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How do I treat tight calves after running?

How do I treat tight calves after running? [2021]

Even the most experienced runners will be able to recall a time they have been on the side of a hill trail trying to elevate tight calves. In fact, running uphill is one of the main contributing factors.

Tight calf muscles after running are very common, especially if you are returning from a period of rest or starting for the first time. This is a natural response when there is an increased demand on the muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus). The most commons symptoms that are described are the muscles feeling firm and a bit tender as well as a “pulling sensation” when you flex your foot or point the toes.

There may not be a “silver bullet” when it comes to treating tight calves after running but here are a few ways that you can treat tight calves and prevent them from happening.

Graded training program

Riixo Recovery Free 10-week running program

It is essential to follow a structured running program no matter what level you are at. This ensures consistency in your training and will minimise the risk of injury.

Download your free 10-week training program to build back to running.

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PNF Stretching

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) also known as hold relax, is a great way to alleviate tight calves. It involved contracting the muscle you are wanting to stretch for a short period then relaxing it for a better stretch. PNF stretching effectively tricks the body into overriding its flexibility limitations thereby allowing you to achieve greater flexibility compared to ordinary static.

How You Perform A PNF Calf Stretch:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs outstretched preferably on a hard surface.
  2. Bend one knee keeping your foot firmly planted on the floor.
  3. Lift your other leg into the air keeping it straight
  4. Wrap a towel or a strong resistance band over the foot keeping hold of both ends.
  5. Pull your foot towards you feeling the stretch in your calf and hold for about 5 seconds.
  6. Now Push against the resistance for 15 seconds.
  7. As you relax and breath out, pull the foot towards you feeling the stretch into the calf.

Repeat this six times, each time you should feel an increase in the stretch.

Strength training

Free calf strength program from Riixo
Download your free 12-week calf strengthening program for runners

Endurance sport, such as running, can create muscle imbalances or accentuate ones you already have. It is important to have a structured strength program. If you have weak calves, for example, the altered biomechanics puts extra stress through the Achilles tendon and can result tendon strains and plantar fasciitis. Weak calves can also contribute to shin splints.

In order to run well and remain injury-free, it’s essential to have a well-structured strength program. Download your free 12-week calf strengthening program.

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Think about the terrain

130 miles ultra runner

Hill running puts a higher demand on the calf muscles, more so than running on the flat. This is because running up-hill forces you into a forefoot strike pattern as well as the ankle working through a larger range. More time on the balls of your feet puts more pressure on the calf muscles. Try focusing on your glutes as you run up-hill. Using them to propel you forward. Additionally, let your heel drop occasionally, this will help to release the calf. On the steep inclines, try power hiking. This will take you into a more natural gait pattern and it will not compromise on your overall pace.

Stay hydrated

after running, then being a couple litres low in fluids means you are at risk of an injury. Stay hydrated through the day by drinking little and often. After a run a rough calculation to follow is to drink 125% of lost body weight over a 4-6hr period.

Example. I am 100kg, after a run, I weigh 99 kg. That 1 kg roughly translates to 2L of water.

Add an electrolyte drink tablet or pinch of salt and sugar to maintain sodium, magnesium and potassium levels.


Salomon Speedcross

Experts recommend that you should change your running shoes every 300-500 miles. So, for someone running 20 miles a week that is every 6 months.

Tight calves are a common problem in runners and can occur by biomechanical problems by ill-fitting or worn out running shoes. If the foot is not impacting correctly when you run then it is the calves that take the largest amount of force through them.  

Endurance sports such as running will highlight any imbalances, firstly as muscle tightness but if unchecked, then as an injury.


Your recovery is possibly the most important part of your training routine as it allows your body to repair and recharge. A good recovery routine after running will enable you to train harder and more consistently.


If you are pushing yourself during training, icing certain muscles (for example, the calves) immediately after running will reduce DOMS and muscle tightness. Icing will also improve the efficiency of the muscles and how they work.


If you experience tight calves after running then you want to use heat. This will help to relax the muscle, increase blood flow to the area and help to increase the elastic properties on the muscle fibres. You want to use radiating heat like a hot bath or a heat pack. Avoid lotions and creams as they are just chemical irritations of the skin.


Compression socks and sleeves support the calf muscle and are good for improving blood circulation.

Ease tight calves with the Riixo calf cuff.

A compression cuff that can provide targeted ice or heat. Treat tight calves. Reduce DOMS. Recovery made easy.

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