Why do your calves hurt while and after running?
In order to avoid calf pain from running, it’s important to first understand why your calves hurt during or after a run.
1. Overloading the calf muscles
As a runner, you may have heard a litany of motivational sayings like ‘run like there’s no tomorrow’ or ‘never give up’. While it’s great to push yourself to achieve new limits, if you happen to push yourself beyond what your body can handle, your calves will get overloaded, leading to potential injuries and muscle soreness.
2. Skipping Warm-ups
Another reason your calves hurt after running can be because of a lack of warm-up or an insufficient warm-up. Without warming-up before a run, your calf muscles will be cold and tight. This will make you vulnerable to injuries and soreness. Warming up with dynamic stretches such as lunges and jumping jacks before a run can increase body temperature and ensure an efficient run.
If your calves hurt while running, it could mean that you’re dehydrated. Dehydration can reduce blood flow to the muscles, causing muscle cramps. If your calf pain is a result of dehydration, simply drinking water can cause the pain to subside.
4. Improper Running FormBeginner runners with improper running form may notice that their calves hurt while running. In order to avoid calf pain during a run, try to maintain a proper running form by looking ahead, relaxing your shoulders, maintaining a good posture, and avoiding over-striding.
How to Stop Calves from Hurting when Running
In order to achieve new limits while avoiding calf pain, you need stronger calves for running. Here are some simple calf strengthening exercises for runners you can try:
1. Calf Raises
- Stand with your feet together
- Lift your heels off the ground and stand on your toes. Hold this position for a few seconds
- Slowly drop down to the initial standing position
2. Jump Rope
- Equipment needed: a jump rope
- Stand with your feet together
- Jump over the rope, landing on your toes (this can strengthen calf muscles for running as it engages the calf muscles with every jump)
3. High Knees
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart
- Lift up your right knee to your chest
- As you bring our right knee back down, quickly lift your left knee to your chest
The Best Calf Stretches for Runners
Calf stretches are just as important as calf strengthening exercises for runners. Without stretching your calves before a run, you are more likely to experience pain during or after a run. Below are a few calf stretches you can try. Make sure to do these calf stretches after running during your cool down as well.
1. Standing Calf Stretch
- Stand facing a wall, making sure that you are a few steps away from it
- Place your hands against the wall at shoulder level
- Bring your left foot forward with the knee bent
- Make sure to keep your right leg straight and both feet flat on the ground
- Hold for 20 – 30 seconds
- Switch legs
2. Seated Calf Stretch
- Sit on the ground with your right leg extended in front of you
- Lean forward and grab the ball of your foot
- Gently pull your foot towards your body. You should start to feel a stretch in your calf muscles
- Hold this pose for 20 – 30 seconds
- Repeat with the left leg
Recovery Tips After Running
RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is recommended to immediately deal with pain after a run.
Resting will allow the calf muscles time to recover, applying an ice pack on the sore area can reduce inflammation, using a compression device like SPRYNG will help to promote blood circulation to the calves, and elevating the legs can further reduce inflammation.