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Calf Tightness

Hello blogosphere! After one week of no blogging whatsoever, I can now say that I miss it and am ready to contribute my two cents once again.

Running has been going okay. Not the amazing, pain free running I woud like but I’m still doing my workouts. Tuesday was my first track workout since January and thankfully, I was able to hit my goal times (actually a little faster), with no problem. However, my coach was there and he was quick to point out some things going on with my form that need a little work. For example, too much twisting in the hips and a left arm that barely moves and is held up significantly higher than my right. I’m working on it.

Thursday was an easy 5 miler out at the greenway and I couldn’t believe how tight my calves were. They hurt some kind of bad and thoughts of being sidelined for a month due to injury started to enter my mind. What the heck am I doing wrong? When I got back to my car, I decided to put on my Minimus shoes for a short jog just to see if they felt any better. Immediately the pain went away and my form corrected itself. I ran another mile pain free.

So my question is, why are my calves so darn tight?

I carry around a lot of tension in my body when I run. Because I’m always thinking about form, I don’t just let things happen. Foot strike and arm movement are the two main things always on my mind.

When running, the calf muscles are used to stabilize the ankle and absorb the impact during push off and landing. For some reason, when I get more miles on my legs, I start shifting my foot strike to my toes. I can feel it now and I could feel it back in January. I imagine that running on your toes requires a lot of extra effort from the calf muscles because the ankle and foot really have to be stabilized.

I read this from TheHungryRunner and thought this sounded about right for me:

Interestingly, calf tightness can also be symptomatic of weakness elsewhere in the leg.  If your glutes and/or hamstrings are weak, your calves will often try to make up for that weakness, which means the muscle gets overused, which in turn exacerbates calf tightness.  In that same vein, calf tension is rarely experienced in isolation; rather, if there is tightness in the calf muscles, there is also a good chance you are tight in your hamstrings as well, due to the synergistic nature of the hamstrings and calves for much of our daily movements.

Tomorrow I’ll spend time really focusing on my glutes, quads, and hamstrings. I’ve also been using the Rumble Roller (ouch!!!) to work on releasing some of these knots. And the final thing that I am going to do to work on my calf tightness is…. meditation. Perhaps that sounds a little odd but I have got to release this tension that I carry around. I think meditation is a great way to do this.

Happy Trails & Happy Running,


Running Update: Today I did 12 miles in my Minimus. It was a little tough because I was up too late last night and only ate a small salad for dinner. On the plus side, however, my calves didn’t bother me one bit and my form felt a lot better in the Minimus. Maybe it is also important for me to alternate shoes more consistently. Stats are here.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. I discovered last year that my calf tightness was related to a loose sacroiliac joint ligament. So it’s interesting to read your post. 12 miles – you are really getting back into the swing after your injuries 🙂

    May 25, 2013
    • Thanks Andrew! Yes, I’m slowly getting back to it and I’m loving every bit of it. What is a sacroiliac joint ligament? Just curious. How is your calf tightness now?

      May 28, 2013
      • Sacroiliac joint is the joint between the back and hips. The ligament is the one that holds the hip in place. My calves are still very tight. I will probably always have tight calves but am working on managing them.

        May 29, 2013
  2. I strained both calves when I started training on the track this year. My coach also gave me lots of feedback about my form. So I naturally changed it immediately….bad idea.

    After about 2 months my strained calves healed and I now have much better form (still need to work on the arms and hip rotation like you). Compression sleeves helped immensely with recovery and I didn’t have to stop training entirely (multisport training prevented me from stopping training all together).

    Maybe the minimus help you to stike more midfoot and you are forced to change your stride? With only a very, very slight change in my hips I could relieve nearly all of the pain in my calves when they were strained.

    Good luck with the training and keep up the hard work! Great job on the barefoot training too 🙂

    May 28, 2013
    • Thanks for the comment Mark! I had another track workout today and my coach gave me some great pointers on helping with my arm swing. Luckily for my last two intervals, he said my arm swing was the best he had seen. Funny because I felt like I was running so weird. And after I read your comment I made sure to wear my compression socks after the workout. They really do help 🙂 It’s so interesting to me how the slightest thing off in running form can lead to aches and pains. Running is such a complete body sport.

      May 28, 2013

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