If your calf muscles cause you pain after running, stick around as im going to show you some solutions to get you running again pain free. Running is tough on the legs, thats for sure. Its a high impact, repetitive action that places a lot of demands on different parts of the body. Along with areas like the knees, your calf muscles are another focal point for this strain during running!.
Unfortunately that also means that the calf complex is often an area that frequently gets injured amongst us runners. If youre currently nursing a calf injury, stick around to the end of the tutorial as Ill be demonstrating a number of exercises you can use straight away to help your calf muscles recover and get stronger, allowing you to better meet the demands of running. So, very quickly, there are a few things we need to appreciate when it comes to those.
Calf muscles. Generally speaking, we refer to the muscles at the back of the lower leg as the calf, but there are a few different muscles back there. The two I want to think about specifically in this tutorial are gastrocnemius (gastroc), the big meaty, more defined muscle we all think of as the calf, and soleus, a muscle that sits a little deeper and below gastroc.
Both of these guys attach to the achilles tendon, which then attaches to the heel bone, the calcaneus. We talk about these muscle as being plantar flexors of the ankle, creating the movement of pointing your foot downwards. But its important to realise that they work together to control dorsiflexion as we weightbear over the top of the foot when walking and running.
Also, gastroc has an important role in passively transferring force from the powerful hip muscles, like the glutes and hamstrings, down into the ground to push us forwards. This propulsion is as an important part of your running stride. There are a number of different risk factors when it comes to calf injuries in runners. Topping the long list has to be the too much too soon factor. This isnt just relevant to newer runners, who do often suffer with calf problems as their bodies adapt to.
The new demands that running imposes, but also to experienced runners who try to increase the milage too quickly, or add speed work into their programme too quickly. Biomechanics also have an important role to play as causative factors for calf injuries. Ive written an article on one of the most common hiprelated biomechanical issues I see in runners, which leads to calf and lower injuries. Ill leave a link to that article in the description here on YouTube.
On a similar note, one of the most common self imposed causes of calf pain i see in runners, is when previously heel striking runners attempt to adopt a forefoot strike pattern and end up running too far forwards on their toes. This, combined with too much running volume with this new form is a recipe for calfrelated disaster. For most distance runners, a midfoot strike is as far forward on the foot youll need to come. You certainly want to avoid aggressively forefoot striking like a sprinter.
When it comes to your calf pain, its important to realise that there are a number of different grades of muscle strain, classified on a scale graded from one to three. A grade one calf strain will feel a little painful but more significantly tight. Youll feel discomfort on walking, running and certainly stretching the muscle. More significant is a grade two strain, which is essentially a partial tear of the muscle tissue. This will result in localised pain both during activity and when touched firmly.