Unless we are airborne, we are being supported by the floor or some other surface. The support the floor gives us is equal and opposite in magnitude and direction to the force we put into it. How we best make of the floor in relation to ourself to maximise our speed and power?
Let us take the foot as our first example. When we put our foot on the floor to support us, its arch collapses flattening the sole of the foot to the floor giving it the largest surface area possible. This large surface area provides a large base of support while the bones and muscles of the foot remain in flexible states. The flattening of the foot is also indicative of the function of the extensor chain muscles which are paramount to the power and health of the body (if you want to know more about the detailed function of your foot in relation to the rest of you, check out www.facebook.com/AnatomyinMotion). As we continue through the gait cycle, our foot changes its contact with the floor until the point where it helps you push off into your next step. On the journey to push-off, the foot (in an efficiently organised individual) will roll smoothly along its surface until only the toes and the joints that connect them to the sole of the foot remain firmly on the floor. At this point, the base of support from this foot is at its smallest making the pressure it exerts its highest and yet the bones of the foot are packed in their most rigid state and the extensor muscles are at their most contracted to provide the push of the foot off the floor.
If in this journey through the foot in walking or running we do not use the floor like we can, we do not use ourselves like we can. The floor can teach us how to use ourselves more effectively.
This doesn't just apply to walking. Any time we have contact with a surface, the information we receive about our contact with it can be used to make ourselves more powerful.
Many years ago I used to bboy. I remember trying to learn a move where you rolled on your back up to a brief one armed handstand. After training my pressing strength lots to be able through brute force to push up as best as possible, I realised that this was highly unnecessary. Instead, the rolling back was key as it would put me in the most advantageous position from which to push. The faster the rolling, the easier the push. As with the roll of the foot through gate, the smoother the rolling, the faster it could be. In the case of the roll towards one shoulder to push up, the more of a curve I could make along that line the better it would be. Like the freedom of the foot, freedom of the spine and ribs to fully round (through contraction of the muscles along the front of the torso and relaxation of the muscles at the back) is only possible when the same is true about the freedom to arch. By paying attention more closely to my body's weight against the floor during rolling and its push back against me, I would have accelerated my learning early on.
These guys are much, much, much better than I ever was and use the floor and themselves brilliantly. They can only go as fast as they go by understanding their interactions with the floor at a very high level.
Pay attention to how you use the floor. It will give you invaluable feedback to help you get faster and more powerful.