Most would agree that walking is the safest, easiest form of exercise, yet – each year – thousands of walkers experience walking-induced pain or the recurrence of a nagging old exercise injury. Here are some of the most common walking pains.
The plantar fascia is the band of tissue that runs from your heel bone to the ball of your foot. When this is strained, small tears in the tissue develop, which then stiffens as a protective response, causing foot pain. A telltale signs of plantar fasciitis is feeling pain in your heel or arch first thing in the morning, because the fascia stiffens during the night. Failure to treat the problem can have several undesirable results, including a build-up of calcium. This can create a painful, bony growth around the heel known as a heel spur.
You may be more likely to develop ingrown toenails if your shoes are too short or too tight, which causes repeated trauma to the toe as you walk. If the excess pressure goes on too long, such as during a long hike or charity walk, bleeding could occur under the nail and your toenail might eventually fall off.
A bunion develops when the bones in the joint on the outer side of the big or little toe become misaligned, forming a painful swelling. Walkers with flat feet, low arches, or arthritis may be more apt to develop bunions.
The Achilles tendon, which connects your calf muscle to your heel, can be injured by walking too much, especially if you don't build up to it. Walking up and down steep hills or on uneven terrain can also strain the tendon, triggering lower leg pain.
Your shins have to bear up to 6 times your weight while you exercise, so foot-pounding activities like walking and running can cause problems for the muscles and surrounding tissues and create inflammation and pain. The result is often shin splints.
If you feel tenderness or pain when you press on a specific spot on your foot or lower leg, you may have a stress fracture—a tiny crack in a bone. Walking is more likely to lead to a stress fracture if you walk for too long without building up to it, especially if you have high arches or rigid, flat feet. Women may be more vulnerable because their lower muscle mass and bone density don't always act as adequate shock absorbers.