What causes tired legs, and how to relieve them

What Causes Tired Legs, And How To Relieve Them

In case you haven’t guessed yet, we’re all about feet here at The Feets. But we’re also about general lower limb health, because if the aim is to continue your active pursuits and achieve the goals you set for yourself, your legs are a pretty important piece of the puzzle. 

If you have been noticing tiredness or weakness in your legs, you will be keen to get to the bottom of what’s causing this and take steps to improve it instead of making things worse. Whether it’s overtraining, not eating the right foods, a medical condition or something else, we’re breaking down all the different reasons your legs could be feeling tired. 

Remember, at The Feets we’re all about preventative, active foot care – you can read more in our blog piece; What Is Active Foot Care? 

What are ‘tired legs’, and how do they feel? 

There’s a difference between feeling tired from lack of sleep, and feeling tired in certain areas of your body. Tired legs is a feeling of fatigue that can be traced to the lower limbs, and it may feel like a heaviness, weakness, discomfort, stiffness or even a dull ache.

What are tired legs?

It’s normal to feel this after a big workout that targets the legs, such as a long run or resistance/strength training, as our muscles experience microscopic damage and inflammation due to repetitive use or strain. This is sometimes referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. However, if you are feeling leg tiredness for an unexplained reason, you may want to explore this more to find the cause. 

What could be causing leg tiredness?

There are a long list of factors that could cause legs to feel tired or weak – some related to your everyday lifestyle, some related to medical issues that may need attention. Here are some of the most common reasons you could be experiencing tired legs: 

Overuse / Overtraining 

Overuse of the legs is probably the most common reason for legs feeling tired, and this could mean different things to different people. For athletes, overtraining means you have been using your leg muscles too frequently without enough rest time between sessions. This might mean running too many miles to stick to a training schedule, or not leaving enough time between visits to the squat rack in the gym. 

It’s estimated that 7-20% of athletes in all sports show signs of Overtraining Syndrome, which is a more serious form of overtraining requiring swift intervention.  

When taking part in strenuous activities, you must incorporate plenty of rest and sleep in order to allow muscles to recover. Many people wrongly assume taking days off and prioritising rest will hinder their progress somehow, or skipping a run from their training plan will set you back and affect the final outcome. Don’t fall for it! In reality, we all require rest to recover and, as a result, achieve even more in the long run (pun intended). Remember, without rest your body won’t recover and become stronger - it’s a core part of the training process.

Overtraining can commonly cause tired legs

Standing for long periods

You may be wondering what the harm could be in standing, but this is another culprit. Standing in the same position for long periods of time can cause all sorts of negative health outcomes, such as an increased risk of lower back pain and cardiovascular problems, so there are already reasons to avoid it. Another is tired legs. 

Some of us will be required to stand for long periods as part of our job, and this makes it difficult to avoid. If you tend to stand for a long time in your job, consider asking your employer for amendments to your schedule, equipment or work type in order to interrupt long standing periods with walking or sitting. 

Lack of exercise

As well as overuse, underuse can also affect legs. Sitting or lying down for long periods of time without moving – whether due to an injury, desk work or lifestyle changes – can lead to leg muscles deconditioning. This can cause cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases that may limit exercise capacity and increase fatigue. In other words, even if you sit down for much of your life, your legs can still tire. 

If you do sit for extended periods of time for work or another reason, try to stand up if you can and do something active for around 5 minutes each hour. This could be a quick walk to the printer, a dog walk, or just stretching and doing leg raises while lying on the sofa. Whatever works for you. If you tend to forget, set an hourly alarm on your phone to remind you. 

Poor circulation

If you have poor circulation, blood will not flow to where it should, and your muscles won’t receive the supply of oxygen they need. This can cause tiredness in the legs, especially since they are the furthest limbs from the heart, and therefore it can be more difficult for blood to travel from the heart to the lower limbs. 

Conditions such as Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) can cause poor circulation by affecting the valves in veins so they don’t work properly to allow blood to flow back to the heart. This can cause blood to pool in the lower legs, which can cause swelling around the feet and ankles. 

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is another condition that affects circulation, and can lead to cramping, leg fatigue, weakness, pressure or aching. It’s caused by a blockage (or narrowing) in the blood vessels, and it is most likely to affect men or postmenopausal women, those over 50 years old, those with a history of heart disease, or those with a family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or Peripheral Vascular Disease. You can improve the symptoms of this condition by addressing high cholesterol and high blood pressure, managing your weight, adding some exercise to your routine and cutting out smoking. 

Speaking of smoking, this can also affect your circulation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking can cause blockages that reduce blood flow within the body to places like the legs. 

Some things you can do to improve circulation include regularly moving around, wearing loose clothing, using a foam roller, wearing compression stockings, and rolling your ankles and bending your knees if you spend a lot of time sitting. Strength training, particularly for the calf muscles, can also be beneficial for improving your circulation as these vital muscles act as a pump to help return blood back to the heart.


If you exercise regularly, you probably know that nutrition can have a huge impact on your performance and recovery. Not fuelling yourself properly (i.e. sugar for energy during an event, or getting adequate protein afterwards) can hinder your progress and cause more fatigue after a sports endeavour.  

Additionally, nutritional deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals can cause fatigue and muscle cramps. For example, a severe B12 deficiency is thought to cause symptoms like numbness in the legs.

Ensure you are properly fuelling before a run or workout in order to provide your legs with the energy required. Don’t forget to hydrate too, since dehydration can also cause leg fatigue thanks to electrolyte imbalances that impact muscle function.

Lack of rest and sleep 

As mentioned earlier, overtraining and lack of rest can have a significant impact on leg tiredness, and lack of adequate sleep at night can also contribute. Without sleep, our muscle fibres won’t repair and regenerate as they should, which can lead to muscle tension and cause tired legs. 

Lack of sleep can have huge knock-on effects in other areas of your life, so if you have been overtraining and experiencing tired legs, consider including more rest days or cutting down on your training schedule. If you have not been sleeping enough during the night, try to improve your sleep hygiene to get some extra Zs in. Personally I follow a simple routine every night before I go to bed that helps me relax my body and flick my brain into sleep mode (which I’ll cover in another post in detail).

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

An estimated 10% of adults experience restless legs, and around 3% will experience a more severe form of this, called Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). RLS causes an uncomfortable feeling in the legs, as well as aching, twitching and jerking which can be especially active at night. 

It is believed people with RLS get moderate to severe symptoms at least twice a week, which can disrupt their sleep. The regular leg movements Restless Leg Syndrome causes can also lead to muscle tiredness.

Some other medical conditions can cause tired legs

Another medical condition

A number of other medical conditions could cause tiredness or weakness in the legs, including:

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A condition causing fatigue throughout the body, as well as the legs.
  • Varicose Veins: These are veins that collect blood and swell, and can cause a tired, heavy or aching sensation in the legs. You are more likely to get varicose veins if you are a woman, older in age, overweight, inactive, a smoker, take the oral contraceptive pill, have had a leg injury, or are pregnant. If you have varicose veins, you may be recommended regular exercise and compression stockings, but if symptoms don't improve, speak to your doctor. 
  • Hypokalemia: This happens due to low levels of potassium in the bloodstream, which can cause feelings of fatigue, weakness and cramping in the legs. You may have heard people say eating a banana helps raise potassium levels, which may be true, but Hypokalemia can also be caused by other factors like hormone imbalances, use of medications, and more. 
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS): A condition that can cause a range of symptoms, including tiredness or weakness in one or both legs. It is important to contact your doctor if you have weakness in only one leg or any other symptoms of this autoimmune disease. 

Important: Tiredness in the legs is usually nothing to worry about (and should be expected in periods of intense training), but if you experience sudden leg weakness this could be a medical emergency, and you should seek immediate medical assistance. 

What you can do at home to ease tired legs

Not sure what’s causing your tired legs? If you have been able to rule out any medical conditions, you may want to try some at-home remedies to alleviate leg tiredness. These easy tricks and small lifestyle changes could lead to improvements: 

  • Enjoy a warm bath – Soaking muscles in warm water can help to ease discomfort in the legs and boost circulation. Add epsom salt to help with muscle recovery. 
  • Use R.I.C.E. – This stands for Rest (take a break from exercising), Ice (apply ice to the area), Compress (use a compression bandage to reduce swelling), and Elevate (keep legs raised). 
  • Get a massage – A massage with a certified massage/sports therapist can help to relieve leg tiredness, but you can also massage oil into the affected muscles yourself. Personally, this is a big one, and I get a massage every 2-3 weeks in heavy training blocks.
  • Exercise more – If overuse is your issue, then rest will be key. However, if you don’t currently exercise regularly and are experiencing tired legs, starting an exercise routine can help to get you moving and the blood flowing around your body. 
  • Eat healthy foods – By eating a balanced, healthy diet with all of the recommended daily nutrients, you can improve your energy, recovery and more. Remember to stay hydrated to feel energised. 

A sports massage is great for tired legs

If the above fails to alleviate tired legs, and symptoms are persistent or severe, reach out to your doctor to rule out other conditions and recommend the appropriate treatments. These could include medications, physical therapy, or something specific to the conditions mentioned above. 

Looking after your legs is just as important as your feet when it comes to recovery and injury prevention. I have experienced tired legs myself due to overuse and I know how frustrating it can be to feel forced to rest when you don’t want to. But always remind yourself, you can’t get stronger without rest and sleep - so enjoy it. 

At the end of the day, if your goal is to perform at your very best, figuring out what’s causing your tired or weak legs will set you up for more long-term success. 

Look after your feet and your legs, and go get it. 


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We’re The Feets. We know what it’s like to set the alarm for 5am, drag yourself out of a warm bed, lace up the shoes that are starting to show the miles, and head out in the grey morning to clock a few Ks before work. We’ve been there, we are there, and we’ve got your back. Follow us on Instagram or Tiktok for stories, motivation, tips and tricks, or just to be part of the growing community of those wanting to make something of themselves.

Written by: Logan Estop-Hall

Mountain man. Ultra-runner. Entrepreneur. Adventure sports do-er. Obsessive reader. Happy husband, proud father and passionate about helping people find health and happiness through sport, with a specific focus on lower limb health.

Medically Reviewed By: Matt Hart

Experienced sport and MSK podiatrist with a sport & exercise science background & MSc in clinical biomechanics. Working mainly in sport with athletes and football players both professional and non professional. Specialist interest in running footwear & their influence on performance.