Calf Pain While Running, Prevention and Treatment
By Born Tough on
Table of Contents
- 1. How to Treat Sore, Tight Calves Due to Running
- 1.1. How to Massage Tight Calves Due to Running?
- 1.2. RICE Treatment
- 1.3. Foam Rolling
- 1.4. How to Kinesio Tape (KT) Calf Pain?
- 2. How to Prevent Calf Pain While Running?
- 2.1. Train Slowly
- 2.2. Dynamic Stretching
- 2.3. Lateral Hops
- 2.4. Squats
- 2.5. Calf Raises
- 2.6. Wear Shoes That Fit
- 2.7. Drink Mineral Rich Fluids
- 3. Takeaway
Calf muscles are the most simple and neglected structures in your body. But they are critical to running. Running long distances is unimaginable if your calves are weak.
Calf muscles are known for having a high endurance capacity. The gastrocnemius is mainly responsible for the calf muscles’ endurance. In addition to the gastrocnemius, the smaller soleus muscle also supports your movements and generates more energy compared to the gastrocnemius in terms of running. Regardless of their inherent strength, calf muscles are susceptible to pain while running.
If you want to delve deeper into the types and causes of pain that runners suffer from, consider reading the following article.
1. How to Treat Sore, Tight Calves Due to Running
Calf pain or soreness tends to kill all motivation to increase your running mileage and speed. Many runners give up running due to calf pain. Being able to self-treat calf pain can help a lot. Here are some ways you can treat your calf pain:
- Foam Rolling
- Apply kt tape
1.1. How to Massage Tight Calves Due to Running?
With the tips of your fingers, apply pressure gently on your calves as you work any tight calf muscles. A massage is a great way to increase blood circulation in your muscles. Give extra attention to tight spots and keep your movements light. If you feel pain while massaging, stop immediately.
1.2. RICE Treatment
This form of treatment comes in handy for all sorts of pain.
Rest – Take time off. Rest your muscles so they recover fully. Don’t be hasty because if you get back to running with only partially healed muscles, you’ll end up hurting yourself more.
Ice – Apply ice directly to the tender spots where you feel pain. You can safely press ice against your muscles for up to 20 minutes. Do this every day.
Compression – Compression boosts blood supply. Use a compression calf wrap to treat and heal strains. Compression also decreases swelling considerably.
Elevation – Rest your calf comfortably on a soft pillow. Strains in the calf can become inflamed. Elevating your lower leg will keep the blood from pooling in the muscles and reduce inflammation.
1.3. Foam Rolling
Calf strains can turn into chronic injuries. According to medical professionals, strains can create scar tissue, making a specific site in the muscle more vulnerable to injuries. In other words, injuries won’t heal completely and even if they miraculously do, they will likely reappear in the same place again. Different therapies are used to treat this condition, one of them being foam rolling.
It is recommended you use a PVC rolling pipe with a diameter of 3-4'' (inches) as it targets pain deep in the muscles.
Roll over your calves for two to three minutes. Start at the bottom of the calf and slowly make your way up, kneading the muscle well. Without stopping, roll the foam back to the bottom in one smooth glide. Make sure there are no jerky movements.
1.4. How to Kinesio Tape (KT) Calf Pain?
The kinesiology tape, commonly known as KT calf tape, is applied to support calf strains and reduce tone in the calf muscles. Runners frequently report “tight calves,” but it is important to distinguish between tight and hypertonic muscles.
With tight muscles, you can try stretching. The intent is to lengthen the muscles. You stretch tight calves and their range of motion increases almost immediately. This indicates “pseudo tightness.” (Soon after stretching, your muscles will feel tight again).
The muscles are not tight, but rather hypertonic. The fibers of hypertonic muscles become shortened due to persistent neural signals and resulting sarcomere overlapping. Therefore, lengthening might seem enough, but it is not. Calf muscles need exposure to a new stimulus to undo contraction in your muscles.
This is where kinesiology taping comes in. A muscle application of 25% will provide the external stimulus that will encourage the muscles to relax. This way, muscle tone and risk of strain are reduced greatly.
Watch this video to apply kt tape on your calf, properly.
2. How to Prevent Calf Pain While Running?
Running itself is not an issue. Nature has designed your calves to support an active lifestyle. The potential problem usually arises along these lines: How far are you running? Are you increasing the distance slowly or abruptly? Have you changed your running style recently? Are you running excessively?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you are bound to feel achy or pulled muscles, pain, cramps, and soreness during and after running. Use these strategies in your everyday running regime to defeat lingering soreness and keep it from recurring.
2.1. Train Slowly
Training too hard and too fast leads to pulled and sore muscles. If you train your muscles too hard without allowing them time to adjust, they get strained. Muscle strain can be identified with sharp, sudden pain.
A runner should increase the distance only by 10% in a week. In a week, your muscles, tendons, and ligaments will adapt to the stress you want to put them through. Overweight runners should go even slower, increasing distance only by 5% each week.
2.2. Dynamic Stretching
Stretching ensures painless running and healthy, damage-free calves. Incorporating stretching into your daily lifestyle will help keep your calf muscles flexible. Muscle flexibility mitigates the risk of muscle hardening to a great degree. Stretching increases the range of motion, and as a result, muscles work more efficiently.
Moreover, calf muscles are dense. Due to their thickness, blood and fluid pool up in them. They can benefit from stretching as the excess fluid, toxins, and blood gets flushed out. Runners could also consider walking on an inclined surface or staircase stretch (faster pumping movements) to reap the benefits mentioned.
Dynamic stretches in terms of movement are closest to running. They should be done before you start running. Static stretches, on the other hand, are a great way to cool down and should be done after running to prevent pain.
2.3. Lateral Hops
Hopping helps you to maintain a proper running form on your feet. Incorrect foot strikes maximize stress on the lower leg, increasing your chances of injury and pain getting worse.
Leg hops promote proper foot movements and landings. Thanks to this exercise, you will feel zero pain and soreness during and after running.
The squat is a compound strength training exercise. It improves balance, strength, and stress tolerance in calves and other surrounding muscles. Add them to your fitness plan and perform them regularly for remarkably resilient calves.
Don’t know how to squat? We’ve got you. To learn pain-free squatting techniques, click here.
2.5. Calf Raises
When talking about strengthening methods, you can’t forget about calf raise exercises. Calf raises involve heel elevation; the position stretches your calf muscles and increases their range of motion. You can do calf raises for a few minutes every week, so your muscles are able to handle the burden while you run.
For more calf raises and strength exercises, click here.
2.6. Wear Shoes That Fit
Not wearing shoes that are the right size can be a grave mistake. Remember, your calves will pay the price. Shoes affect your footstrike and running form. Always wear comfortable shoes and a proper fit before you go for a run.
2.7. Drink Mineral Rich Fluids
If your body is deficient in important minerals like magnesium, and you are putting it through constant strain, you are risking pain while running. Drink mineral-rich fluids so your body gets the required energy from salts and minerals.
According to the German Olympic Sports Confederation, ensuring intake of mineral-rich fluids is of utmost importance to build muscle strength. Mixing one-third of apple juice and two-thirds of sparkling mineral water makes the best energy drink for runners.
In the grand scheme of running, calf pain can be quite a nuisance. You can prevent calf pain from occurring altogether with the above-mentioned prevention tips.
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