Last Updated: February 28th, 2021

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Sore calf muscles are a common problem for runners. It perfectly makes sense if your muscles hurt from an increased intensity. However, what if with the same intensity, it hurts too much after running, or worse, it keeps hurting when you run? If so, we have provided you with a detailed answer in the below sections…

How Do I Stop My Calves From Hurting When I Run?

To stop calves from hurting when you run you have to strengthen your calf muscles using exercises, increase your running speed or mileage gradually. Also, if you still end up having sore calves, use rest, ice, compression, and elevation or R.I.C.E principles to reduce the effect. Also, you should be fine within a couple of days.

To know more…read on…

Should I run if my calf hurts?

Yes, you can run even if your calf hurts. However, reduce the intensity and use some compressions sleeves during running. This will help in an increased blood flow in your legs and calves.

The principle that I follow is that I generally reduce the running/workout intensity by 30%. This makes it easier to manage while still keeping the running habit intact.

I recently did the same mistake of increasing my workout intensity rapidly. I’m able to do 40 squats in a row, for 3 sets.

I thought to add a resistance band to increase the intensity. Rather than starting as the lowest one, I started from the middle, thinking that I’m strong enough. 

Result?

I couldn’t almost walk for a week and climbing stairs were a nightmare and getting up after sitting down needed 2-3 tries.

In short…lesson learned…yet again…

Calves sore after running

When should I be concerned about calf pain?

Along with pain in the calf, if you experience any warmth, redness, or tenderness, you should immediately consult a doctor.

In case of ligament tear or any such injury to your calf muscles, you will not be able to put any weight on your leg. Follow whatever your physician suggests and take rest as much as possible.

Other than this, if you have a normal strain from running or overuse, most of the time, sufficient rest is what you need.

You may also use heating pads or soaking your legs in warm water to relax your legs and get some relief.

How long should you rest a calf strain?

You should rest a calf strain for at least 3 days. However, depending on the severity of the strain, it may take up to six weeks to fully recover. So, you should rest until you are pain-free or at least until the maximum amount of pain is gone.

Here are the different types of calf strains that may occur:

Grade I: Here, you will encounter minimal discomfort and pain. You should be able to do all the activities you are used to doing. There will be minimal to no limitation to your range of motion. You should be able to recover in 3-5 days.

Grade II: You will have some discomfort and your activities will be somewhat limited. You will be able to walk but may have to limp. The strained area will be tender to touch and may even have some swelling. You may need more than a week to recover.

Grade III: This is a more serious kind of injury. If you sustain this injury, you will have difficulty walking. In fact, you won’t be able to put any load on your legs and you may have muscle spasms, swelling, and bruising. You will need immediate medical attention with this one. Also, to recover from this injury, you would need more than 3 weeks.

Calf pain

What problems can tight calves cause?

Tight calves can cause a lot of problems like calf injury, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and other forefoot problems. Also, due to something called regional interdependence, it can also cause problems with your knees and hip.

However, you can prevent this from occurring by doing some simple exercises. The main motto of these exercises is to make your calves more flexible and supple.

Here are some exercises that can be very beneficial:

Standing wall stretch:

This will help you to prevent calf muscle cramps. These are the steps that you should follow:

  • Stand in front of a wall facing it.
  • Place your hand flat on the wall at shoulder level.
  • Place one foot away from the wall like you do during the lunges, however, your feet should be on the floor.
  • The leg nearer to the wall should be slightly bent at the knees.
  • Bent the front leg’s knees further until you feel a stretch on the calf muscles of your back leg.
  • Remember to keep both feet entirely on the ground.
  • Hold the position for 30 sec.
  • Return to your starting position.

Seated forward bend:

Here is what you would need to do:

  • Sit on the floor with both legs stretched in front of you.
  • Straighten your back.
  • Extend your arms fully up in the air.
  • Wiggle until both your buttocks is entirely on the floor.
  • Gradually bend forward until you feel a stretch on your hamstrings and your calf muscles.
  • Try to hold your toes. If not, anywhere on the leg is fine.
  • Hold the stretch for 10 breaths.
  • Return to starting position and repeat it 5 times.

Standing forward bend:

  • You will follow the exact same steps, as described above but while standing.
  • If you can reach the toes and want to increase the stretch even further, you may place your palms under your feet to deepen the bend.

Calf raises:

I’ve explained calf raises in detail in the post about bulking up your calf muscles. You can get all the steps from there.

If you do all these exercises, you will reduce the chances of getting a tight calf related injury to a minimum.

Stiff calf muscle

Does plantar fasciitis make your calves hurt?

No plantar fasciitis doesn’t make your calves hurt. On the contrary, if you have tight calf muscles, you may end up having plantar fasciitis.

If your calves are hurting, and you have plantar fasciitis, you may be dealing with a calf muscle that needs some attention.

Your first step, in such a situation, is to recover. Take an ample amount of rest until the pain subsides.

Once you are there, next try to strengthen and improve the flexibility of your calf muscles as described above.

Also, you will be able to reduce the occurrence of plantar fasciitis by improving the strength and flexibility of your feet.

Another often overlooked reason for plantar fasciitis and calf muscle pain is the shoe you are using. If you are a runner, make sure you use a proper running shoe to support your calves and not something that has been worn out completely. This solely can cause a lot of stiffness and pain in your calves.

How do you treat a recurring calf strain?

To treat a recurring calf strain you have to first find out the root cause and then eliminate it. There can be primarily two problems. Either you are doing a too intensive a workout or your calf muscles are weak. In both cases, you will have to recover first and then strength train your calf muscles.

If you strength train your calf muscles three times a week after recovery, then you should be able to see improvements in a short span of time.

Also, including some stretching for them will also make a significant difference.

Another thing to consider is the amount of stress you are putting your calf muscles through. If it is too much, then consider cutting it down to a comfortable level.

Once you are accustomed to that, start increasing the intensity by 10% every other week.

Follow the above guidelines and you should be in good shape and able to avoid calf strains.

References

Fields, Karl B., and Michael D. Rigby. “Muscular calf injuries in runners.” Current sports medicine reports 15.5 (2016): 320-324.

Ryan, Michael, Maha Elashi, Richard Newsham-West, and Jack Taunton. “Examining injury risk and pain perception in runners using minimalist footwear.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 48, no. 16 (2014): 1257-1262.

Holzbeimer, R. G., and C. Stautner-Bruckmann. “Calf pain in runners may be caused by venous insufficiency.” European journal of medical research 13.5 (2008): 218.

Fahlström, M., Jonsson, P., Lorentzon, R. and Alfredson, H., 2003. Chronic Achilles tendon pain treated with eccentric calf-muscle training. Knee surgery, sports traumatology, arthroscopy, 11(5), pp.327-333.

Fuller JT, Thewlis D, Buckley JD, Brown NA, Hamill J, Tsiros MD. Body mass and weekly training distance influence the pain and injuries experienced by runners using minimalist shoes: a randomized controlled trial. The American journal of sports medicine. 2017 Apr;45(5):1162-70.

Madhusree Basu

Madhusree Basu

Author, Admin

Blogger and a fitness enthusiast. She loves running and Yoga and everything in between. She started running to manage her weight and to eat to her heart’s content. A true foodie at heart she shares whatever knowledge she has gained throughout the years about weight management and fitness.

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