Running and Varicose Veins: Is it safe?

March 2, 2021 Dr Zil Yassine

For those who suffer from varicose veins, exercise can often be daunting. Are the movements and elevated heart-rate beneficial for the veins or does it make the issue worse? Specifically, when it comes to running and varicose veins: is it safe, or does running actually cause varicose veins to develop?

Heart health over varicose veins

Varicose veins are caused by an underlying condition known as chronic venous insufficiency. CVI occurs for a number of reasons but is most commonly aggravated by factors like low activity, excess weight, poor diet and age. The veins themselves aren’t the cause of the condition, rather a symptom.

While running has not been shown to cause varicose veins, there are some studies that suggest it may, in some cases, aggravate existing veins.

So, if you have varicose veins should you stop running? The short answer is no.

Running and varicose veins

While the symptoms of varicose veins may sometimes feel temporarily worse while running, the benefits to your heart health and general fitness are much higher. In fact, running can help build strength in the calves, which act as a natural pump that returns blood back up to the heart.

Therefore, regularly running not only boosts your heart health, but it also can reduce the risk of varicose veins forming in the first place. Heart health is so important that doctors recommend you engage in regular physical exercise like running, swimming and cycling, even if you have varicose veins.

Learn more: Home remedies for varicose veins.

How to be safe while running with varicose veins

While it’s great news that running is beneficial regardless of your varicose veins, it’s still important to make sure you’re exercising the proper way to get the most out of your run while also taking care of your body.

Surfaces: The surface you run on can have a distinct long-term effect on many parts of your body. As much as possible, avoid running on hard surfaces like concrete, instead of using grass, running tracks and softer ground. The strain on your joints as well as the shock to your body on hard surfaces can cause joint pain and lead to arthritis in the long-term.

Timing: When walking or running, it’s all about how long you do it, not how fast you go. Maintaining a regular rhythm for at least twenty minutes engages the cardiac system, boosting your fitness. While it’s tempting to push yourself and see how fast you can go, start off at a more manageable pace and work your way up over time.

Diagram of a normal functioning vein with healthy vein valves, a varicose vein with damaged vein valves and then an image of how the varicose vein looks when compressed by wearing medical-grade compression stockings.

Compression: For people with existing varicose veins, running can in some cases aggravate the symptoms and cause discomfort. Thankfully this can be easily managed, particularly with compression. Wearing compression socks while running, using compression stockings after exercise for recovery or just day to day helps to effectively relieve the symptoms of varicose veins.

What’s important, is wearing compression that is medically graded. Many brands out there advertise compressive tights or socks that might feel good, but don’t effectively compress the legs or improve circulation.

For those without varicose veins, class 1 compression is enough, whether it’s the VenoTrain Micro for daily wear or the Sports Run and Walk Socks for exercise.

If you have existing varicose veins, it’s best to go for class 2 compression, which is stronger and more effective. The VenoTrain Cocoon is ideal, as it’s not only high in compression, but it uses a slow-release moisturising agent to soothe irritated and dry skin

Is running enough?

Regularly running and exercising is a great way to take care of your heart health and boost the blood flow through your muscles. Combining this with a healthy diet is the best way to take care of your body and lower the risk of varicose veins.

But for those who have varicose veins, if the symptoms are progressing, rather than just trying to manage it on your own, speak to a vein specialist today to look at getting treated.

Seek expert advice

The doctors at The Vein Institute specialise in varicose vein treatment. We offer patients a comprehensive program using non-surgical laser treatment techniques. You can learn more in our Definitive Guide to Varicose Vein Treatment.

The benefits of non-surgical varicose vein treatment are:

  • Walk-in walk-out treatment
  • 98% success rate
  • Extremely effective
  • Can be performed at a clinic (no hospitalisation)
  • No general anaesthetic
  • Medicare rebates apply
  • No downtime or time away from work

To book a consultation and discuss our treatment program, call  1300 981 402. Or, make an enquiry via the Contact Us page.