The Most Common Causes of Calf Pain in Runners

You and I both wish that you weren't watching this video with me, and you might be going, Why? Don't you want video views? Yes, but unfortunately today you have calf pain, which is why you're here talking with me looking at this video.
The Most Common Causes of Calf Pain in Runners


You and I both wish that you weren't watching this video with me, and you might be going, Why? Don't you want video views? Yes, but unfortunately today you have calf pain, which is why you're here talking with me looking at this video. So we're going to talk about why is this happening to you? What can you do about it and can you prevent it in the future?

I'm Jesse Funk, this is a show I call Runner's High, where we talk about everything running, including your calf pain and many other topics. So if you're in the running, which I'm sure you are, if you've done enough running to make your calf hurt, subscribe, stick around. Check out more videos on the channel every Tuesday and Thursday.

So when we're talking about calf pain, first, let's rule out the easy thing, right? And that is an acute injury. And acute injury is not a tiny injury that's adorable. It is an injury that happens suddenly. So you were running, everything was fine. And then all of a sudden something snaps and sharp pain. That is an acute injury that's going to happen to some people. But more often that is not the case that's going to happen with most runners. If you have an acute injury, usually, what you need to do is that dreaded R word rest. You need to take time off before you can get back into working it out.

So I wanted to cover that first, because that particular case is not as common for people like us who run a lot, but it does happen and usually the typical rest ice compression elevation. That kind of attitude towards that kind of injury is going to be the best approach. So let's get on to the other more common reason you're going to have calf pain and all the kind of sub reasons and things you need to take into consideration within that genre.

And that reason is overload or overtraining. Now, the word overtraining is kind of overused, but in this case, I'm talking about, you've put too much work onto that calf or whatever muscle that hurts in this particular case is your calf. And now it hurts because it can't keep up with the load that you're putting on it.

Meaning it's not had enough recovery time. The amount of work that you've been doing with it. Overtraining injuries or overload injuries are very common with runners because we're doing the same activity one foot in front of the other until you run over and over and over for thousands and thousands of steps. Week after week after week after week.

So when you're not getting enough recovery, you're using the exact same firing pattern, the exact same muscles over and over again. And then they're just, you know, beat down and they don't have the time to get back into a better state, so they become injured.

Now, there is a lot of different reasons that you could be having an overall injury. The most common is you're just ramping up your mileage too quickly. If there's nothing else going on, you're probably ramping up your mileage too quickly. Now, I've covered this in another video. So as mentioned, subscribe. Check this out and another minute, but I talk about how to change your mileage over time, the kind of guideline of the 10 percent rule and what to do about that. I'll try to link to the 10 percent rule video at the end of this video. I'm not sure if that's what I called it or not, so it'll be there on the screen at the end. So stick around if you want to check that out.

But let's talk about a few more of the reasons that you may be getting an overload issue that isn't necessarily ramped up my mileage too quickly. One of those reasons is actually decreased flexibility, or really not just decreased flexibility, because that's going to pull on your muscles and cause a strain, but also decreased power over the entire length of operation. So what does that mean? What am I talking about? So this is something that I've been working on a lot recently with little issues that come up with me as I've been getting back and running over the last couple of years, transitioning back out of triathlon into running again.

And that is that you actually need to have power through your whole chain of motion, your whole degree of motion. So when you have an inflexibility in your calf, meaning something's tight, then when you're pushing off your muscles are so I like to use my fingers as muscles. Your muscles are like this. They kind of move together in apart as you are contracting them.

When they're tight and you're trying to go farther and farther, it's pulling them apart. Them they want to do creates micro tears and then ends up being sprained. But the other trouble in this area is that even if your muscles are very flexible like they can come apart, you know, we'll pretend all the way here. This is not technical, obviously, but say, OK, they are tight in this position, but they can go all the way here. That's great.

But if you don't have power at this length, that can also cause problems too. And some of those tears because you're loading the muscle at this length with more stress than it can handle. And the way you deal with this is through eccentric exercises or making the exercise you do also have an eccentric component. And what that means if you Google for like eccentric hamstring exercises, for example, I've had hamstring issues, so I do eccentric hamstring exercises.

It means you're trying to put load on your given muscle group in this case, our calf, in an elongated fashion. So if you're familiar with lifting weights, we're really, really used to the opposite. Like, say, I'm doing bicep curls, so I don't have anything to lift here. Lift the salt soak. This is left over from another video, so let's pretend this is my weight. You know, we're used to bicep curls when we come up and then we go down, right?

And you'll see you guys at the gym or women at the gym. I see lots of guys a gym. That's why I came from. You see guys at the gym go, Oh, like hip, lift it up real quick. And then just like, let it drop. So you're doing this, you know, this contracting motion? That's good. The eccentric portion is letting it back down slowly so that in the elongated position, again, this is for the bicep because I'm sitting in the elongated position is here, so I want to have power all the way back through that motion.

What that means for calf raises if you're doing a simple calf exercise is when you go up, you also go slowly back down so that you have load through the muscle all the way to its linked position, not just at the top where it is contracted all of the way. And you can actually take this idea this eccentric strengthening to pretty much all of your muscle groups.

It is becoming and probably has been for a while, but since I'm not in the PT field it is a very common way to rehab almost any muscle group, especially if you have overused injuries because we're using that muscle through its entire length in cycle continuously. So you need to have power at that long position as well. There is another thing that may be causing issues, and I want to touch on that as well, something that you probably are doing if you're really into running and you're trying to get better.

And that's something that I've actually talked about on this channel before. I suggest that you do. But it can create issues and that is running with better posture, running with better running form. So we don't talk about all the different things you can do to run better, right? But once you get to that point and you're running better, you get that slightly forward your body's nice and straight. That also means you've probably gone from a heel striking position when your foot plants on the ground to a mid or four foot position.

What practical effects does that have?

Well, it reduces injuries in your knees. Great. Awesome. We can keep our knees safe and not jar them and try to destroy them. That's good. But it also increases the load on your posterior chain. What the hell is that? Your posterior chain is the stuff on the back of your leg.

So from your foot to your Achilles tendon, your calf, hamstring, glutes, that is your posterior chain. So when you've improved your running form and you now switch to this mid forefoot striking, there's an increased amount of load that is now on your posterior chain and your calves, in particular calves and then Achilles tendon are going to be right at the forefront of that and also the smaller muscle groups in that chain.

So when you have worked on changing your form, you're doing a good thing for yourself in the long term, but it is in some ways akin to increasing your mileage, right? Because when we increase our mileage, we are now increasing the effective load on our muscles. When we have now changed our form, we've also increased the effective load on those particular muscles, though I am a big proponent of doing this because this running form is going to help make you more effective and faster over time. In the short term during that change, it can be a problem if you are getting yourself enough rest.

So sometimes when you're going through this change and you're trying to work on, Hey, I need to be running better, a little bit of that lean forward, falling forward motion. We often talk about good posture being a controlled fall when I'm doing this. You may have to temporarily decrease your mileage a little bit to get used to this number one so you don't go back into bad habits, but also so you give your muscles a chance to adapt to this new firing pattern.

Along those same lines. If you think about this. When we're loading extra on our posterior chain again, the back of our leg, when we're using our hamstrings and glutes and calves and we're using all of those to run, which you should because those are our major movers and running, if we're doing that and something else is messed up in our chain, that could end up overloading our calves as well.

So say you've had a hamstring issue or a glute issue and you've really been working through that and you can still run with it. It's not affecting how you run, you think, but it's affecting it just enough. Maybe there's something just a little off that your calf ends up taking an extra part of the work. When you're doing that again, you're overloading that part of your posterior chain, and that could be why you end up having calf issues.

So this is a very, you know, kind of niche problem. But if you have another issue on that same leg or even sometimes on the other leg, you can be overcompensating and create problems because that other injury is not strong enough to deal with whatever load you're trying to put on it, and then it is putting that load somewhere else.

Often it's going to be the same leg. So if it's, you know, again, hamstring glute issue, then it can load that down to the calf and then the calf is smaller and it can't do the amount of work that your glutes and your hamstrings are supposed to be doing. So then it hurts, but it can be one leg to the other. It can be a bilateral problem.

So that's kind of the big overhaul of all the things that could be causing calf pain. There are other things that don't involve overload that I'm not super qualified to talk about, like compartment syndrome, but you want to go through pretty much everything I talked about in this video first, before you start thinking of maybe I have compartment syndrome. If you cover everything you've done rehab, you've done ice, you've seen a PT, they're probably going to guide you towards that diagnosis and seeing the appropriate doctor. But keep that in mind. That's a very last result and much more rare than an overuse injury.

So what questions do you have for me about running about triathlon? Anything you want, leave them down in the comments below. As mentioned, should be linking to that video on how to increase your mileage here soon, and I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner's High.

Google Pay Mastercard PayPal Shop Pay SOFORT Visa