Solutions to Common Walking Pains

When it Hurts to Walk...

close-up of sneakers
RuslanDashinsky/Getty Images

Walking is a slow, low impact form of exercise. If left ignored, preexisting pains in the foot or knee can cause chronic pain. Walking-induced pain can aggravate old injuries and even induce new ones. The real damage starts when the pain causes you to stop exercising. This leads to weight gain and loss of muscle tone. So, what are the most common walking pains?

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis symptoms include tenderness on the heel and the base of the foot.

The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that attaches the heel to the ball of the foot. When it is strained, it can lead to small tears and ensuing stiffness and foot pain. An abrupt increase in the normal walking routine can also cause inflammation. Individuals with plantar fasciitis usually feel pain in the arch and heel in the morning as the fascia tightens throughout the night. Left untreated, the condition can cause a calcium buildup, which can lead to bony growths called heel spurs.

Solution: Stretch out the bottom of your foot at the first sign of stiffness in order to loosen up the tissue. Wear supportive shoes to reduce pain, and make sure to choose shoes that are not flimsy in the middle. Over-the-counter or custom-made orthotics can provide the necessary support to sustain impact. If you are unable to walk without pain, stick to flat, stable paths.

Ingrown Toenail

Ingrown toenails cause swelling and pain in the sides of the toes.

This pain can occur when the toenails begin to grow sideways into the tissues rather than forward. If the shoes you are wearing are too small, it may cause the formation of an ingrown toenail. If the pressure continues, bleeding may occur beneath the nail and this may cause the toenail to fall off.

Solution: Make sure your toes have enough room! Your feet swell when you exercise, so make sure that you take this into account when you are buying shoes. Use toenail clippers to cut your nails straight across. Rounding the corners can increase your risk of developing an ingrown toenail.


If pain develops on the side of your big or little toes, you may have a bunion. A bunion may form if your shoes are not wide enough.

Solution: Purchase shoes that are wide enough or stretch out the pair you have if the pain bothers you when you walk. You can also buy over-the-counter pads to provide relief, and icing the bunions after walking can ease the pain as well. Severe cases may require surgery to get rid of the boney projection and to realign the toe.

Achilles tendinitis
Pain behind the heel of the lower half of the calf might mean that your Achilles tendon is irritated. Repeatedly walking up and down hills can also strain your foot and trigger the pain.

Solution: If the pain is not severe, try swimming or other low-impact activities or limit your mileage, as long as it doesn’t aggravate the pain.

Walking uphill may over-stretch the tendon and make it weaker. Stretching the calf regularly can help prevent Achilles tendonitis. If the pain is severe, stop walking and ice the injury for 15-20 minutes 3-4 times a day to decrease the inflammation. Try walking on a flat surface and gradually increase your walking distance after the pain begins to subside.

Lumbar Strain

Lumbar strain creates an ache in the mid to lower back. Walking isn’t usually the cause of lumbar strain, but repetitive movements can worsen an existing back injury. Solution: Engage your abdominal muscles by sucking your belly button into your spine when you walk. Try not to bend at the waist when you are walking uphill. Your hamstrings and hip flexors may also cause posture problems put pressure on the back, so make sure to stretch these muscles out as well.

Continue Reading