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Calf Pain Running

Calf pain during running is a very common condition. The calf muscles may have tightness or swelling due to pain, and it may worsen over time if left untreated. The most widespread reason for lower leg calf pain is muscle fatigue. Why do calf muscles get fatigued? Every muscle group has its limited capacity and stamina; transcending that level of strength will cause pain and muscle tightness.

Types Of Calf Pain:

According to medical literature, the calf muscles are also known as Triceps Surae because they are divided into three categories.

Two of them are named medial and lateral heads of the Gastrocnemius. The Soleus is the third calf muscle which is tiny in appearance. In addition to this, it is a more fragile muscle that attaches to the Achilles tendon and moves deeper and lower than the other two heads of the Gastrocnemius, medial and lateral heads. Any calf injuries and inflammation typically occur within these three muscle groups.

Gastrocnemius Strains:    

It is common to experience soreness and pain deep in the lower back of your leg. Stretching of the calf can often cause this pain. You may also feel tightness and pain while walking or running based on the severity of your strain.

Soleus Strain:      

As these muscles are slenderer and shorter, it is more difficult to diagnose soleus strain. As a result, it is often misdiagnosed as an Achilles Tendon issue. Same as with gastroc strain, patients feel tightness, soreness, pain due to soleus strain.

How can we differentiate between gastrocnemius and Soleus strains as they create almost the same condition? 

The answer is quite simple. There is a major difference between these two types of pain – the gastrocnemius strain crosses the knee joint, but the soleus strain does not. Moreover, the soleus muscle strain is comparatively more painful than the gastrocnemius strain.

A lady holding over calf pain after running

What Are The Risk Factors Of Calf Pain Caused By Running?

Some particular causes can cause calf pain running. These are:

  • Overload or stress on the calf muscle
  • Weakness in the calf muscle or lack of endurance
  • Overstretching the calf muscle
  • Achilles Tendinopathy
  • Speed work and Hilly runs

Overload or stress on the calf muscle:     

Increased pressure on the calf muscle is the primary reason for calf pain, and the stress on the muscle is increased by boosting training intensity, running without taking a break to relax your muscle, walking, or running barefoot as it involves landing on the forefoot and cause extraordinary stress on the calf muscles.

Overstretching the calf muscle:    

Overstretching the calf muscle, especially while running or during physical activities, can cause strain on the calf muscle, resulting in calf pain.

Achilles Tendinopathy:      

Commonly, Achilles tendinopathy is called tendinitis. It refers to the disorder of Achilles tendons (a large tendon that connects the calf to the lateral side of the heel). Stiffness, soreness, tightness in the tendon region are the main symptoms of Achilles tendinopathy. It is commonly due to continuous running and repetitive physical activities that can cause strain on the tendon.

Symptoms That Indicate That You Have Calf Pain By Running:

The symptoms listed below are based on the severity of inflammation. Mild stress can be self-treated, and there is no need to seek any medical help. But if you have the following specific symptoms, then contact a doctor.

  • Redness and bruising
  • Can not be able to stand, walk or run on your foot
  • Soreness and swelling
  • Sharp pain in the calf muscle that also affect your mobility
  • Numbness and tingling in the calf muscle
  • Change in skin colour, that is, if someone notices pale colour in the calf along with the conditions mentioned above
  • In the affected region, the veins are visible

Remedies To Cure Calf Pain Caused by Running:


The structures in the calf have a poor blood supply, which is why they can struggle to heal on their own. It is the oxygen and nutrients in our blood supply that help to heal these structures.

Prolotherapy involves the injection a regenerative solution into these structures to provide a direct supply of what is needed to heal them and provide pain relief.

As the treatment is helping to treat the root cause of the problem, it is deemed to be a permanent fix.

Other less effective treatments –

Use of Heat Pads: 

Use heating pads but make sure not to apply heat for an extended period. Also, be careful and do not use heating pads right after the injury, as the heat may cause your calf muscle to swell more. Heating and foam rolling are considered an ideal combination to get rid of calf pain in a short time. A foam roller can help to release tight calves and alleviate muscle pain.

Wrapping of legs:    

Wrap your legs with a soft cloth. This can not only help to reduce swelling but also increase mobility.

Taking Rest:      

Always take a break and rest before and after hard exercise and running. Sudden running or training can cause calf pain.

Use Ice:    

Wrap your leg with an ice pad for at least 20 minutes after every two hours. Don’t use ice directly on your skin. 

Calf Stretch:

It is recommended to stretch your back and glutes, before gently stretching the hamstrings. It is a very effective remedy to provide instant pain relief due to muscle strain.

Medical Treatment:

If your condition is chronic, you need to seek professional help immediately.

  • Doctors recommend taking over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to reduce pain.
  • You can reduce pain by undergoing physiotherapy. Physiotherapists suggest specific strengthening exercises if you are experiencing pain in your shin bone. This also helps avoid stress fracture and help your bones to bear your body weight more effectively.
  •  If your condition gets very severe and is non-reactive to any non-invasive techniques, you might have to undergo surgery.


In order to diagnose the condition, your healthcare provider may suggest the following tests:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) for checking blood clots or internal bleeding.
  • Ultrasound is recommended to check fluid build-up around the calf muscles.

Recovery Duration:

Generally, it can take two to three days for the patient to start feeling better. For complete recovery, it may take up to six or seven weeks. But if your calf pain is too severe, it can take even longer for complete recovery. Moreover, if you have undergone corrective surgery, it can most probably take four to five months to heal fully.

Prevention Against Calf Pain:

You can prevent calf pain from developing by practising the following precautions:

  • Be Careful While Running: It is essential to be careful while running and doing hard physical activities. Any sudden jerk can lead to calf pain. To ensure healthy and pain-free running sessions, use running shoes to avoid shin splints while sprinting. Ensure you maintain a proper running form for injury prevention. Calf tear is a common cause of bad running form.
  • Warm-up Your Body: Never start a workout immediately. Start with a warm-up and then gradually move toward strenuous exercises. Gently stretch the calf before running using lunges, mini squats, or even wall presses to avoid calf muscle injuries and muscle tears
  • Stronger Calf Muscles: Strengthen your calf muscles to avoid strains and injuries. Adopt a balanced diet and exercise regularly to maintain muscle health and strengthen muscle fibres. The single calf raise is very effective as it helps improve blood flow and plays a role in calf strengthening. Moreover, cross-training is an ideal way to help muscle weaknesses.

A man with calf pain doing exercises


  1. sports, B. (2020, October 12). Preventing calf pain while running. Bauerfeind SPORTS. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://www.bauerfeind-sports.com/running-outfit/sleeves-lower-leg/
  2. Davis, J. (2021, May 22). Calf strains and runners: Why you get them and a 3 week plan to treat. Runners Connect. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://runnersconnect.net/calf-strain-running-injury/
  3. Felson, S. (2020, June 1). Common running injuries: Causes, prevention, and treatment. WebMD. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/running-injuries-causes-prevention-treatment#1
  4. Louw, M. (2021, October 22). Tight calves or calf pain when running? Sports Injury Physio. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://www.sports-injury-physio.com/post/tight-calves-calf-pain-running

Cherney, K. (2019, March 8). Pulled calf muscle: Symptoms, treatments, and recovery. Healthline. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/pulled-calf-muscle#recovery

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