I'm a "morbidly obese" guy who recently went from a work-from-home position to a commuting job. Part of my commute includes a half mile walk from the train station to the office building where I am employed.

I have been experiencing a burning sensation that starts at my ankles and works its way up into both lower calf muscle groups as I do this walk. At first I thought it was my body not being acclimated to the change in activity, but it's been going on for four work-weeks of doing this walk back-and-forth, so it's approximately a mile walk every day.

I'm curious to know if any fitness experts here have some ideas as to what the cause might be and some suggestions to prevent it.

I know I'm overweight and I probably should get some new shoes, but wondering about other potential causes and maybe some ideas as to how to prevent it through certain warm-ups (preferably able to be done on a packed subway car.)

  • How long have you been experiencing this pain ? If this is just the first few weeks of your walking, then I would say, give it another month or so. When I first started going to the gym and using the treadmill, I experienced something very similar. But as i increased my stamina and endurance, the pain started receding and now I run 3.5 -4.0 kms without that burning sensation. I do not know the scientific reason of this, But this sounds very much like what I had experienced. So give it a couple of weeks moe atleast, probably the pain will go away ! And personally I am happy abt your new job ;)
    – Chani
    Commented Oct 22, 2012 at 15:41

6 Answers 6


Make sure you're getting enough potassium. Sodium and potassium are both critical to fuel your muscles.

The typical diet is rarely deficient in sodium. But it is common to have low potassium levels. In fact, an increase in physical activity will increase your body's demand for potassium. That could explain the prolonged soreness you're experiencing.


Peter, there are several possible causes. Because you are morbidly obese and may have medical conditions to consider, this is something to check out with your doctor. You know that often repeated phrase, "before beginning an exercise program, check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner." Walking one mile a day has significantly increased your exercise level. (Hopefully, your new job comes with health benefits.)

In addition to the possibilities already suggested, your condition may involve circulation, nerves or other musculoskeletal problems. Your doctor will be the best one to help you eliminate or manage the problem.

  • If the problem is musculoskeletal, meaning either joint, muscle, tendon or other soft-tissue, a pair of Nordic Walking Poles may help by shifting some of your weight off of your legs onto your arms. Using the poles can be very effective for a number of reasons, but in your case, they would function in a support role. Because you would be walking in an urban setting, you would use the rubber walking tips to cover the pointed tip. If you have muscle tightness or weakness, a therapist could give you some calf stretches (gastroc and soleus) and/or some strengthening exercises such as toe raises, or whatever is appropriate for you.

  • If the problem is circulatory, your doctor or therapist can give you a set of exercises for the lower leg to increase circulation such as simple feet and ankle range of motion exercises that you could do sitting in your seat. For example, point your toes up and down, or write out the alphabet in the air as if your big toe is a pen. March in place while sitting by raising one knee and then the other toward your chest as this also helps to increase circulation to the legs.

And yes, do consider a good pair of supportive shoes and maybe even support socks. Also, if possible break up your walk with short sitting rest periods and do a few ankle circles. The good thing is that you have started a walking program that can add to your health and fitness. The bad thing is that you need to take care of the burning sensation before it gets worse and inhibits your progress. Good luck.


This is likely a reaction from lack of oxygen due to shortage of breath. Your cells need oxygen and when they are starved, there is a build up of adenosine triphosphate that can cause a burning sensation. It's not a bad thing. It essentially means your muscles want more energy and oxygen than you can produce at that time. No damage is done and you recover quickly afterwards.

Because you are obese, this isn't likely to get better simply by repeating the process again and again. The only things that will help is feeding your body properly at breakfast, say with good amounts of protein, keep yourself hydrated ideally with an electrolyte drink at breakfast. This will help reduce, but don't eliminate. You really need to drop some pounds to get yourself into a situation where your muscles can properly support you. Not judging, just the reality.


To me this sounds like an inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which is very common for people who pick up running after being inactive for a while. It usually does not occur with regular walking, but due to the obesity it may well be the case for you.

Usually the key to overcoming a sore Achilles tendon is simply to rest for a few days, then try again, rest again, and so on, until the muscles adapt to the increased tension. In your case, this may be difficult as it sounds like you simply have to do this walk every day. Nevertheless, if you do not get enough rest, the pain may not go away as your muscles won't have a chance to repair. If your budget allows it, I would recommend taking a cab for two days, then trying to walk again and see if it's better. Rinse and repeat until the pain is gone. Also, make sure you don't walk much on the weekend, so your tendons have time to heal then.

As for exercises to prevent the strain, wall pushups and hamstring stretches are generally recommended to prevent strain on the Achilles tendon. They shouldn't be done too ferociously when the tendon already hurts though, so this is more of a prevention technique.

Getting new shoes is a good idea as well; a decent pair of running shoes will definitely alleviate some of the tension during your walks.

Just to state the obvious though: Your obesity is the main reason why a simple walk leads to symptoms most people would only experience after an intense run.


You have the symptoms and risk factors for Peripheral artery disease (PAD). You should get checked out by a doctor, as this is a disease that can get worse over time. You can get more information about PAD from Mayoclinic.

Good luck, and keep up the walking!

  • Hi and welcome to the site! It would be preferable to include the relevant information in the answer here and use the link for reference.
    – user241
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 13:23
  • 2
    Thanks for your post on this. I actually went to the doctor for an unrelated issue and found multiple issues, but none of which is PAD. The pain did eventually go away until I started taking BP meds. So, it is likely circulation related. Commented May 29, 2012 at 13:35

I'm not a doctor, nor have I played one on TV, but what has helped me so far has been climbing a lot of stairs. I ve done 45 minutes on a stair machine, a few days this week at the gym. It was like 80-90 floors worth. I had purchased 2 very different pairs of shoes, but they made no difference, compared to my old shoes, in walking after this training began. I didn't stretch or drink electrolites either. The pain has been immediately much more manageable, even though it's still present. My muscles just needed a bit more rigorous conditioning, I think. Maybe more important than losing weight to start with, for me. Hopefully the pain will disappear altogether with continued training. I'm 42 and 50 lbs overweight.

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