Calf Injury

A calf injury can sneak up on you. It may start with some tightness after your run and then it's sore just walking around. Women, we may need to reconsider how often we wear those high heels.

Here we offer possible causes, symptoms, treatment and stretches.

Symptoms
Possible Causes
High Heels
Treatment
Calf Stretch
Strengthen Your Calf Muscles


Symptoms

A muscle strain or tear is usually categorized from mild (Grade 1) to
severe (Grade 3).

Grade 1
You'll probably feel slight pain and tightness when running or stretching. You'll have minimal strength loss. You might experience cramping.

Grade 2
You'll feel pain when running and when you're stretching. The pain may cause you to limp (definite loss of strength) and you might have some bruising.

Grade 3
You'll feel a burning sensation and stabbing pain. It can feel like you've been shot in the back of your lower leg. You'll have a complete loss of muscle strength, may have trouble walking and a lot of bruising.

Possible Causes of Calf Injury

  • Not spending enough time warming up.

  • Sudden increase in your mileage, speed or hills.

  • Not enough recovery between your hard workouts.

  • Excessive running on hard surfaces e.g. concrete and asphalt.

  • Hard running on steep hills.

  • Too much stair training.

  • Weak and/or tight calf muscles.

  • Excessive running on your toes.

  • Speed work on very tired muscles.

  • Running on slippery surfaces e.g. water, ice, snow.

  • Over stretching or incorrect stretching.

  • Shoes that are worn out or don't provide enough support.

  • Structural problems e.g. over pronation (rolling inwards) or over supination (rolling outwards).


Are those High Heels worth it?

Constantly wearing high-heeled shoes can shorten and tighten your calf muscles. We need to weigh up the cost of being fashion conscious to running well and caring for our feet and legs.

We can still look glamorous with lower heeled shoes, especially when we show off our toned and muscled legs. Consider walking in an old pair of running shoes and then change into your heels when you get to work or the restaurant.

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Treatment of Calf Injury
  • Apply RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) immediately and as often as possible in the next few days.

  • Reduce your running or take a break for one to two weeks. With a mild (Grade 1) muscle strain this can help you prevent further injury and the possibility of a torn calf (Grade 3).

  • Wait until the pain has gone and then gently stretch your calf and Achilles tendon.

  • Stay away from speed or hill work.

  • Replace your old running shoes.

  • Strengthen your calf muscles.

  • Get a deep tissue massage.

  • Consider wearing compression socks or compression tights to quicken your recovery and prevent new injuries.

  • For a Grade 1 muscle strain seek professional advice if the pain persists after you've had time off. Seek immediate advice for a Grade 2 or 3 muscle strain and tear.

  • If you suspect foot problems see a podiatrist as you may need orthotics to correct your pronation or supination.

Calf Stretch

To prevent a calf injury, stretch and keep your lower leg muscles loose and flexible. The more common upper and lower calf stretches are listed here. Here's an another calf stretch.

  1. Sit on the floor.
  2. Place your right leg straight out and bend your left leg placing the sole of your left foot against your inner right thigh.
  3. Keep your back straight and bend from your hips towards your extended right leg. Depending on your flexibility, use a towel around the ball of your right foot to pull your toes towards your knee. Otherwise use your hands to pull your toes towards your right knee.
  4. You'll feel a stretch in your lower right leg, both your upper and lower calf.
  5. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
  6. Repeat stretch on your left leg.
  7. Perform stretch 2-3 times.
  8. To increase the calf stretch lean more from your waist.

Strengthen Your Calf Muscles

Try these simple calf raises to strengthen your calf muscles and reduce your risk of calf injury.

  • Rise up on your toes and lower back down. Do 10-15 on each leg every day (or every few days) and build up to 30. Stretch your calf, both lower and upper, and Achilles tendon after wards.
  • If you want more load, move your calf raises to a step. Place the ball of your foot on the step and let the heel hang over the edge. Rise up on your toe and then slowly lower the heel below the step.

    Again do 10-15 on each leg and build up to 30. Do these calf raises on your easy run days, not after a speed workout, hills or long run. Your calf muscles have already been taxed enough. Remember to follow with lots of stretching.

  • You may want to take it even further by holding dumbbells while doing your calf raises.

Subscribe to our Running Shorts ezine for more free advice.

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Return from Calf Injury to Running Injuries



Other useful links.

Running Stretches
Compression Socks
Achilles Tendinitis

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