10 Weird Things Walking Does to Your Body

Don't let these strange reactions keep you from walking

Walking is a great way to enjoy physical activity, but you can have some weird things happen when you are walking. Luckily, most of these reactions are normal and are not health concerns. Knowing some of the odd bodily reactions and minor discomforts you might expect can help ease your anxiety if they happen. You can also learn ways to prevent them or to deal with them if they appear.

1
Your Fingers Swell up Like Sausages When You Walk

Woman walking through grasslands, close-up of hand
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Swollen hands and fat fingers are the price you pay for enjoying a walk in warmer weather. Wise walkers remove their rings before going on a long walk. Otherwise, you may feel like they have turned into tourniquets. When you exercise, you are pumping more blood around your body, including into your hands and feet. With sweating and drinking, you may have an imbalance in your body salt (electrolytes) and fluid balance. As a result, you get swollen hands, and swollen feet, too.

2
Your Feet Grow a Size During Your Walk

Athletic Shoes
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What's happening to your hands is also happening to your feet, only it will happen even in cool weather. Remove those toe rings before you go walking. You can expect your feet to swell as much as a full shoe size while walking. The reason is simple—you have increased your blood circulation and your body can't fully keep up with returning it all back uphill. You need to expect this and buy walking shoes that are a little bigger than your dress shoes. In fact, it's very smart to go walking shoe shopping immediately after walking your usual workout distance. That way your feet have swollen to the size they will be during your walk. Otherwise, you are likely to end up with blisters and irritated bunions.

3
You Get a Weird Leg Heat Rash When You Walk

Leg Heat Rash - Golfer's Vasculitis
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This was a medical mystery for many years. Walkers know it well—an ugly red rash just above the sock line. Usually, it isn't itchy. It just makes your legs look like you have the plague for a few days before it goes away on its own. Because most doctors had never seen it, they couldn't tell you what it is. But it has a name—golfer's vasculitis. The good news is that it is mostly a cosmetic annoyance and it doesn't indicate other health problems.

4
Your Nose Runs When You Walk

Coughing and Sneezing
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Is your problem that your feet smell and your nose runs when you walk? You are giving your respiratory system a workout when you walk and that extra air can irritate your nasal passages, especially if it is cold, dry, or windy. You are also pumping more pollen through it, so people with allergies may end up with a drippy nose. Carry tissues. They can come in handy for our next weird walking problem, too.

5
You Have to Poop—Badly!

Restroom Sign and Arrow
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Plenty of walkers find themselves urgently praying for a public restroom or portable toilet. Walking is good for regularity. In fact, some theorize that's why exercise is associated with a decreased risk of colon cancer. But many walkers and runners have to deal with runner's trots (exercise-induced diarrhea). Luckily, you can carefully watch what you eat and drink before a long walk or run to reduce the risk. High-fiber foods, a large meal before exercise, caffeine, and dairy products can be triggers.

6
You Get a Black Toenail - Or Lose It Completely

Black Toenail
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It's good that black nail polish or darker colors are now trendy. When your toes bang against the toe box of your shoe, it can cause a bruise or blister under your toenail. Sometimes you just end up with a black toenail that takes months to grow out. If you have a blister under your nail, you may lose the nail entirely. This is not as gnarly as it sounds—the nail grows back. In the meantime, you can just paint the area where it used to be and pretend you still have a toenail. But your career as a foot model may be over for the time being.​

7
You Chafe in Unmentionable Places

Thigh Chafing
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When sweat dries you get salt crystals and those rub you raw in all of your body crevices. Your crotch, underarms, and under-breast areas are particular targets for chafing. You can also chafe where your backpack or hydration pack rubs. Your nipples also can be chafed raw, as both men and women discover. Luckily, there are chafing prevention products you can use to reduce this risk. You just have to remember to use them before you start hurting.

8
Your Boobs Hurt When You Walk

Breast or Nipple Pain
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Both men and women can get breast pain due to walking and other forms of exercise. have this problem as well as women. Bouncy breasts can be a sore irritation that keeps people from exercising. If you don't wear a bra, you may also have nipple chafing. For women, buying a sports bra that gives the right amount of compression and support is the quest for the Holy Grail. There are also solutions for men who need chest support.

9
Your Face Turns Purple

Purple-faced at the Portland Marathon Finish
Credit: Wendy Bumgardner ©

Some people get a deep flush when walking warm weather. The increased heart rate while walking will open up the capillaries in your face, so a healthy glow is expected. A few people just get it a little bit more intensely. Take the usual precautions when walking in hot weather: stay hydrated, and cool off with a splash of cold water whenever you can.

10
You Get Itchy

Scratching Itchy Arm
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Some people break out in hives when they exercise. Others just have itchy legs. An exercise allergy, dry skin, or failure to wash the soap out of your pants may be the culprits. Plus, we all have the risk of ​bug bites and contact with irritating plants such as poison ivy. But maybe it's that new sunscreen you were trying...

11
Wonderful Reasons to Walk

Walking on the Greenway Path
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Weird things will happen when you walk, but some wonderful things will happen, too. When you walk, you can burn fat, reduce your health risks, add healthy years to your life, make new friends, and see great sights. Don't let minor discomforts keep you from lacing up your walking shoes and enjoying this healthy activity.

Sources:

Ho GW. Lower Gastrointestinal Distress in Endurance Athletes. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 2009;8(2):85-91. doi:10.1249/jsr.0b013e31819d6b7b.

Espitia O, Dréno B, Cassagnau E, et al. Exercise-Induced Vasculitis: A Review with Illustrated Cases. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. 2016;17(6):635-642. doi:10.1007/s40257-016-0218-0.

Kounis N, Kounis G, Soufras G. Exercise-Induced Urticaria, Cholinergic Urticaria, and Kounis syndrome. Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics. 2016;7(1):48. doi:10.4103/0976-500x.179355.

Laskowski ER. Hand Swelling During Exercise: A Concern? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/hand-swelling/expert-answers/faq-20058255.

Subungual Hematoma. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. http://www.aocd.org/?page=SubungualHematoma.