Calf Pain – Persistent. Solutions?

  • Creator
  • #50584

    Hi All,
    I’ve got some experience in multisport. I focused on long-course triathlon for a decade, ending about five years ago. Virtually all of my run training over the years have been in that effort, and now I’m turning to ultra and mountain running.

    Throughout my triathlon years and continuing now, I have sore calves. Always. Every day. Whether I run a lot or a little. I have been running a steady 25-35 miles/week for a year, and upped it to 45 and 50 over the past two months. My calves are sore on non running days. On short, recovery days. On uphill days. Long runs. Flat runs. Always sore. It never goes away.

    Sore right in the belly of the muscle. Not the Achilles. Muscle pain.

    I stretch. I do eccentric strength exercises. Tried just about everything.

    My calves feel, every day, like they should if I haven’t been running and went out and ran. DMOS. All the time. Did I say that already? 😉

    Any suggestions? It’s kind of maddening. Compression sleeves?

    Thanks for reading…

Posted In: Injury & Rehab

  • Participant
    AshRick on #50585

    Add…My running form is, according to coaches at clinics over the years, well within normal styles. I have a mainly midfoot strike, with a light heel-first contact that rolls onto my midfoot. So…I’m not running on my toes or anything. I’m careful to keep my heel on the ground when running and walking uphill.

    Rachel on #50593

    Have you tried taking some time off completely from running (and calf strengthening, stretching, etc., just leave them alone) to see if your calves feel better? Like maybe a week off or even just a few days to see if that does the trick?

    PS I moved this to the injury forum so the UA PT can chime in!

    AshRick on #50597

    Rachel — yes. I’ve had week off, month off, etc. Any amount of returning to running…sore calves.

    Every other muscle seems to adapt to training load. If I haven’t done downhill in a while, my quads will be sore after a downhill session. But…with repeated sessions, they don’t get sore.

    But the calf muscles just never seem to adapt to any amount of running, insofar as soreness goes.

    Rachel on #50626

    I would get a gait analysis done. It seems like if running is causing the calf soreness then something needs to change with the way you run. Even if you’ve been told your form is good, it clearly isn’t working for you!

    Diana on #50638

    I am a big fan of rolling for calf soreness. It sounds like your issue may be more severe than rolling can fix, but it can provide relief and is great regular maintenance.

    I like to do a move where I start on all fours (hands and knees), then use my right knee as if it’s a tennis ball to press and roll mostly in the center, then all over my left calf. Then switch. I find this method gives the option of creating more pressure than using a foam roller. If your calves are sore, it will hurt so good.

    AshRick on #50644

    How does one go about a gait analysis?

    Diana — great tip. I will try that.

    I made an appointment with an “active release therapy” practitioner. Some have suggested that I have old lingering damage or scar tissue in the muscle and this might help.

    LindsayTroy on #50768

    AshRick- I also have this. If I flex my calves I can make them cramp without having exercised in weeks. I’ve found that dry needling is the only thing that releases it but it always comes back.

    My PT told me that everyone holds “tension” somewhere, some people its shoulders and back and others its legs (I forget the exact word he used).

    Anonymous on #51010

    Gait analysis is a good idea. I believe you need to find a physio with a system that will do it: treadmill run, video analysis.

    Pete Dickinson MS,PT on #51781

    When the more common cause of a condition have been explored, treatments tried and exhausted, you then can benefit from looking at less common causes. For chronic calf pain look carefully at any medications you are using. I recently experienced this when a common part of an asthma medication was the cause of my hand cramping. For calf pain, there can be spine/neural and soft tissue causes of this. None of this can be seen on MRI’s etc. You definitely should explore the fascial treatment techniques out there of Fascial Manipulation, ART etc. Dry needling with electrical stimulation is also a powerful treatment that athletes respond to well. Keep us posted.

    AshRick on #51845

    Thanks for the followup and words of support. I did 2x per week ART for four weeks. Two sessions of dry needling. Nothing really changing.

    I’m now trying a cycle of isolated soleus strengthening. The pain is mainly focused in the gastroc, so maybe it’s being overworked because of weak soleus…? Going to keep trying things.

    Pete Dickinson MS,PT on #51862

    I’ve had patients (Olympian cross country) with chronic calf/arch pain have surprising recovery by getting A LOT stronger at the hip. The hip strength helps take the load off the lower leg…..proximal stability and all that. You often want to work the hell out of the offending area, but sometimes the answer is a few segments away, I hate it when that happens!

    l.tregan on #51887

    Just a try: higher drop shoes ? switch to 8mm drop if you currently use 4mm. Definitively people starting with zero drop shoes have sore calves, so doing the opposite might help.

    Also run ‘consciously’ and focus on the calves, start very slow and get a sense when the claves start to contract…. walk a bit to relax them…. run again. Use very ‘plushy’ shoes, so that the brain does not over compensate the impact by contracting the calves.


    AshRick on #51904

    I’ve been running in Hokas the past couple years. But all this uphill work is new. I like the cushy Hoka ride, but I think I will maybe try an 8mm shoe. Any suggestions? Altra and Hoka don’t make one. The Salomon looks interesting.

    l.tregan on #51960

    Something like the Scott Kinablu for 8mm drop shoes maybe ?

    Also, intervals could be tried ? It will make the calves stronger so presumably more resistant to strain.


    Garret on #52478

    Daily rolling with a pair of tune up fitness’s PLUS size balls has help me.
    No more calf pain and tendons are the better for it too.

    Isometric calf lifts progressing to 50% of body weight have helped as well.

    I’ve had great success with La Sportiva’s Akasha: 6mm drop, neutral, high volume (I’ve a very wide foot).

    – Garret

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