing so items can be removed as you warm up. Add a hat, suncreen and sunglasses on a sunny day.

Water - Be sure to drink plenty of water. If walking around the block drink some water before you head out and more when you return. If walking for longer than 30 minutes take water and drink along the way. Be sure to drink small amounts every 15-20 minutes. There are many convenient water carriers - from waist packs to shoulder carriers. Choose what works best for you.

Heart Rate Monitor - The serious walker may want to invest in a heart rate monitor . This is the easiest way to measure exertion. Wireless types are best because they give an accurate readout and are comfortable to wear. They're comprised of a belt worn around the chest and a wrist watch display.

Pedometer - A pedometer is a device that counts your steps and/or mileage. They must be accurately adjusted to your stride length to get a good reading. They come with a variety of features. Some will even calculate calorie expenditure. The most sophisticated versions are are the new GPS systems. These actually calculate speed and distance based on satellite readings.

Personal Stereo - A personal stereo or mp3 player can be a great walking companion. Music can motivate you and energize your workout while helping to pass the time by creating a distraction. Be sure to keep the volume at a low enough level so you can hear what is going on around you, and use good judgement. There are locations/times safe for listening to music and those that are not.

A Training Diary - A diary or fitness log is a great tool. Use it to write down your goals, and keep track of your fitness program. A wide variety are available or make you own. (There are also many sites where you can track your progress online.)

Fanny Pack - Of course when you get too much gear you will need something to carry it in. There are fanny packs, waist belts, and back packs of all shapes and sizes. A fanny pack that is big enough to carry your essentials and a water bottle is a good investment.

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