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Why Do Calves Get Strained Running?

Why Do Calves Get Strained Running?

With Global Running Day approaching it's probably going to motivate you to get out and run with inspiration knowing the World is acknowledging this day. The last thing you want to do though is show up and suffer an injury!

One of the most maddening issues that puts runners out is repeated calf strains. Rolling, stretching, calf raises all seem to make no change so if this is you, continue reading...

The answer to your problem is simple. Once you know WHY your calves are getting strained, you can follow the logical plan to fix the problem. Even better news, it can only be due to a few areas that are causing your calf muscle to get strained in the first place!

  1. Your body is not prepared to run and your calves are paying the price.

  2. Your body is prepared to run, but your running pattern overuses your calves.

  3. Nutritional deficiencies limiting calf contraction.

Let's dig a little deeper to make sense of these possibilities.

1 - Your body is not prepared to run

There could be several areas of your body that force you to overuse your calves. The obvious, your calves could be weak. Your calves could be unprepared to produce yielding force quickly (aka you can't land without your muscles getting hyper stressed). Your foot may over pronate, under pronate, or be super lax in your ankle joint. Your hips may not rotate and therefore you may need to push harder to get the hip to swivel over your leg. You may have any combination of these problems or little to none of them. The truth of the matter is that injuries are complex. If they were simple, there wouldn't be a dozen or more professions all claiming to be able to help people resolve injuries. If your body is not prepared to run, you need to seek out a Performance Physical Therapist who is well versed in helping runners resolve injuries and prepare their body to run so that it's not a repeated shock to the system.

2 - Your body is prepared to run, but your running pattern overuses your calves

Running patterns often get attributed to foot strike or the type of running shoe someone is wearing. Whereas these are significant factors that contribute to running, the focus gets too fixated on this area. When we consider running injuries it's important to consider your hand dominance pattern and how it effects your mechanics. Altered patterns due to hand dominance lead to limited joint mobility affecting ones movement, strength, and balance. This leads to repeated overuse injuries or inefficient muscle contraction to support push-off and deceleration during one's run. Once mobility is restored, force can be distributed throughout the body better with an automatic upgrade in one's performance!

3 - Nutritional deficiencies limiting calf contraction:

It's nothing new to most runners that getting the right nutrients and electrolytes are key to muscle performance and injury prevention. Where runners fall short is overlooking the parameters that matter most such as quality, form, and timing of nutrients. Whether it's a food or a supplement these 3 factors can be applied. Most foods are deficient in the minerals your body requires and taking a cheap supplement with low quality ingredients doesn't make it any better. You also want to consider the form. Pre-made drinks have limited effects due to electrons becoming active once exposed to water with a half-life that limits it's effects over time the longer its been on the shelf. There can also be a common mistake with fruits. Over consumption of sugary fruits just to obtain a few nutrients doesn't equate to a proper environment for the muscle and overall performance. And just as timing is important to determine which energy systems you're kicking in throughout the run to change up your pace, you also want to consider the timing and introduction of certain nutrients for what timeframe they'll kick in. How fast the body will break the nutrient down and the energy output of a fat, protein, and carb all vary. Just remember your body tissue is only as strong as the internal environment you give it to work with!


If your goal is to continue to run without injury then it's best to prepare the body for the activity. If its distance you're looking to increase then you prepare for endurance with repeated training, mobility and stability exercises, along with food or supplements that support sustained energy. If looking to increase speed then you just tailor the runs to higher intensities knowing that the muscles and muscle types you'll be incorporating will be different due to muscle tissue and energy requirements. Speed training will require more strengthening exercises along with mobility to stay consistent in proper movement due to hand dominance patterns. If you're in a situation where you continue to suffer injuries then it's best to take note of your style of training, limitations in joint mobility comparing the left to right side, and the nutritional parameters you may not be considering.

The body can seem complicated at times but it's just a matter of simplifying what you're dealing with and how to overcome any obstacles. If you continue to suffer from calf injuries of injuries in general with running it's best to get it looked at and put a game plan in place to limit your ability to keep moving forward. Our health and quality of life is dependent on our ability to move. Don't put limitations on your ability to keep moving forward!


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