Varicose veins and running

Low-impact activity is best for vein health

Vein health

Healthy calf muscles are necessary for optimum leg health.

Now that summer-like temps are here, many people are motivated to start an exercise program. For some, that includes running. But what if you have varicose veins?

Although running won’t cause varicose veins, our advice to those with varicose veins who want to become active is to consider low-impact activities first. Try walking, swimming, biking or any other low-impact form of exercise.

Tips for runners

Because running is a high-impact activity, runners often experience vein swelling, which can result in leg aching, throbbing, heaviness or fatigue. If you’re already a runner — with or without varicose veins — here are some helpful tips to keep your legs as healthy as possible:

  • Wear graduated compression stockings when you run to reduce leg fatigue.
  • Run on softer, more shock-absorbent surfaces such as grass, sand, dirt or an athletic track. If possible, avoid running on cement or hard pavement.
  • Monitor your legs for any vein problems. If vein problems develop, seek evaluation by a vein specialist.

Optimum leg health

Healthy calf muscles are necessary for optimum leg health. In fact, the calf muscle is often considered the “heart” of the lower extremity. Effective calf muscle contraction and relaxation promotes the normal flow of blood in the legs and prevents blood from pooling with gravity. You can keep your calf muscles healthy with low-impact exercise.

A different kind of stocking

You may have noticed that a growing number of athletes are wearing compression sleeves. These garments are designed to help improve athletic performance and recovery. These are different from the compression socks/stockings recommended by vein specialists for the treatment of varicose veins.

The compression socks and hosiery recommended by vein specialists for varicose vein patients feature graduated compression. These graduated compression stockings exert the most pressure at the ankle and less and less pressure as they go up the leg, thereby improving blood flow in the leg veins.

Take the next step:

Pavone_Lisa0Lisa Pavone, M.D., is a Clinical Lecturer in the Section of Vascular Surgery, specializing in the evaluation and treatment of venous disease at University of Michigan’s Livonia Vein Center.




Frankel-informal-vertical-sigThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.