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How to Reduce Calf Pain When Running

author image Henry Halse
Henry Halse is a Philadelphia-based personal trainer, speaker, and writer. He's trained a wide variety of people, from couch potatoes to professional athletes, and helped them realize their own strength, determination and self-confidence. Henry has also written for various fitness and lifestyle publications, including Women’s Health, AskMen and Prevention.
How to Reduce Calf Pain When Running
Tweak your training program or running form to work around calf pain. Photo Credit lzf/iStock/Getty Images

Running injuries can be tricky because it's hard to tell if you should push through them. On one hand, you want to keep going to hit your training goals; on the other hand, you might want to listen to your body and rest.

If you're struggling with calf pain, you can find ways to work around it without taking time off from running. Altering your running form, scaling back your training and trying different shoes can take stress off of your calf.

Lower Leg Pain

The lower leg, in general, is a hot spot for injuries in runners. It takes a lot of stress because it's so close to the point of impact with the ground. With every stride, you incur more and more force — and, potentially, damage. The more you train, the more likely you are to get injured. In fact, about 90 percent of runners training for marathons will get injured at some point, according to a 2007 study in Sports Medicine.

Calf pain can be caused by too much pressure in your lower leg or by damage to the muscle. Because your lower leg takes so much pounding during a run, it can swell, making all of the muscles press against each other. Another term for this is compartment syndrome.

Read More: What Are the Treatments for Calf Muscle Pain?

Form Tweaks

To avoid compartment syndrome, switch to forefoot striking when you run — that is, aim to hit the ground first with the front of your foot. Most people have a heel strike, meaning their heel hits the ground first.

A quick form fix to help you strike toward the front of your foot is to shorten your stride. You really only need to go a few inches farther with your stride than when you walk. If you shorten your stride, you will automatically start to hit the ground with the front of your foot, which takes some of the jarring away from your lower leg.

Another form fix prevents pronation. When your front foot lands and rolls inward too much, that's called excessive pronation, which puts you at risk for calf pain, according to a 2007 study from the American College of Sports Medicine. While it can be tough to correct over-pronation, you can start by buying shoes or orthotics that prevent it. Once you correct this slight form problem, you should feel some relief from your calf pain.

Try shortening your stride to combat calf pain.
Try shortening your stride to combat calf pain. Photo Credit lzf/iStock/Getty Images

Training Mistakes

Training too aggressively can hurt your body, creating a lot of pain in and around your calf. It can even stress the muscles so much that they become strained, causing swelling and even more pain.

To avoid training too hard, take a gradual approach to training. Start by adding up the total amount of miles that you run in a week and try not to increase it more than 1 or 2 miles per week. Your long run for the week shouldn't increase by more than a mile on consecutive weeks. The more aggressively you increase your mileage, the more likely you are to get hurt.

Read More: Why Are My Calf Muscles Sore?

Compression Socks

Compression socks might help with your calf pain. They're basically very tight socks that go high up your lower leg and can cover your calf. They constrict your leg and are thought to promote blood flow by preventing it from pooling in your lower leg and foot.

A 2010 study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that compression socks made people feel better, although they didn't find evidence of any physical benefit. However, if you're having a lot of calf pain when you run, they might simply help you feel better.

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