Patients with venous leg ulcers have a readily recognized clinical syndrome of shallow ulcers, oedema, leg pain, venous ankle blush, lipodermatosclerosis, varicose veins, hyperpigmentation, and atrophie blanche, and they are assumed to have venous abnormalities. We examined 43 patients with venous leg ulcers, and compared those with obvious venous abnormalities (defined as historical or clinical evidence of deep venous thrombosis or varicose veins) with those with presumed venous abnormalities (defined as lacking any such evidence), to see if they presented with different clinical features. We found that both groups had similar clinical features, with the exception that lipodermatosclerosis was present more frequently in those patients with obvious venous abnormalities (94 vs. 36%, P < 0.001). Most patients with presumed venous abnormalities had musculoskeletal conditions which might cause calf pump dysfunction (91%). Using air plethysmography, we were unable to confirm that all patients with presumed venous abnormalities did have intrinsic venous abnormalities. We propose that ulcers occurring in this clinical syndrome be designated as calf pump dysfunction ulcers (CPD ulcers), rather than venous ulcers.