Calf injury in runners…what an exhausted, yet seemingly unresolved topic 🙂 Calf pain after running is a running injury nearly every athlete has experienced. 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…”I have soreness in my lower legs!” “My ankle’s swollen!”
When it comes to assessing a calf muscle 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.
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 of your running shoes maybe not even hitting the ground at all. The result? Stiffness in the front of the ankle and REALLY tight calves.
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 sore calves 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.
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:
Your pain is probably in the low medial area of the calf, close or on the achilles’ tendon. When running, you probably spend most of your time on your forefoot (toes), and your heels rarely touching the ground. *You can have a friend film you running, if you aren’t sure. Running on your toes also causes overuse of your calves and can put you at risk for a stress fracture.
You may not be able to get very low in an air squat position. So, how can you loosen up those ankles for a more relaxed footstrike to reduce muscle strain off the calves?
**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.
Your pain is probably on a lateral aspect of the ankle, maybe near the shin. When you run, the arch of your foot repeatedly collapses to the ground with the ankle rolling in, causing leg pain.
You also experience occasional (or regular) pain on the inside of the knee. Chances are good that you’re lacking strength and stability in your hips and ankles.
Another option would be taking the single leg deadlift into a lunge. Again, accumulate 10 per side for 3 rounds.
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!
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