Imagine you are out for your daily run, things are feeling good, you’ve warmed up and have really started getting into your stride. Pound, pound go the feet on the ground.
Slowly but surely you find your calves hurting while running. Pound, pound. It’s probably nothing you think to yourself, somewhat hopefully. Pound, pound continue your feet. You can push through it; after all, how bad can it really be. Pound, pound go the feet.
Feel the tightness in your calves. Okay - you’ve definitely got sore calves now.
So, what do you do? Do you toughen up? Work through it. Push yourself harder. After all you have planned more than this for today’s running.
But what if it is serious? Definitely feeling the pain right now. Maybe you should stop. Let your calves take a break. Take a breather.
How do we know what the right thing to do is and what can we do about having a sore calf when out for a run?
As you run, your muscles swell, leading to the tightness that you are feeling in your calves. There can be several reasons for having sore calf muscles including over exercising, improper footwear, inadequate stretching before and after running and poor form while running. are just some of the reasons why runners can experience sore calves during and after running.
Here are five tips on how to reduce calf pain while running.
Stretching your calves for several minutes prior to and after running has been found to help. Stretching exercises not only before and afterward a run can help but also at other times during the day to help strengthen the calf muscles.
When you are about to go for a run it is wise to warm the body up slowly and carefully at first. After you have done stretching exercises you may want to start with walking for a few minutes, then slowly increase the pace to a slow jog. Only once you are fully warmed up should you start running.
Likewise, it is equally important at the end of a run to make sure that you warm your body down and stretch. Some people will slow themselves down to a walk for a few minutes after finishing a run, followed by stretching.
If you frequently are getting sore calves it’s possible that you may need to get a better pair of running shoes. A good shoe should have plenty of cushioning in the sole, as well as good support for the foot and ankle.
Some people find that a good shoe makes all the difference in the world. One tool that is available to help make sure that you have the right footwear for you, is to have a gait analysis done. Basically, this looks at the biomechanics of the way you run to help determine what is best for you.
Another way to reduce tightness in the calf when running is to make sure that you are intentionally hitting the ground with the ball of your foot (the front part of the foot) when taking a step.
Many people have a tendency to run heel first, with the ball of the foot following second. One way that you can correct your step, while running, is to take smaller steps. Smaller steps make it easier to land on the front part of the foot when you are running.
If you need to change the way you run I would recommend slowly working yourself into the new form. Once you have decided to retrain yourself to change your running form your training program should be more about developing a new habit, rather than exercising.
As with any new habit this may take several weeks before it starts to feel comfortable since you are having to train yourself to break a habit of a lifetime. During this time remember that the goal is not about exercise but rather about a better running form, so don’t be surprised if it initially feels uncomfortable.
You may even find that your calf hurts a bit more than usual when first starting out.
Sometimes calf pain can result from over exercising and/or being under strength. There are two ways that may be fixed. Firstly, resting the calves by reducing your training can help to refresh them. Secondly strengthening exercises, such as weights, can help to strengthen the calves and make them more resistant to tightness or soreness.
If you find that you are getting tight calves while running you may find that wearing compression socks, like some people wear on airplanes to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT), may help.
Many people find compression socks make them feel better while running however it is important to note that research has found that there is a lack of evidence for any actual physical reason for any improvement. If it helps though, then it may be worth considering.
Don’t over exercise. Too often we feel that we must push ourselves that little bit further. A little bit is fine but it is also too easy to overdo it and you won’t want to do any damage to yourself that is permanent.
Don’t drastically increase your training program (in terms of time and/or intensity). The key to a good training program is to make incremental increases to the time, the distance and the intensity of each run. This may sound obvious to experienced runners however it can be a problem for beginners when enthusiasm overtakes them.
Don’t let an upcoming major event push you into making rash decisions with your training program. If you have only been running ten minutes a day for the last few weeks you are unlikely to be able to train your body in a few weeks for a marathon. It may sound obvious but it can be too easy to let an upcoming event push you into making poor training decisions.
I would recommend getting advice from a coach, personal trainer or club if you need a personalized training program for a particular event.
Don’t avoid the doctor if it’s serious. This one speaks for itself. No one is saying be a hypochondriac but if you have doubts about your health then do what it takes to get it checked out. They may refer you to a physiotherapist, they may do nothing or it may even be more serious than you first realized.
There can be many reasons for sore calves. With good footwear, good running form, a good training program, proper stretching before and after running and possibly some strengthening exercises it can often be resolved.