Many of us have a love/hate relationship with running. Some of us are former high school or college track athletes, 5K/half-marathon/marathon runners, or just people who are looking for a way to stay active. What almost every person who has run consistently for some time can say is that they’ve had some sort of pain or injury during or after running. For some people, these aches and pains can completely sideline them, but for many others, they continue to run through the pain and just accept it as a normal part of exercise. What we as Doctors of Physical Therapy aim to do is to let each and every individual understand that they don’t have to live with pain.
Today we’re focusing specifically on calf pain while running -- which is a very common complaint. Keep reading below for some running and exercise tips to help you get back on the treadmill, track, or road feeling at your best again!
Why Do My Calves Hurt?
Our calves might hurt for a variety of reasons, here are a few common reasons why you may be experiencing calf pain.
Often times, calf pain that we experience may be related simply to intense cramping. Cramping can be caused both by overworking a muscle as well as dehydration or lack of minerals like sodium that are essential for efficient long-term muscle activity. What can be helpful in decreasing these cramps is adding minerals to your water or having electrolyte-infused beverages, chews/gels while you run (Nuun tablets are our favorite). What could also be helpful would be making sure you get adequate rest before and after runs and other workouts.
While training for an event or even running recreationally, sometimes the amount of running that we do may exceed our body’s capacity to tolerate this activity. As poor load/capacity management is a risk factor for future injury, it may be best to pay a visit to your friendly neighborhood Doctors of Physical Therapy at Fit Club for Prehab, load management tips, and recovery to increase your body’s ability to manage these loads and avoid injuries.
Similar to poor load management, pain stemming from calf injuries may also gradually come on while running and linger following running. This is why it is ideal to see a physical therapist when feeling any pain, soreness, or other symptoms in order to evaluate the severity of your concerns and prevent these symptoms progressing to a more serious issue. Signs of potential injury may be pain while at rest or while doing activities that don’t involve running. Other potential signs of more serious calf injuries/ailments may be very sudden onset of pain while running, feeling as if someone kicked you in the back of the leg, feeling significant swelling and fullness in your lower leg, leg/foot numbness, and/or localized pin-point pain in the leg. If you believe you have an injury or if you want to rule out or prevent injuries, it is definitely in your best interest to see a physical therapist for an evaluation to get you back on track to running pain-free and to prevent possible injury progression.
Calf Training Pro-Tips
Some ways to help with remedying many forms of calf pain and soreness include stretching, foam rolling/Theragun massage, but most of all strengthening exercises. A focused and dedicated program of exercises prescribed by a physical therapist for your goals and needs whether they be distance running, sprinting, somewhere in-between, or just recreational runs, will be most beneficial in getting you to where you need to be while managing any potential aches, pains, or other bumps in the road.
Check out some simple Calf Stretches and Exercises to add to your calf rehab/prehab toolbox to help keep you running pain-free!
Calf Exercise 101 Toolbox →
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