Muscle strains make up a high proportion of injuries in runners (70%), with up to 20% of those involving the calf.
Injuries in runners
Your ‘calf’ is made up of two muscles – the gastrocnemius and soleus (see above). They blend to form the Achilles Tendon which attaches to your heel bone.
Problems with your calf can contribute to achilles or plantar fascia pain, so it is very important to seek help early.
It is such an important muscle for propulsion and gets through an awful lot of work during running.
Common reasons for calf injuries include; increased mileage, change of shoes (especially to lower heel drop), increased hill/speed work, change of technique (towards mid/forefoot striking), weakness and poor flexibility – all which act to increase the ‘load’ on the calf complex.
Plenty! First of all, if in doubt, get it checked out.
If it has been annoying you for a while come in and get it checked by our Chartered Physiotherapists who can manage all aspects of your return to running.
Most runners appreciate that strength training is a good addition to their running. However, the calf is often neglected. A tight and weak calf complex is susceptible to injury. Strong and flexible calves are more robust, less likely to fatigue and therefore become injured.
Heel raises 1. Knee straight 2. Knee bent
Calf stretches 1. Knee straight 2. Knee bent
Don’t forget to include your hamstrings and glutes. Together with the calf, these form the ‘posterior chain’, so keeping them strong and supple will help support the calf.
If you have a strain, follow the POLICE protocol. Protect, Optimal Loading, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
In the early stages it is wise not to run, but you can still train e.g. cross trainer, bike, swim.
Once you are able to walk and do the stairs without pain for a few days, then you might consider a return to running…but sensibly e.g. walk/run. Let pain guide your progression.
Even if you don’t have calf pain but especially if you have in the past, it is advised to add foam rolling, strength and soft tissue work into your routine.