When you think about what running does to your legs – constant pounding; continuous motion up to and sometimes through exhaustion; exposure to heat, cold and precipitation – you might conclude that the activity might be a cause of varicose veins.
But scientists and doctors seem to agree that running is mostly good for your legs, and your entire body, and that it won’t cause varicose veins.
Even when you already have developed symptoms of varicose veins, physicians won’t tell you to stop running, though they might suggest you modify some of your most strenuous running habits.
Why running doesn’t cause varicose veins
Varicose veins occur when valves in the leg break down. The valves prevent blood from pooling in the legs as your heart pumps to move the blood back to your heart and lungs. Valves that don’t close can’t prevent the pooling, which results in the vein’s discoloration, a ropy appearance, and more serious symptoms. Scientists haven’t determined why valves in the veins fail, but it does not seem to be from exercise.
Why running might help slow down signs of varicose veins
When you walk or run, the muscles in the calf of your leg act as a pump to help push the blood back to your heart, so the more you exercise your legs, the more pumping you do. Walking and running might slow down the development of varicose veins, although exercise will not prevent them or make them go away.
Why some doctors will tell you to walk instead of run
There is some evidence that running could make your existing varicose veins hurt or throb a little more as you are exercising. As you run, your heart is beating faster, of course, and extra pressure could extend veins that are already damaged. Physicians will also recommend that you run on dirt roads, school tracks or other surfaces that are softer than sidewalks or asphalt roadways. You could consider wearing compression stockings to minimize any extra pressure on your varicose veins as you run. Most doctors will tell you that while your heart might be stronger when you run regularly, walking is the optimal exercise for varicose veins.