Calf Soreness in Runners

Help my calves are sore!

I get a lot of questions each week about calf soreness caused by running. Most often runners are describing general soreness that doesn’t particularly stop them from running. They have no history of trauma or injury but just seem to be prone to sore calves. This type of calf soreness will last for a day or two after running and doesn’t occur with other activities.

In my clinical experience the most common causes of this type of calf pain are:

  • Lack of calf strength or flexibility
  • Overloading- due to poor technique and/or too much training volume or intensity

Improving flexibility

Here’s a couple of simple things you can do to improve your calf flexibility. Foam rolling can be a great tool for keeping on top of general soreness. I also like using it prior to stretching- it can really help with mobility exercises in this way. Try doing the barefoot squat in the second video after performing the ball/ foam roller techniques in the first.

Calf strength

By strengthening your calf muscles they will fatigue less during running. Don’t do strength work on the days you run – ideally leave a rest day between strength work and running. Calf raises are a popular exercise – these can be performed with either a straight knee (gastrocnemius focus) or bent knee (soleus focus). Start with 3 sets of around 15 reps, 3 x a week. Work to fatigue but don’t push through pain. Gradually increase repetitions as your strength improves.

Technique- a few pointers

Running technique can play a huge part in susceptibility to calf soreness. Many of the runners i see with sore calfs have been trying to change their own running technique. If you keep getting sore calves it is well worth having your running form assessed.

Here’s a couple of calf-freindly technique tips:

  • Don’t over-stride
  • Allow your heels to kiss the ground – if you are a mid or forefoot striker make sure you heels gently touch down after landing.
  • Don’t push off- instead lift your feet and keep your ankles relaxed
  • Don’t bend forwards- concentrate on keeping tall with your hips forwards

Final notes

The recommendations here are for general calf fatigue/ soreness, rather than injury treatment. If you think you have injured your calf or have symptoms which are persisting or worsening it is worth seeing a Physiotherapist or Sports Doctor for diagnosis and treatment. If in doubt get it checked out.



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