History of Race Walking Rules

In 1862:

“To be a good and fair walker, the attitude should be upright or nearly so, with the shoulders well back, and the arms when in motion held well up in a bent position, and at every stride swinging with the movement of the legs well across the chest, which should be well thrown out. The loins should be slack to give plenty of freedom to the hips, and the leg perfectly straight, thrown out from the hip boldly and directly in front of the body, and allowed to reach the ground with the heel being decidedly the first portion of the foot to meet it. The movement of the arms will keep the balance of the body and bring the other leg from the ground.”

In 1900 (which meets the usual definition of any kind of walking vis a vis the maintenance of ground contact): 

  1. “That a racing walker must have contact with the ground with one foot during a stride, and with both feet at the end of a stride.
  2. That the heel of the front foot must touch the ground before the back foot leaves it.
  3. That as the heel of the front foot touches the ground the leg must not be bent, its knee must be locked.
  4. That the body and head must be kept upright. “

In 1928:

”Walking is progression by steps so taken that unbroken contact with the ground is maintained.”

In 1949:

“Walking is progression by steps so taken that unbroken contact with the ground is maintained. At each step, the advancing foot of the walker must make contact with the ground before the rear foot leaves the ground.”

In 1956:

  1. “Definition. Walking is progression by steps so taken that unbroken contact with the ground is maintained.
  2. Judging. Judges of walking must be careful to observe that the advancing foot of the walker must make contact with the ground before the rear foot leaves the ground, and in particular, that during the period of each step in which a foot is on the ground, the leg shall be straightened (i.e. not bent at the knee) at least for one moment.”

In 1972:

“Walking is progression by steps so taken that unbroken contact with the ground is maintained. At each step, the advancing foot of the walker must make contact with the ground before the rear foot leaves the ground. During the period of each step when a foot is on the ground, the leg must be straightened (i.e. not bent at the knee) at least for one moment, and in particular, the supporting leg must be straight in the vertical upright position.”

Finally, the present rule, since 1996:

“Race Walking is a progression of steps so taken that the walker makes contact with the ground, so that no visible (to the human eye) loss of contact occurs. The advancing leg shall be straightened (i.e. not bent at the knee) from the moment of first contact with the ground until the vertical upright position.”

Race Walking has come a long way;

Walkers organised the first English amateur walking championship in 1866, which was won by John Chambers, and judged by the "fair heel and toe" rule. This rather vague code was the basis for the rules codified at the first Championships Meeting in 1880 of the Amateur Athletics Association in England, the birth of modern athletics.
An 1836 illustration of a "Walking Wager", from Peter Piper's Practical Principles of Plain and Perfect Pronunciation, by Anonymous, Philadelphia.

   
1923                                                                            1877                                                                       1875
   
1903
1939