How to prevent tight calves when running
Authors Cameron Johnston & Dr Habib Holdings.
It has been a well-established fact for over 30 years, that an inch of prevention may prevent miles of abuse. it can be challenging for one to strike a balance between injury prevention and optimising performance when you have that “niggly” pain that presents itself every time you pull on your trainers. In this piece, we look at how to prevent tight calves when running.
Calf pain can often be caused by excessive strain based on over-training, the running distance being increased too quickly, or a change of running style or technique. Possible results from these factors are aching muscles, hardening of the calves, cramps, and pulled muscles. The key question is: “What can I do to prevent tight calf’s when running?”.
According to Brad Beer, there are three key calf exercises that one can do.
The exercises runners wishing to address recurring calf tightness are:
- Single leg calf raises
Complete 50 calf raises (start off with 20), and gradually progress to weighted calf raises. Our calf muscles are a key propulsive element of our running, generating the last bit of force at the time of toe-off during the gait cycle.
- Soleus wall squats
Strengthening of the soleus muscle is often ignored. Failure to strengthen the soleus with an effort on the gastrocnemius muscle can result in ongoing feelings of tight calves.
- Full foam roller sit (calf releasing exercise):
Gently press your body-weight from one side to the next. If you have a long full foam roller, you can lever the edges down with your hands. If it’s a short full foam roller, you can just ‘rock’ your body weight.
Riixo has designed three free programs for you to access. Just click the link to download over 70 pages of exercises designed to help you improve your running and manage any calf pain.
Tight calf muscles are more often the result of inadequate stretching complicated by an underlying foot or gait abnormality. In light of this, there are several things that you can do to prevent them from occurring (Christine Luff shares some excellent tips):
- Try to never run cold. Always stretch before a run and cool down when you finish. This is especially true in cold weather.
- Watch those hills. It is easy to overdo it on a hill run when you are bounding on your toes and hyper-extending your calves. Either slow down or take breaks when navigating a steep incline.
- Avoid repetition. If your calves had a hectic workout one day, don’t follow up with the same routine the next. Repeated stress is more likely to trigger an injury.
- Keep hydrated during a run. If running on a hot day, re-hydrate regularly with an electrolyte-rich sports drink.
- Make stretching a part of your gym routine. Even simple toe and heel raises can keep the calve muscles from seizing up between runs. Yoga is also beneficial to runners who are experiencing tightness.
- Get the right shoes: If you are an avid runner, invest in a properly fitted pair of shoes from a specialist running store. If you have high arches or flat feet, speak with a podiatrist about custom orthotics or insoles.
Driller, M.W. and Halson, S.L., 2013. The effects of wearing lower-body compression garments during a cycling performance test. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 8(3), pp.300-306.
Monteagudo, M., de Albornoz, P.M., Gutierrez, B., Tabuenca, J. and Álvarez, I. 2018. Plantar fasciopathy: A current concepts review. EFORT Open Reviews, 3(8), pp.485-493.
Spiker, A.M., Dixit, S. and Cosgarea, A.J. 2012. Triathlon: running injuries. Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy Review, 20(4), pp.206-213.
Subotnick, S.I. 1985. The biomechanics of running implications for the prevention of foot injuries. Sports Medicine, 2(2), pp.144-153.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]