For those who have fallen in love with running, there’s no better feeling than lacing up your shoes and heading for a jog. Unfortunately, if you run often enough, you’re likely to deal with some calf pain at some point.
Calf pain while running can severely limit your workouts and affect your athletic performance, and is just a plain drag.
While there are many causes of calf pain, here are some of the best solutions to limit the pain while running. In this article, we’ll explore the best tips and tricks to help reduce calf pain while running and keep you on your feet and ready to go.
Prevention is the best cure
When it comes to calf pain, the best thing you can do is prevent it. Though not always possible, there are a few time-tested techniques to help you feel great while you run.
Whether you’re a regular runner or just starting your running routine, chances are high you already know the value of a good stretch. But choosing the right types of stretches can make a difference in reducing your calf pain while running.
The downward facing dog yoga pose, straight-leg and lunging calf stretch, as well as calf roll are all great ways to loosen your calves and prevent pain. Runners World has an excellent how-to-guide, we definitely recommend you read.
Road Runner Sports, also has an excellent video covering some of the best stretches for running:
Don’t wait to add stretching to your routine until you have pain! Make it a priority to begin stretching well before you “need it.”
In addition to stretching, we recommend scraping your calves and legs before or after your run with a tool such as the Eclipse, or whatever works best for you. Scraping can help loosen up your muscles which promotes faster recovery and reduced pain.
As professional runner Emily Infeld shared with Sidekick, “It helps alleviate inflammation build up and loosens the tendons in my legs. The tools have been so helpful in my entire recovery routine.”
Here’s a video we put together on why scraping is so effective, and exactly how to do it.
Finding the right running shoes is certainly no easy feat, but calf pain can often be caused by running in the wrong type of shoe or running in “minimalist” shoes for the first time.
Ultimately, you’ll want to find shoes that provide enough cushion support and are flexible to your specific foot type. Many shoe retailers online have guides for choosing the right kind of running shoe. Additionally, going into a brick-and-mortar running store and talking to a specialist can be helpful in selecting the right pair for you.
If you’re breaking in a new pair of shoes, take it slow! It may be wise to reduce mileage or speed while trying on a new pair.
Push yourself… but don’t over do it
At Sidekick, we’re all about improving muscle performance by relieving soreness, easing tension and smart training. One of the most common causes of calf pain while running simply comes down to pushing yourself too hard too quickly.
If you’re just getting started with running, you can use an app like Couch to 5K (IOS & Android) or another plan to work your way up. While motivation and drive are good, pushing through too much pain and discomfort can cause more harm than good.
We put together a list of tips for quick muscle recovery.
Work on your running form
Up until now we’ve covered what you should do before you start running. But how you run plays an increasingly important part in avoiding injury and pain.
Here are a few tips.
- Keep your head and shoulders relaxed with your eyes focused forward.
- Your hips should be square and pointing in the direction you’re heading.
- Try to keep your arms swinging straight back at 90-degree angle.
- Focus on taking a short stride and small steps and lean slightly forward.
If you want even more instruction, be sure to check out this excellent video walking you through the basics.
Here’s another great list of books that go over the nitty gritty details of optimal running form for the overachievers.
Keep a journal of your runs
One way to help understand the cause of your calf pain is by recording your runs and intensity.
Just like you can keep a food log to help lose weight, tracking your runs and other notable items throughout the day can put you in the position to understand what could be triggering your pain.
Perhaps you only start noticing your calf pain after increasing your mileage. Or maybe your calf pain is worse when you do sprints or go up a hill. You record your runs in a journal or use one of the many popular running apps such as MapMyRun to keep track of your runs.
The longer you keep a log of your runs, the more insights you’ll be able to unlock, not to mention it’s always fun to look back at your progress!
Consider compression sleeves and socks
Another option to consider is using compression sleeves and socks.
The latest research suggests compression sleeves while running can help reduce fatigue and pain in general.
“Our present findings suggest that by wearing compression clothing, runners may improve variables related to endurance performance (i.e., time to exhaustion) slightly, due to improvements in running economy, biomechanical variables, perception, and muscle temperature. They should also benefit from reduced muscle pain, damage, and inflammation.”
FleetFeet notes, “Recent studies show that with an optimal level of consistent compression, the walls of the arteries will dilate, increasing the blood flow through them. Arterial blood flow has been shown to increase up to 40% during activity and 30% during recovery. This means more oxygen and nutrients flowing through the body! “
While sleeves and socks may not be a magic cure, they may just be what you need.
Beyond your calves
Like most injuries and pain on your body, calf pain might not always be directly related to your calf.
Sciatica is a common cause of the calf that can cause pain while running. As Physio Central shares:
“Sciatica is damage to your sciatic nerve, which starts at your spinal cord and runs down through the hip, buttocks and down the leg. It’s very long – and damage at any point along this nerve can cause pain in the leg (particularly below the knee) – even damage in your lower back!
This pain may feel like burning or shooting, and you may experience other neural symptoms like numbness, tingling and pins and needles along the leg. The pain can be quite intense in the lower leg around the calves.“
Using ice packs and resting can often help if sciatica is the culprit for your pain.
If your calves continue to hurt while running despite trying the suggestions above, it may be worth going to the doctor and getting a full-body checkup. Working to ensure your back and other body parts are in good shape can help you create a proper plan of attack.
Whether you’re a running regular, or just looking to get in shape, don’t let calf pain sideline you for good.
From scraping to stretching, and just plain rest, you can work to get rid of your pain and get back on the running trail.
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