Calf injury in runners…what an exhausted, yet seemingly unresolved topic 🙂 As runners, it doesn’t take long to realize that your calves are invaluable to you! Let’s look at how to best take care of them for optimal performance.
We get it all the time…”my leg hurts!” “my ankle’s swollen!”
When it comes to assessing a calf injury in runners, you’ve GOT to be specific. If we can’t identify the source of the pain and which muscles are tight, we can’t properly “fix” and then PREVENT future injuries.
Let’s first figure out where the pain is:
Once we’ve identified which quadrant the pain is inhabiting, we can throw around some potential causes.
For example, if the pain is around the sides of the ankle, it could be an issue of foot collapse in the footstrike.
If the pain is more central at the back, near the achilles, or just below the largest part of the calf, you could be putting most of your weight on your toes when you run – the heels maybe not even hitting the ground at all. The result? Stiffness in the front of the ankle and REALLY tight calves.
The final step:
Gauge the level of pain.
A basic 1-10 scale will do.
The more acute, unbearable pain will fall closer to 10, and the more moderate “naggy” types of pain will fall somewhere between 1 and 4.
The intensity of the pain will be an indication of how to properly address the injury.
It could be as simple as making an adjustment in your foot strike or as complicated as incorporating a new mobility routine, focused rest & repair.
When it comes to mobility for calf injury in runners, you’ll want to get into the deeper tissues! There’s a lot going on “under the hood”, so it’ll be most effective to address the points of pain specifically.
We’ve got a couple of ideas:
One more idea:
No matter where you FEEL the pain in your calf, there’s a good chance that other tight areas are responsible for contributing.
Make sure to mobilize through ALL parts of your calves regularly!
Okay, so we’ve assessed and “fixed” your calf injury.
Now, let’s look at how to make sure this won’t happen again…at least if you have a say in it!
When it comes to calf injury in runners…we like to use two categories.
Let’s take a close look at both.
If any of these are true for you, you may be a “stiff ankle” runner:
So how can you loosen up those ankles for a more relaxed footstrike?
Try this drill:
Start by hopping in place. With each hop, the heels should lightly “kiss” the ground before peeling off for the next repetition.
Once you’ve found a nice rhythm here, start jogging in place.
Again, making sure the heels are kissing the ground with each step.
If you’re having trouble here, try shaking out and relaxing the shoulders and taking some big deep breaths.
Each time your foot pulls of the ground, the ankle should be totally relaxed.
**You can also loosen the ankles up by spending some time at the bottom of your squat. Feel free to rock back and forth, side to side while you’re down there.
Now let’s look at the “foot collapsing” runner:
Chances are good that you’re lacking strength and stability in your hips and ankles.
Try these drills:
One more tip:
The foot can’t collapse if it doesn’t have time to do so!
Try increasing your cadence (how many times your foot hits the ground per minute)!
Practice jogging in place or on a flat stretch, using a metronome to work up to a cadence of 85-95 steps per foot, per minute.
The quicker you can move your feet, the less time you’ll have to let poor positions creep in and cause calf injury!
Use this progression, these exercises and assessment tips to best address all calf injury in runners! Good luck, athletes!
For sticking with us, enjoy this FREE injury prevention video series. We address all areas of injury in runners, showing you how to treat and prevent from the comfort of your home! Get it HERE!