Is Walking Bad for Neuropathy Pain?
Jan 01, 2024
A number of reasons can make walking painful if you have neuropathy in your feet. Setting your feet down may be painful. Raising them may be difficult. You could lose your balance easily. Nevertheless, walking is not bad for neuropathy pain—if you do it right. In this guide, we will explore the benefits of walking for reducing nerve pain, and explain how you can walk safely and effectively with neuropathy.
Benefits of Walking for Neuropathy
It may not seem intuitive that walking could help you when you have so much pain in your feet. But actually, “walking off the pain” is a more viable idea than you would think. Let’s explain why.
Dr. Bussell at Loma Linda University Health says that nerve health requires circulation to clear waste and deliver fuel.
If you are sedentary because of neuropathy, your circulation can suffer. As a result, it is harder for your nerves to get the nutrients they need. Walking is a simple but effective way to combat this issue.
Dr. Bussell also explains that nerve pain can be associated with reduced blood flow to the heart. As such, boosting circulation body-wide is a priority. Walking is a great way to achieve that increase in circulation. Additionally, it is low-impact, making it suitable for patients with neuropathy.
So, walking helps you increase your blood flow to your feet and to your heart and the rest of your body, both of which can help you start feeling and functioning better.
Another reason to walk when you have neuropathy is for the muscle strengthening benefits.
Brett Starkowitz, master trainer and head of education at Ten Health & Fitness says that you can preserve lean muscle mass by walking. You won’t build muscle by walking, but you can strengthen the muscle tissue you already have.
When you maintain the strength of your muscles in your legs and feet, you may have an easier time maintaining your balance and avoiding unnecessary strains and pains.
Lower Stress Levels
Being in pain for long periods of time takes a physical, psychological and emotional toll. The trouble is that the more you stress, the worse you may feel. Stress and chronic pain thus can form a vicious cycle, where each keeps ramping up the other.
The good news is that walking can help to interrupt that cycle by reducing your stress levels. According to certified personal trainer Michelle Rogers at Blue Cross, you only need to walk for around 20-30 minutes to experience a significant decrease in cortisol, which is a stress hormone. As you start feeling better psychologically, you may also start feeling better physically.
Risks of Walking with Neuropathy
So, is walking bad for neuropathy? Not at all, so long as you are doing it safely. It is important to understand that walking with neuropathy does have some risks. You need to mitigate those risks in order for walking to be conducive to your health.
Balance issues and Coordination
Many people with neuropathy experience numbness in their feet. This reduced sensation makes it hard to balance, and can result in tripping, stumbling or falling.
Adaptive footwear can make it easier to maintain your balance by reducing the amount of lifting you need to do to move your feet. Practicing walking also can make a difference as you build up strength in your lower body.
That said, you may want to take additional precautions like walking on soft surfaces or wearing padding in case you fall (actually, soft surfaces may hurt you less if you fall, but might be harder to maintain your balance on, so that can be a mixed bag).
Risk of Injury
Along with the concern about falling and injuring yourself, there is also the concern that you could injure yourself simply by overdoing it with walking.
This is one of the reasons it is wise to take things slowly when you are just starting out. That way, you can get a better gauge for what you can handle, and are less likely to go too far by mistake.
Initially, you may want to stick with walking close to home or your vehicle so that you can get back quickly if you do walk too much.
How to Walk Safely with Neuropathy
Now that we have gone over some of the potential hazards of walking with neuropathy, let’s delve a little deeper into some of the suggestions we offered above for safety, beginning with footwear.
Recognizing Foot Pain and Stopping
How do you know if you are overdoing it when walking with neuropathy? Greg Carter, M.D. says that you should watch out for signs such as painful cramps in your muscles, heaviness in your hands or feet, shortness of breath that does not go away, feeling weaker after half an hour of working out, and your muscles getting way too sore in the day or two after you exercise.
Unusually pronounced nerve pain would also be a “stop” signal. You know your own neuropathy better than anyone else, and can tell when something is outside the ordinary.
Do you experience numbness as one of your symptoms? Be sure to take a look at your feet from time to time to make sure you have not sustained an injury you are not aware of yet (i.e. gashing your foot on a rock).
If at any point you are worried that you are hurting yourself, try and stop for the day. When you are not close to home, you might have to pause and take a break before continuing back (or calling a friend or family member to come get you).
Choosing the Best Footwear
A great way to increase your comfort and safety while you are walking with nerve pain is to choose shoes that are especially designed for people with health conditions affecting their gaits.
To help you walk comfortably across rough and smooth surfaces with neuropathy, try a shoe that features variable friction technology, like the Cadense Original Adaptive Shoe (available for men and women).
Walking on Even Surfaces
At least to start, you should walk on even surfaces like sidewalks. A smooth, flat surface requires less effort to walk on, is unlikely to upset your balance, and does not exert uncomfortable pressure on the bottom of your feet (like pebbles might, for example).
If you are going to hike on trails, consider researching them a bit in advance to make sure that they are not going to be overly rocky, steep or uneven.
While walking is a wonderful exercise for many people with neuropathy, it is not a fit for everyone.
If you cannot always go on walks—or cannot go on them at all—other exercise options include stretches, sitting exercises, balance exercises, cycling and swimming.
Let’s answer a few frequently asked questions about walking and neuropathy.
Can walking reverse neuropathy?
Some types of neuropathy are not reversible, but some types are, and walking may be able to help. A study in Heliyon says that decades’ worth of studies suggest that exercise following injury to peripheral nerves can increase nerve regeneration and functional recovery.
What activities should be avoided with neuropathy?
High-impact activities such as step aerobics and jogging are a bad idea with foot neuropathy. Exercises like these increase the possibilities of injury or losing balance.
How much should I walk with neuropathy?
About half an hour of walking a day is great for neuropathy. But when you first get started, you will probably need to walk for a shorter period of time. You can gradually increase it as you get used to it. reference?
Does walking barefoot help neuropathy pain?
No. In fact, walking barefoot may make your neuropathy pain worse and increase the chances of injury. It is essential to get the right footwear.
What are the best shoes to wear when you have neuropathy?
We recommend wearing the Cadense Original Adaptive Shoe to maintain a natural, safe stride. These shoes are as fashionable as they are comfortable, and will become your go-to shoes not just for walking, but for everything else you do.