January 28, 2011

Why do my legs and feet hurt after walking?

You know the feeling; you've just finished ten miles walking across gruelling but breathtaking countryside and you're feeling rather pleased with yourself after having conquered that seemingly never-ending summit and finally having arrived safely back at your base-camp. Perhaps you may be sat with a sandwich and a well earned glass of beer in front of a traditional country pub's log fire, exchanging stories with locals and fellow walkers. And then, once the adrenalin wears off and you get your breath back, you begin to ask yourself the question: why do my legs and feet hurt after walking.

The initial euphoria of your hiking success dissipates as you begin to feel the inevitable aches and tightening sensations on your leg muscles. They begin to realise that you're no longer giving them the strenuous work-out you had been doing and start to contract quickly.

As the muscles relax and contract, often the build up of lactic acid that is formed when heavy exercise is undertaken, can lead to cramps, especially in those whose muscles become fatigued more quickly.

Feet can also hurt after walking because of several factors including cramp. However, one of the most common ways that feet hurt after walking is down to the dreaded blister - the walker's curse. Blisters form where there is additional friction on the skin which has been caused by repeated motion and sometimes exacerbated by ill-fitting socks and walking shoes. Blisters are actually nature's way of protecting the area that has been damaged, by providing a last ditch attempt at providing a 'pillow' of fluid beneath the skin to protect the body underneath it. However, they can be very painful if, after they've formed the person needs to continue walking and worst of all if the blister bursts.

When a blister bursts (this can be because the blister's owner has deliberately burst it or because continuous wear from further walking friction has caused it) the protective bubble disappears, and whilst blisters can be uncomfortable by making walking or wearing footwear more difficult, bursting them is many times more painful and can lead to the area becoming infected.

So, the question 'why do my legs and feet hurt after walking' could be due to these two most common reasons. However, with a little rest and some proper warming-down exercises, cramp can be avoided to some extent and if they do appear, they can pass relatively quickly. Rest and a good hot shower will often be all a walker needs to help warm up the muscles, prevent cramps and give those blisters a break by taking the weight of their legs.

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