While running, every time your body lands on the ground, the whole body weight is handled by muscles of the legs, involving the calves, knees, and ankles. Calf pain after running or after running is very common because running mainly involves activation of the calf muscles. These calf muscles (the combination of gastrocnemius muscles and the soleus) energize the Achilles tendon tissues. If the Achilles tendon or any other muscles/ligaments surrounding your calf get injured, the calf muscles suffer an inflammation. Tight Achilles tendon is often caused due to tense calf muscles, which in turn are caused because the heel or entire foot doesn’t touch the ground when running.
So when your mind tells you to run a little longer even though you’re exhausted, you’re actually overloading your calf muscles. All these situations lead to pulled calf muscle, Achilles pain or calf pain after running. For more information on running injuries, refer to the article Common Injuries Caused While Running.
Common Mistakes that Cause Calf Pain After Running
So how do you enjoy and have an effective running routine without suffering any injuries? Or if you have suffered any running calf injuries, how can you recover from them? Let’s see how.
Running Without Warming Up
If you’ve been sitting all day at your desk and then suddenly head out for a run, your body may not follow. Make sure to warm up and walk for a few minutes to get your muscles ready for a run, lowering the risk of injury.
Not Stretching the Achilles Tendon
Since the Achilles tendon connected to your calf muscles is most involved while running, you must take a few minutes to stretch Achilles tendon after your run. This will prevent Achilles tendinitis (injury of the Achilles tissues), which further helps prevent running calf injuries.
Weak Calf Muscles
If your calf muscles are weak, due to various reasons, they will be more prone to injury while running. Therefore, before you start running, test your calf strength with specific exercises (like single calf raise) and strengthen these muscles. If you don’t take enough care, your leg muscles can easily get injured.
Pushing Yourself Too Hard
You may feel that you’re not running enough to lose weight or train for that big marathon and push yourself too hard, not considering your body’s capacity. Excessive training is a bad practice especially for runners that push themselves too hard right before a race or marathon. Training in advance and in the right amount for your body and capacity is better to prevent injury. This will overload your muscles and result in calf soreness or other injuries. Therefore, take your own time and train at a well-planned pace.
Ignoring Any Previous Injury
Most of us tend to ignore our previous or present injuries and start training without proper recovery. Doing so will only increase the risks of running calf injuries and cause further problems. So it’s best that you take proper rest before hitting the tracks again.
Not Taking Up Strength Training
In addition to regular running, it’s important to strengthen your core muscles and keep them fit for prolonged physical training. If not, your muscles will be more prone to injuries.
Improper Rest and Nutrition
Who said that only lazy people rest after a workout? For your body to regain strength after running, it’s very important to rest for a while after running. Taking nutritious food/snacks post-workout is also a must in order to avoid binge eating later on. Not following this can lead to muscle weakness and injuries.
Not Wearing the Right Shoes
Make sure you wear good running shoes while running and not just any other footwear. The right foot grip is necessary for running effectively if not, it can cause injury to the calf or ankle or other leg muscles.
The influx of affordable running shoes from a large selection of new brands makes buying stylish or trendy shoes popular by many runners. The only downside to this purchase is that the shoes you buy may not be specially intended for your running, whatever type it may be, and could, in fact, be for sports or missing important features. Without proper disclosure of the assets of the shoes, the running shoes we buy may not be the best fit for us, there are certain specific features best suited to long distance running, trail running, track running and more.
Instead of looking at style and appearance, one must find the shoes best suited to the activity. This can go a long way as far as running is concerned.
How to Treat Calf Pain After Running
Now that you know what causes calf pain after running, let us see the different ways of treating affected calf muscles. Most of these practices are suited to relieve the pain felt in your calves and cannot remove the pain completely or prevent future calf pain.
- Massage Your Calf Muscles – If you experience calf pain after running, a good massage will help relieve the pain. Do so by placing your foot flat on the ground and gently stroking your calf muscles with the index finger in an upward direction (bottom up till the knee). Repeat around ten times for complete relief. However, massage isn’t an option if you have acute pain and swelling.
- Ice and Heat Therapy – In the case of swelling and severe calf pain, immediately use an ice pack on the affected area. Ice packs are also helpful for chronic pain and calf muscle overuse. Heat packs are also good for loosening and relaxing your tissues/muscles after running because they aid in circulating blood to the injured area (heat packs not to be used for acute injury). Keep in mind that ice packs shouldn’t be used before running and heat packs shouldn’t be used immediately after running.
- Go for Toe Dips – After running, perform toe dips in order to relax your calf muscles. Using a support, stand on your toes on an elevated surface. Then slowly lower your heel downwards till you feel your calves stretching and stay for a few seconds, before returning to the initial position. Repeat for the other leg as well.
- Stretching the Achilles tendon /Calf Muscles – To do this, stand against the wall using your arms for support. Place one leg behind your body while keeping the other below your shoulder. Then try to rest your back foot fully on the floor till you feel your calf and heel stretching and stay for a few seconds. Repeat for the other leg as well. Similarly, Towel Pulls, Drive Back exercises, and Single-Leg Glute Bridge helps in treating calf soreness.
- Compression Socks – These socks may help you with reducing the pain you feel in your calves after running. They are essentially very tight socks that cover your leg and calf. These constrict the blood flow in the legs, thus directing blood to your aching calves. They are thought to prevent the collection of blood in the lower legs and feet. They provide quite instant relief to the localized area, they are a great way to reduce calf pain.
Learn how to pick the correct Compression Socks. Read Compression Socks Guide for Runners
Ways to Prevent Running Calf Injuries and Avoid Calf Pain
- Make sure you follow proper running techniques. When you land back on the ground as you run, your whole foot (with the heel) should touch the ground. You don’t have to put all your weight on the ball of your foot. Allow your ankle and heel to move freely when landing on the ground and when lifting off.
- Maintain uniform pace and try not to make sudden changes in movement.
- Avoid running with plantar fasciitis, which is a common type of heel inflammation affecting the young and old. If you still want to run in this condition, it is best to use a plantar fasciitis support band and perform plantar fascia stretches regularly.
- In the case of exhaustion or tense muscles while running, stop immediately and continue brisk walking, or rest for a while before you resume running.
- Strengthening your calves, glutes, ankles, hamstrings, and hips, prepares your muscles for strenuous running. Take up regular strength training exercises in order to strengthen your core and prevent injuries. Some of the must-do exercises include Single-Leg Glute Bridge, Theraband Drive Back, Donkey Kicks with Theraband, Lunges, Straight Leg Bounds, and Straight-Knee Eccentric Heel drop.
- Going for jump rope (skipping rope) exercises regularly is a good way to prepare your body and leg muscles for running.
Incorporate these simple techniques and strengthening exercises before, during, and after running to prevent any kind of running injury. Go for short runs first to understand the neuromuscular coordination well and prepare your body. You can then slowly move to longer, faster running routines. Doing so will not only help you treat your running calf injuries better, but also eliminate them altogether. So the next time you run, tell us how it went and how well you managed to prevent calf pain after running.
Refer this link for more information on Post Marathon Recovery Steps