Runningfilter: Help my poor poor calves.
August 19, 2009 9:27 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for some advice to help me determine the cause of my running pains.

I know that many posts have been made in regards to calf strains, but I couldn't find one that closely matched my case. I recently started running about 1.5-2 miles 4-5 times a week to start training for a 5k race. Everything was going fine until the second week when I started to get a tearing pain in my left calf. The pain was still prevalent while walking the next day or two. I tried drinking more milk, increasing my potassium intake, taking anti-inflammatory meds, etc. The pain persisted for about a week and then eventually subsided. I did continue to exercise on a stationary bike, however, which put no strain on my calves (or that I felt anyways).

I felt like my muscles were back up to about 90% so I tried running again yesterday, and now I am in back at square one with my tearing pains.

Is this more likely to be an issue with my running shoes (which I have had for about 3-4 years), or poor running form/stretching? I do warmup/cooldown for 5 minutes and also stretch after every run, so I am not sure what else to do at this point....
posted by SharkLangasta to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure if it's possible for you, but I can run with basically no pain on dirt/trails but am hobbling around all day after just a mile or so on the road. If nothing else it might help debug if you could reproduce it running on trail.

My theory on this is that running on trail/dirt is softer, but more importantly each step uses different muscles.
posted by H. Roark at 9:32 AM on August 19, 2009

You've had your shoes for 4 years?? No, no, no. Shoes deteriorate. You need new shoes. Go to a real running shop and have your gait analyzed. If you're heavy or have a large frame you may need a sturdier shoe. Conversely, if you have a neutral gait and no pronation problems, a stability or motion control shoe can cause problems by hindering your foot and ankle movement.

When you read about how you should change running shoes after 3 - 6 months or 500 miles, it's really not a scam. It makes a HUGE difference.
posted by peep at 9:56 AM on August 19, 2009

Again, this is a psychological issue: if you believe running on pavement will cause problems, then it will.

You, sir, are bananacakes.

OP, if you did not exercise to begin with, it's most likely a case of too much, too soon. What you're describing sounds like the muscle tears I've gotten in the past when I up and decide that I'd like to run faster for sustained periods than my body is actually read for. If it were me, I'd drop my speed by maybe 25% (even if you feel like you're going ridiculously slow) and drop the fourth run. Be more gentle with your body. And buy new running shoes!
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:58 AM on August 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

While I'm not certain it will solve your problem, you definitely should replace your running shoes if your current pair is 3-4 years old.

It might take a little effort, but it is good to get into the habit of maintaining a running log detailing at least your daily millage. You can use this log to track your progress, look for patterns that have lead to injuries, and figure out what training practices worked best for you. In the process, you can also tally the total millage you accumulate on your current pair of running shoes.

Many runners will recommend you change out your shoes after rough 300 miles. Depending on your body type, running style/form, and how hard you abuse your shoes (pavement, versus trails, etc) you can get to 500-600 miles in some cases. It's important to get a new pairs of shoes regularly. The padding and supports deteriorate with use and also might break down or change with age. If possible, I recommend going to a real running shoe store in your area. These type of stores usually have a treadmill where they can watch and analyze your stride and footfall and determine the best type of shoe for you. Once you know and settle on a model you like, buying a new running shoe at regular intervals is pretty easy. Shoes are important and old shoes or improper shoes can put all kinds of strain on your legs and feet.

I'm a huge advocate of the site It is a free online running and exercise log, and is regularly maintained and updated by it's creator. In addition, they have a decent community of all kinds and types of runners who you can consult with on issues such as this.

Good luck with your calf problem and training for your 5k.
posted by vall at 10:13 AM on August 19, 2009

Please get yourself some new shoes!

I noticed calf pain almost immediately at 300-400 miles per shoe. I use a spreadsheet to track my mileage on each shoe, and a lot of the time I will notice a distinct type of calf/achilles pain before even noticing that I am close to my new shoe mileage level.

I used to think that the mileage limit per shoe was something just pushed on us by the athletic apparel industry until I realized how much it actually helped me.
posted by highfidelity at 8:02 AM on August 21, 2009

nth ing the Change in running shoes. If you can, go to a specialist running store, not merely a sporting footware shop, like Athletes Foot. The difference in quality of fitting is likely to be great.

Do concentrate on stretching after the run, and warming up appropriately before hand. It seems that calf injuries are endemic to older (male?) runners too - every one I know over around 60 develops problems, despite their being injury free for decades of 60+ mile weeks. Again, stretching afterwards and warming up are key.

Track your milage. An application such Map My Run is useful for tracking your gear usage and accurately measuring the distance that you run. It is free to use, and you don't require a GPS watch. There are plenty of other on-line log tools available too (most of us started with pen and paper diaries, then spreadsheets - these work fine too).

Good luck and hasten slowly, building up your distance by the 10% rule as much as possible. Don't try to double up onhard workouts, alternate intensity (pushing it), with easier 'recovery' runs. and use the same rule for hilly routes, or longer than normal runs.

If you feel tired or off before you start - listen to your body, and enjoy your running.

Good luck in the 5k!
posted by Flashduck at 2:14 AM on August 30, 2009

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