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Causes of Calf Pain After a Run

by
author image Max Roman Dilthey
Max Roman Dilthey is a science, health and culture writer currently pursuing a master's of sustainability science. Based in Massachusetts, he blogs about cycling at MaxTheCyclist.com.
Causes of Calf Pain After a Run
A good stretching routine during your rest day can help reduce your soreness. Photo Credit Maridav/iStock/Getty Images

Calf soreness and pain after a run are good indications that you'll need to correct your form. Running is natural for the body, and it's normal for your muscles to have some soreness after you push them to their limits on a good run. Prolonged pain and soreness, however, may be a symptom of incorrect running technique or even the wrong pair of shoes. Make some small changes to your running routine to control and prevent post-run soreness.

Understanding Pain

When you're running, your feet propel you through each step like two springs. This propulsion is mostly generated in your calf using two primary muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is the large, rounded muscle at the back of your calf that starts below the knee. The soleus is smaller and situated underneath the gastrocnemius, and extends down to connect to your achilles tendon at the back of your ankle. Bryan J. Dixon of the Marquette Sports Medicine Institute, says that these muscles, especially the gastrocnemius, are particularly susceptible to injury.

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All Torn Up About It

Running pain can come from a variety of sources, but most soreness is developed from micro-tears in your muscle. Tearing is a normal process for muscular growth; as muscles repair the tears caused by extensive physical exercise, they build up more muscle fibers in the process. This allows muscle growth over a period of weeks and months, which eventually results in a stronger calf. These tears can cause pain, however, and running through this pain can impede the healing process, preventing muscle gain and increasing your soreness.

Take a Break

To ensure you're giving your gastrocnemius and soleus muscles the time they need to repair, make sure to work rest days into your routine to encourage muscle growth and repair. A rest day or two is best for your recovery, says Brian Maher, a personal trainer based in Philadelphia. During your rest day, stretch your legs and walk around barefoot to encourage the calf muscle to heal, and keep the physical exercise to a minimum so you don't re-tear muscle that is under repair. Make sure to eat lots of healthy food, especially proteins, and get plenty of sleep.

Stop Soreness In Its Tracks

Your muscles use protein from your diet to rebuild, so a high protein intake after your run will aid the process of repair and recovery. If taking rest days, stretching your calves, and eating protein doesn't correct your calf soreness, you may have a stress-related injury that needs additional care from a doctor. Consult your physician if soreness persists for more than a few days to address the possibility of a fracture, strain, or tendon issue. No matter what, never exercise when you're experiencing significant pain; your pain is a good indication that something is wrong, and you don't want to exacerbate an injury.

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