If you feel leg pain after walking too much, you're not alone. The causes aren't always obvious. Challenging terrain can bring about weakness in legs when walking, as can specific health conditions. The location and severity of the leg muscle pain can give you a starting point for understanding why you sometimes feel pain and weakness in legs while walking.
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Several factors can contribute to aching and weakness in legs while walking. These include existing health conditions as well as challenging walking conditions. In some cases, challenging terrain can exacerbate health problems.
Evaluating Walking Conditions
Certain types of terrain are more apt than others to bring about leg pain. Steep hills — particularly uphill climbs — as well as uneven ground, can put a strain on your Achilles tendon. If you're feeling a pull at the back of your calf or your heel, it may be from the extra flexing your heels need to do under those challenging conditions. That's because the extra flexing stretches the tendon past its normal point. In turn, this causes pain in your calf.
Uphill walking can also lead to shin splints. Long strolls on pavement also have a painful effect on shins. If you have this kind of leg pain after walking too much, you'll feel soreness in the front part of your lower leg. Shin pain also afflicts people who begin longer walking routines without building up to it. To keep pain to a minimum, focus on more level walking paths for now. In addition, work on strengthening the muscles near your shin.
Does your knee hurt on your walks, especially when descending slopes? Walking downhill can put strain on the knees. Going in small zigzag patterns as you descend can help ease aching knees, as can going slow and bending your knees slightly. In addition to following tips for downhill walking, consider wearing knee braces and using trekking poles if you're going on an extended hike.
Understanding Potential Health Issues
According to Harvard Health Publishing, health conditions you may not even have realized you have can first make themselves known when walking. For example, heaviness in legs that turns to a sensation of "bursting" pain in the upper thigh while walking may be chronic venous insufficiency. This circulation disorder causes blood to pool in the lower body rather than move throughout the body. Elevating your legs when resting, along with wearing circulation stockings, may help.
Thigh cramps and a feeling of weakness may be a sign of lumbar spinal stenosis, in which spinal discs put pressure on adjacent nerves, affecting the lower back and legs. Strengthening your core through physical therapy and home exercise can help. Your doctor may also suggest medication and even surgery.
Have you experienced calf pain when walking, especially a cramping feeling in your lower legs? That sensation may indicate a clogging of the arteries that are responsible for sending blood to the lower body. Along with calf pain when walking, your legs may feel tired even after a short stroll, with generalized leg muscle pain. People with this condition, called peripheral artery disease, are more at risk for heart attacks. It's crucial to follow a doctor's advice carefully.
Read more: 10 Ways to Tell Good Pain From Bad Pain
Easing Leg Muscle Pain
An evaluation from your medical team is the best way to know how to treat leg pain after walking too much. But certain strength and flexibility moves may help in the meantime.
To combat calf pain when walking, add more calf exercises to your fitness routine to help lengthen your tendons. Lifting your toes upward and other shin splint conditioning moves prevent front-of-leg pain. Knee aches sometimes come from weakness of surrounding muscles; work some quadriceps conditioning into your strength-training routine.
Don’t assume that your leg muscle pain is just a question of a bit of “overdoing it” while on your walks. Harvard Health Publishing points out that achiness and weakness in legs while walking, along with sharper pains, can be a sign of several conditions, including diabetic neuropathy, heart disease or other conditions that shouldn’t go untreated. Make a note of whether you feel knee, thigh, shin or calf pain when walking, as well as incidents of weakness in the legs when walking, and talk to your doctor about these symptoms.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "When Walking Makes Your Legs Hurt"
- PubMed: "The Effect of Uphill and Downhill Walking on Joint-Position Sense"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Uphill or Down"
- PubMed: "Biomechanics and Energetics of Walking on Uneven Terrain"
- Rocky Mountain Health Plans: "How to Fix Knee Pain When Hiking"