It is quite common to deal with different issues related to legs, feet, calves, and heels when you are a regular runner. The calf pain running injuries are common as well and may be quite debilitating at times. Your calf is basically a combination of three muscles, including the soleus and the two heads of the gastrocnemius. Any injury or stress on these muscles will lead to upper or lower calf pain depending upon the causes and the muscles involved.
The pain can sometimes be mild, but it can also be a sharp intense pain in some situations. Even though you usually experience serious pain after an injury to your calf, you may witness mild pain due to calf soreness, usually without any history of trauma. The only way to rectify the issue is to identify what's causing pain in the first place. This involves paying attention to a number of factors, some of which are covered here for your understanding.
What Causes Calf Pain When Running?
You may experience calf pain running for no apparent reason. It could be due to an injury, but that's not always the case. Your running form may also have an impact on what sort of pain you experience in your calf and feet. Here are some common issues that may lead to calf pain while running.
1. Calf Strain
If you experience sudden pain, especially when you perform any activity, that's usually because you have a torn or pulled calf muscle. In simple words, you have a calf strain that can often be annoyingly painful. You usually experience this situation when you stretch your lower leg muscles beyond their ability. This overstretching may lead to micro-tears and affect your muscle fibers that may lead to serious pain, especially if it is a complete rupture of the fibers.
2. Increase in Intensity
You may also experience calf pain, especially lower leg pain running, if you have increased the distance, intensity, or duration of your physical activity. You can tweak your workout habits to prevent pain and strain.
3. Cramp or Spasm
Your pain in the calf may well be due to a muscle cramp – the issue may be due to muscle spasm as well. Although it can be quite painful, the involuntary muscle spasm resolves on its own in a short time. Sometimes, the spasm can be quite strong, which leads to a bruise as well.
4. Blood Clot in Veins
You may also experience calf pain running when you have a blood clot developed in your veins. This usually happens in a vein that's quite deep in your body – it's usually called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). These blood clots usually develop in your thigh or lower leg. You may have one of these clots if you're overweight, stay inactive for long period, smoke, or take certain medications known for increasing risks for clots.
5. Lower Extremity Peripheral Arterial Disease
You may also notice pain in your calf or lower leg due to a disease called lower extremity peripheral arterial disease. In this disease, the lining of arteries present in your legs becomes hard. Sometimes, the arteries become blocked and reduce your blood flow to the affected area. Your lower leg pain, which increases with climbing strains, walking, or running, could be due to this disease.
If that is the case, you will notice your wounds not healing fast. It is important to treat it as soon as possible because if left untreated it may cause your tissue to die. You're at high risk for this disease if you are obese or have other conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol.
How to Prevent Calf Pain When Running
You can do a number of things to prevent calf pain while running. Simply warming up before you start running will help reduce the chances of experience calf pain running. Here are some other ways to avoid calf pain:
1. Stretch and Warm Up
Stretching is always the best way to ensure you don't experience any problem with calf or other muscle groups in your body. You just need to learn the right way to stretch your muscles, especially if you're suffering from chronic calf pain. It is a good idea to try dynamic stretches to prepare yourself for a running session. These stretches involve using your joint through its range of motion. Simply sit on the floor and spread your legs in front of you. Now, slowly bring your toes toward the floor while flexing the ankle. Lift your toes slowly in an upward direction and repeat it 12-20 times. Try to increase your range of motion with every new set.
Here are more instructions on how to stretch before running:
2. Be Sure to Keep Your Body Hydrated
You need to drink plenty of water before you go running. It is actually important to drink water during workouts if you're contemplating an extended running session. Remember, dehydration usually lead to cramps and muscle aches, and may even cause calf pain. Be sure to drink plenty of water after you have completed your run.
3. Keep the Right Form
Pay attention to your stride and notice if that's causing calf pain or not. You need to ensure that your toes and heel of the foot is touching the ground with equal amounts of force. It will lead to calf pain running if you're putting less pressure on your heel and more on the forefoot.
Maintain proper form when running, as explained in the following video:
Consider wearing shoe lifts in your running shoes if your calf is the cause of concern. This helps keep your calf in a rather stretched position and avoid strain.
Be sure to increase the distance your cover while running gradually. You will witness calf pain due to overuse if you make sudden changes to your running routine.
How to Treat Calf Pain When Running and After Running
This includes a combination of ice and heat compress, rest and practicing a series of stretches and exercises. Click here for the details of how to treat calf pain from running.