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  • Writer's pictureSteven Hansen

Retro-pedaling: A Look Backward

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

If you’ve seen people walking backward in the park on a nice sunny morning, you probably thought they were either severely disoriented or that you had one too many wine spritzers the night before. Perhaps you already know about “retro-pedaling” -- also known as “reverse pedestrianism” -- and still have like a whole bunch of questions.

Why do they do it? Does it make sneakers last longer? Is it a way to turn back time? Actually, some fitness trainers claim that walking backward provides many mental and physical benefits. “It’s a simple way for you to challenge different muscles and force your mind to focus and operate differently,” according to’s workout guru Jessica Salyer. It’s good for improving balance and physical coordination, helps alleviate knee injuries, increases strength in lesser-used leg muscles, enhances sense of body awareness and sharpens thinking skills (yeah, no kidding).

Beginners practice backward walking on a treadmill. Once they become proficient at it, many progress to backward running and even backward racing.

"Look out! Look out! I am Walking Around the World Backward"

Texan Plennie Wingo holds the Guinness World Record for walking backward the farthest: 8,000 miles. Wingo started the stunt in his hometown of Abilene, Texas, on April 15, 1931, walking backward to New York City where he then boarded a steamship bound for Europe walking up the gangplank in reverse, disembarked in France, and continued walking to Istanbul where he was halted by authorities and sent home for his own safety. He was aided only by a pair of special eyeglasses fitted with mirrors (so he could see behind himself) and sign on his back that read "Look out! Look out! I am Walking Around the World Backward."

His walk took 18 months and wore out 13 pairs of shoes.

Photos:; Pat Lefors Dawson/Little, Brown

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