Calf Tightness When Running

Calf tightness when running is a problem I come across a lot, in varying degrees. For Calf musclessome people, the calf muscles simply feel a bit tight the day after a long or hard run. For others, the tension affects them when running and can be so severe that the aching pain causes them to stop. But what causes it when there has been no previous injury?

 

 

Causes
Tight calf muscles tends to be most common amongst relatively new runners. This gives us a few clues already. It can be linked to a number of problems which can affect those new to the sport:

  • A lack of flexibility in general
  • Fatigued calf muscles
  • Inappropriate footwear
  • Wearing high heels daily
  • Running too much, too soon
  • Inadequate warm-up / cool-down
  • Muscle imbalances elsewhere
  • Running form

Lets start at the beginning.

Reduced flexibility

Some people are just naturally less flexible than others. Especially those that have been relatively sedentary up until they start running. But the good news is that a lack of flexibility can be addressed with a comprehensive stretching program. Now, this doesn’t mean stretching before and after running. This means stretching at least 3 times a day, if not more, to really see an increase in flexibility. So, if you’re new to running and suffering with tight calf muscles, this is your first course of action. Stretch, stretch, stretch!

Gastrocnemius step stretch for calf tightnessStretching the Soleus

 

 

 

 

Fatigue

If your calves feel like they cramp up when running, but are then fine after, it could be fatigue that’s causing your problem. Just like when you see football matches go into extra time and all the players get cramp in their hamstrings because they are not used to that amount of stress. The same can be said for the calf muscles. The more you run the stronger your calves become, but in the meantime, try some strengthening exercises – single leg calf raises are great and require no equipment.

Inappropriate footwear

If you haven’t had a gait analysis – get one done! If you don’t know what this is, check out my page on gait analysis! It will basically ensure that you are wearing the right running shoes for your foot type. The most common problem in runners is overpronation. Tight calf muscles and overpronation often go hand in hand, so make sure you get this checked and corrected if necessary.

Also consider your day-to-day footwear choices. Wearing high heels on a regular basis can actually shorten the calf muscles too.

Training errors

Some more newbie training mistakes can also cause tight calf muscles. Running too much, too soon can do it as your muscles tighten up in response to the increased stress that they are not accustomed to.  Also, ensure you warm-up before running with a pulse raiser that doesn’t stress the calf muscles – such as cycling or stepping. You can also stretch your calf muscles before running, although research indicates that static stretching before exercise is not effective at reducing injury rates. But it’s really down to personal preference and I still stretch my calf and glute muscles before running as I know these are my problem areas! Do make sure you finish your run with a walk for 5 minutes and then a thorough stretching session, as this is where stretching really comes into its own to reduce post exercise soreness.

Muscle imbalances

Muscle imbalances are responsible for so many running injuries and having tight calf muscles whilst running is no exception. Everyone is different and so it is hard to tell you what may be affecting your particular case, but a really common pattern to look out for is tight hip flexors, leading to weak or mis-firing glutes. This results in a lack of hip extension when running and a bigger reliance on the calf muscles for propulsion. Remember, we’re like one big chain – so where the pain is isn’t necessarily where the problem is! A sports injury therapist should be able to assess you for muscle imbalances and determine what may be affecting you.

Form

Running form is basically the way you run and it is something that we don’t tend to think about when running, especially when we first start out. We just run however feels natural to us. However, your running form could play a big part in your calf muscle tightness and pain.

I personally suffered with exactly this problem. Stretching my calf muscles regularly really helped, but it didn’t cure the problem. But what I have since found to work, is changing the way that I run.

Barefoot running is increasing in popularity and its many advocates say that it reduces injury rates amongst runners and it promotes a more natural running pattern, which modern running shoes have altered.

In today’s cushioned shoes, most of us have evolved to run with a heel strike – that is the heel hits the ground first. But before running shoes, this would have been painful and so our predecessors ran with a more mid-foot strike.

Whilst I didn’t go the whole hog and start running barefoot, I have adapted the way that I run to land more on my mid and forefoot than on my heel….and hey presto! No calf pain or tightness!

Running with a mid foot strike alters the biomechanics of your running cycle, shortens your stride length and changes the loading on your calf muscles, as well as reducing the impact through the foot and lower leg. It is important however, to avoid landing on just the forefoot alone as this will increase the load on the calf muscles and achilles. If you run entirely on your toes this could actually further increase calf tightness! Try to imagine landing with the foot flat on the ground. In the majority of people this results in the impact being on the midfoot and then the heel. Also bear in mind that this is different for your body and so as with anything new, you need to build up slowly. Again you may experience some increased calf aching initially.

110 thoughts on “Calf Tightness When Running

    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi
      If you are suffering with pain or tightness in just one calf then it could be that you have muscle imbalances on one side or maybe you overpronate more on one foot than the other. If you have had a previous foot or ankle injury that can also do it.

      Reply
      1. Christian Insua

        WOW, I was not so far from the answer. I had an injury on my ankle and now I have a plate and 7 screws holding everything together. It sounds worst than what it is, but I noticed the tightness of my right calf when I started running a couple of months ago. I did not know what it was, but I felt that maybe it was that by trying to protect my left leg, I laid more weight on my right one and therefore, tightness appears.
        I guess form is what it is all about.
        Thanks for your post.

        Reply
        1. Paula Gunthore

          My leg hurts extremely bad when running. Last night I was running with my dog and all of the sudden my knee gave out. Since then I can not run at all. The pain is extreme. It starts a little bit above me knee and then travels down my leg and to my calve. Any Ideas on what this is?

          Reply
  1. Pradeep

    Hi Even I have this pain only on the left calf. I usually always breath out when I land on my left foot (I somewhere read about this). I also land on my mid/forefoot instead of the heel.Please advise.

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi. As I said to Christine, there are numerous factors which could cause one calf to become painful and not the other – I would start with looking at muscle imbalances higher up – especially around the hip.

      Reply
  2. Katrina

    could a tight right calf (so tight that I have had to stop mid-run) be related to a hamstring injury a few months ago?
    I’ve been trying to rehab by doing run/walk intervals and rolling with the Stick, but today I had to cut my run short again……:(

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi Katrina.
      Yes it is possible. Did the calf problems only develop after the hamstring injury and is it the calf on the same leg as the injury? It could be that you are using your calf muscle more for propulsion because of weakness in hip extension due to hamstring weakness / inhibition.

      Reply
  3. Katrina

    Exactly! I’ve been running ‘barefoot’ in VFFs for almost two years and while my calves used to hurt initially, they’ve been fine for ages. In October, I tripped during a run and, to avoid landing on my face, I went into a deep lunge with a resulting injury to my right hamstring. I took a week or two off running (cross-trained) and then started having issues with my right calf. I have not been able to run more than about 4 miles in months and, after a recent flare up, I’ve been trying to rehab by doing run/walk intervals, but my calf is still painfully tight. Would welcome any suggestions you might have….

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      You may need to do more specific hamstring strengthening exercises such as starting with rehab band knee flexion / hip extension and progressing to exercises like deadlifts or Nordic curls. Also try a sports massage or two – to address any problems in either the hamstrings or calf.

      Reply
  4. Mark

    About 1 year ago I was running on treadmill for about 40 min at a very fast rate . I did this 3 days In a row & couldn’t walk after day 4. At the time I noticed tightness in ankle but Ignored the tightness. I’m not a runner ! Anyways I was on crutches for one month and wore a ankle brace unroll I was able to get an MRI . They found out I had a stress fractured and casted me for 6 weeks. After they took cast odd I still couldn’t walk for 2 months after. Then I slowly started to walk but with pain. It’s been one year and I have pain when walking on the left injured leg feels like joint pain just under the knockle of the left foot & in the middle where the flat part or foot is & leg.i have hardly any dorsoflex in my foot. I’m not able to do a squat I just can’t bend my legs. It’s very clear my range of motion / flex in my left leg is restricted . Rmt said my calf is very tight . Any help would be great .

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi Mark
      Thanks for your comment. A lack of flexibility is a common problem after immobilisation and something that needs to be corrected asap as it can cause further problems. I would recommend seeing a Sports Therapist or similar who can assess your ankle and provide appropriate treatment and exercises to help regain your ankle mobility and strengthen the whole lower leg. Good luck!

      Reply
  5. Mark

    I’ve been to an Rmt at the hospital for 1 month & then I saw an outside Rmt to strengthen my leg. None have really helped the problem. I’m seeing a sports rmt now who is stretching the calf muscles- ligaments & it hurts a lot but I’m not sure how much it’s helping.when I try to do a squat my right leg has flexibility and will bend but my left injured leg seems locked at the calf or the ankle-flat top of foot and just won’t budge or bend. One rmt said she thinks I may have a lose ligament in front of foot that gives support to my foot to lift up and down . Another rmt said my calf is very right and can tell with out a doubt my calf is restricting flexibility . Another rmt feels there is a blockage between foot and leg at the top where your foot moves up and down. If I’m laying flat on my back with both feet pointing at ceiling . My right foot I’m able to move it back to normal flex but my left foot I’m hardly able to get any flex at all out of it .i feel like I’ve tried it all . I even tried chiropractic they cracked foot but no one had answers how to fix this problem .

    Reply
  6. Heidi Dawson

    Hi again. It could be just a tight calf complex but as you think it seems to lock and feel ‘blocked’ it could be a bony spur at the front of the ankle as your RMT suggested. This is more likely if you have previously injured this ankle.
    You should also be assessed for problems higher than the ankle/calf which could be contributing – i.e. weak glutes

    Reply
  7. Tracy

    Hi there. 3 weeks ago I had a left quadracep injury between a Grade 1 and Grade 2 Tear. I have been going to Physio which has helped and last week Friday and today was the first time I tried to run. On both occassions my right calf went stiff and felt like it was in spasm that I had to stop. But it went ROCK Solid. Could this be due to my injury?

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi
      Yes it could be due to the quad injury. If that is the only thing which has changed and you have not had problems with the calf before then it more than likely is the cause. The tear of the quad has more than likely reduced the flexibility of the hip into extension and certainly the knee into flexion. These changes will have slightly affected your gait cycle. Make sure you get full movement and strength back before you try to run again. Good luck!

      Reply
  8. Jason

    Hi, I play football on a regular basis (2-3 times a week) and when running my calf and also my shin muscle (tibialis anterior I think) gets extremely tight meaning that if I need to sprint I simply can’t. I was wondering if there was anything you could advice me on doing to help stop this, at one point I thought it may have been my footwear or shin pads but after changes has still made no difference. I also thought it may have been a lack of stamina but then i realised I am not out of breathe I am simply too tight/achy to run any faster. Do I need to improve my muscular endurance for my legs or maybe try using a different running technique?

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi Jason. Muscular endurance could be an issue and so working on this with calf raises and resisted dorsiflexion could be helpful. I would also take a look at a couple of other things. Firstly your feet – football boots notoriously have very little support. If you overpronate (where the foot rolls in and the arch flattens) when running then you may need some extra arch support orthotics in your football boots. a Podiatrist or gait analysis will help with this. It may also be worth considering any other muscle imbalances which could be causing the lower leg muscles to overwork. They may even be coming from as high at the hip! A sports injury therapist who knows anything about biomechanics should be able to help with this.

      Reply
  9. Tracy

    Hi Heidi, thanks for all your feedback. This exactly what my physio has recommended that I go see a Podiatrist to have my feet checked to ensure I have the proper shoes and support. I have bought new trainers but I still seem to be suffering with the tight calves so I think I will go get my feet checked out anyway.

    Reply
  10. Rickie

    Hey there I had compartment syndrome and had a fasciotomy surgery and no longer feel the pain after running for a long period of time. However If I ever do any time of sprint, my calfs on both legs feel tight. Its weirld that when I finish the spring workout, I wont feel the tightness on my legs until after I stop running. Also when I try to go for a run the next day I use compression sleeves and dont feel when I go for a long run 5+ miles, only feel the pain on my calfs when I am not running. Also normally when I use to do a sprint workout My Hamstring/Quads would be sore but now its only my calfs. What do you think is this muscle imbalance?

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi Rickie,
      Can I just clarify some points?

      So your calf muscles only hurt after a sprint workout – not a longer, slow run?
      How soon after the sprint workout does the pain develop?
      Are the calf muscles tight and worst in the mornings and after you’ve been resting?
      How often do you do sprint workouts?

      Sorry for all the questions – but that should help me answer your question better!

      Reply
  11. Colin

    Good day
    Iv got a pair of inovate f-lite low profile. Iv had them for about 5 months. Because of their low profile shape is this what makes my calfs tight and uncomfortable to open up.
    I have always used asics in the past but wonted to try new things. I don’t know if I should go back to them or keep with the low profile as it’s supposed to be a better way to run?

    Thanks for any help

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi Colin. Thanks for your question. It’s very hard to advise you on what type of footwear you should be wearing without seeing your feet and your gait cycle to observe how your foot functions. Have you had a gait analysis before? This may help.
      Also, the last point you make about low profile running shoes promoting a better way of running – I think that’s very subjective. Everyone is different and what suits one person may not suit you. Some people get on with very minimal support from their running shoes, others find it makes problems worse. If the problem with your calves started up after you changes running shoes, then it’s a pretty safe bet that the new shoes are the cause.

      Reply
  12. Colin Ridley

    Thank you very much for your advice.
    I’m thinking that if it’s not broken don’t try and fix it lol
    I’ll let you know how I get on.

    Reply
  13. amandamarz

    Hi Helen–
    I am an amateur runner (been running for about 2 years, 5 or so miles a week, 12-13 minute miles). My left leg is typically weaker than my right and would get tired/kneecap would hurt at the 3 mile mark–I have the same problem with my left leg balancing in yoga. Over the last few weeks, though, I’ve been experiencing tingling (no numbness though) and very tight calves in my right leg only when I run at about the half-mile mark, which continues through the end and causes me to stop early. I thought maybe it was a form issue and I was unconsciously favoring my left leg, but haven’t been able to correct–any thoughts?
    thank you so much!

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi
      Have you tried any of the suggestions above? Gait analysis is a great place to start if you haven’t had this done. Also check your trainers for wear. Try lots of stretching and foam rolling of the calves and see if this helps. If not, it may be time to visit a professional for an assessment.

      Reply
  14. victor

    I have a similar problem but it doesnt feel like tightness.. I just feel like after running for two or three days straight, my claves give up on me halfway through a 3 mile run.
    Its frustrating because my body feels good even my calves, but as soon as 10 min. pass the problems begins… stopping makes my legs shake, like my calves are just giving up, no cramps or tightness.

    am I missing vitamins?
    I am little overwheight but not a lot.

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      The most likely cause is that your calves aren’t strong enough and are fatigued. Try calf strengthening exercises such as single leg calf raises.

      Reply
  15. Bob Sledde

    Thank you! This seems like sound advice.

    I’ve been trying to alter my gait and feel I’ve missed the mark. I think I’ll seek out a couple videos on it and see if it helps.

    Reply
  16. Jesus Pinto

    So I went from running 10 miles last week, and I think I did too much too fast. The prior week I had only gotten up to 7 miles. Anyways, so now my right calf is tight, but I only feel it when I get up from sitting down too long. If I’m on my feet, the tightness goes away, and when I ran, it feels tight at the beginning but then it goes away after a minute or so. So my question is Should I keep running or should I wait for the tightness to go away?? Please advice

    Thank you

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      What day did you run 10 miles? And did you notice anything at the time of running? To me it sounds like DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) which comes on after workout which are heavier (or in this case longer) than you are used to. It usually starts 24-48 hours after the exercise and may last 3/4 days. Just keep stretching and moving – it will subside with a bit of time. Don’t run again until they are feeling better!

      Reply
      1. Jesus Pinto

        Heidi Thanks for your reply….as you recommended, I stop running for 3 days and the tightness gradually disappeared. four days after that, I ran 10 miles again, with no tightness at all. It’s been two days since then…and still feeling great!!!!
        Thank you very much

        Reply
  17. Tempe

    Hi, I’m 16 and an active equestrian, riding 2-3 horses a day everyday since I could learn how to walk. About 2 or 3 weeks ago i started jogging pretty much daily since i noticed i had to lose some weight. I started developing calf muscle pains a few days into running even though I had started off slow. I gradually added more time into my workout and currently I only jog a mile or two at a moderate pace and walk the other 1-2 miles everyday. I give my body a break on sundays. The pains started off more in my left leg and I could feel them occasionally through some days of the week, but never when I walk/ride, only when I jog. Sorry this is a lengthy post! Any suggestions??

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi Tempe,
      Thanks for your message.
      I think you probably overdid it by running every day when only just starting out. Running is really tough on your calf muscles if they aren’t used to it.
      I think you should have a week off running and work on really stretching your calf muscles. Get yourself a foam roller too and use this every other day to loosen off your muscles. It’s also worth starting to strengthen your calves with calf raise exercise every day once pain free.
      When you go back to running, make sure you have a days rest inbetween runs – to let your calves recover and stretch them out thoroughly after a run too.
      Another thought – do you have good running shoes? Normal gym or fashion trainers may not offer you enough support.
      Good luck!

      Reply
  18. Bill V

    Hi. i have been running for many years and over the past few months i have developed very sore calf muscles while i run. Not only do my calves tighten and hurt about 500 meters in to my run but the arches of my feet also ache and hurt. This condition is extremely uncomfortable. It lasts for about 2 miles and then starts to ease off. I have no discomfort when not running. The pain is becoming so uncomfortable i can hardly run. I just got new running shoes a few months ago. I also started exercising on an eliptical machine a few months ago. My lower back and hips are very tight as well. Thoughts?
    bv

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Sorry for the delay in replying to you.
      Certainly the lack of hip flexibility could be playing a part in your problem so I would suggest working on this. If the timing of getting your new running shoes coincided with when the problems started then also consider if they could be part of the cause.

      Reply
  19. Paige Westbrook

    My doctor recommended a golf ball muscle roller which i use before and after i run, wow what a difference!! Everyone runner needs one,night and day difference!

    Reply
  20. abhishek

    hi
    I am suffering my leg pain between knee to ankle please give me suggestion quickly because my physical coming sooon and this is my career opportunities…so please give me a right suggestion

    Reply
  21. Ankur

    Hi, I have started running since two months. I experience calf tightness and although they don’t hurt, but I feel a kind of tingling restlessness in both my calves. This worsens at night and I need to keep moving my legs for relief. This goes away temporarily only after a massage.

    Reply
    1. KJ

      Hi. I am brand new to running. I am 3 weeks into training for a 5km run. I had terrible shin splints the first week. They have resolved. 1 week ado I developed a terrible muscle pain in my left calf only. Within 2-3 days it gets better but returns when I run. What can I so?

      Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      That’s a difficult question to answer, a bit like the how long is a piece of string question! It depends what you are trying to acclimatise to what level you are currently at, amongst other things.

      Reply
    2. Sean brennan

      I have a question if I may ask. I’m a fairly active person & was very active in sports from 9 years previous (hoping muscle memory is still there lol). I’m trying to get back into it. Whenever I run my calfs are always tight & I stretch them after every mile normally I only do 5miles (be it infrequently I’m still very much a newbie to running again & training is every so often) my pace is slow & steady. But it’s not my whole calfs that are tight. It’s my tendons I think. From almost my heel to halfway up my calf. It’s SO tight & makes me want to stop as it’s uncomfortable. What are your thoughts ?

      Reply
      1. Heidi Dawson Post author

        Usually tension in the lower half of the calf is actually coming from a tight Soleus muscle. Focus on trying to stretch this muscle rather than the Gastrocnemius which most people stretch more often. To do this, just perform a normal calf stretch but with the knee slightly bent.

        Reply
  22. Jason Turnbull

    Hi I’ve got a achilies injury and tried running,I now have pain in my other calf now when running..could this be due to over compensating for my achilies injury?

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Yes it could be. Rest, stretch and perform the strengthening exercises here before returning to running. Also make sure you follow a gradual return plan and have had a gait analysis and new running shoes if necesary

      Reply
  23. Lori Price

    I have been running for 5 years. I should say jogging… I typically do a run/walk/run with a 4:1 ratio. I have done 5 half marathons and I am training for my 6th which is in October.
    I have an issue with my right calf muscle. In every race my right calf will tighten up so bad on me that I have to finish the race running on my toes on the right side. It will typically tighten up anywhere between mile 9 and 10. Sometimes it is so tight I don’t know if I will finish.
    It has started tightening up on my longer training runs as well. Today I ran 9 and it tightened up on me just as I was about to finish.
    I work in corporate America and do wear high heels most days during the week.
    I came home and rolled it today but it hurts a lot when I roll it, especially towards the inside of the calf. Any suggestions on what I can do so this won’t happen on race day and I can enjoy my race?

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Well it seems to me that if you can complete 7/8 miles without any problems and this only comes on towards the end of longer runs than it could be an endurance issue. Possibly in your calf muscles themselves – or maybe from the hip area (glutes inparticular). I would focus on strengthening for both of these areas, alongside working on calf flexibility with stretching and rolling.

      Reply
  24. Ralph

    Cured!

    Here’s my story…

    I went through calf injuries on and off (more on than off) for 6 years until slowly I couldn’t run more than 3kms, and then only slowly and never 2 days in a row.

    I’m a 47 year old male runner (best marathon 2h52 back in the day..!) and it was heartbreaking to battle this for years – but I refused to give up.

    For 6 years I tried everything: physiotherapy, foam roller, “the stick”, rest, ice, shoes, orthotics, ART, shock
    therapy, Pilates, vascular tests for compartment syndrome etc. Everthing. I had MRIs of both calves – they never showed any scar tissue.

    It started with Achilles problems and maybe at the time I had been over-doing it. That developed into chronic calf tears in both legs.

    Except finally, after 6 years, I found out that it never was.

    I finally mentioned to my sports physician that my back was always stiff – never sore – just stiff. He sent me for an MRI and found a slipped disc L5/S1. My calf pain had been neural referred pain all along.

    A single epidural cortisone injection resolved the problem literally overnight and 9 months later I’m still 100% injury free and back to my best.

    Reply
  25. Sab

    Hi,
    I took up Long distance running since from the onset of 2013. Since then I have ran several half marathons.
    Lately I have acute stiffness in my legs and lower back muscles. I do a lot of advance stretching almost on a daily basis. I am not sure if this is due to Electrolyte imbalance. I try and take balanced diet with protein supplements.
    I also felt in the past that I may be over training and tried to give a gap of two to three weeks in my training but that hasn’t helped much.

    Should I check if there is any mineral or vitamin deficiency? Or do you suggest that I should visit a sports specialist?

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi. The fact that the stiffness also affects your back makes me think there could be an issue at that point which is radiating down the legs. I would get an assessment to determine if there are any muscle imbalances or spinal issues which could cause this. If you really eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water then it shouldn’t be any form of deficiency.

      Reply
  26. Jacqueline Essex

    Hi I am on week 7 of the NHS Couch to 5k programme. I recently had my gait assessed and subsequently purchased the recommended footwear for my runs. I have now started getting extremely painful calves when I run. From start to finish. I push through the pain but am worried I will give up if I can’t resolve this. Could I have been assessed incorrectly or been given the wrong running shoe? I was really starting to enjoy running before this. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi. It is possible that the shoes actually aren’t ideal for you, but to be honest I suspect this isn’t the main issue. Did your calves hurt at all before you got new shoes? How far were you running before and then since getting your new shoes?
      Pain in the calf muscles in new runners is pretty common and if you hadn’t had a gait analysis and got good running shoes I would recommend that. But other factors can play a bit part. Strength and flexibility in the calf muscles is one of those things, but also muscle imbalances around the hip.

      Reply
      1. Jacqueline Essex

        Thanks Heidi. I did a run in my old trainers yesterday with no problems! I am going to take the new trainers back as they promise an exchange within 30 days even if worn outside which is good! :-)

        Reply
  27. Eddie Barajas

    Hi, I injured my right calf severely about a year and a half ago. My calf muscle swelled up three times in size and I had severe bruising up and down my entire leg. In the past few months that I started running again my right calf hurts and feels tights. Eventually during the run my left leg starts to hurt and I have to cut my run after a mile or so. What can I do to stop this pain.

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      It sounded like a bad calf strain before, which if not treated sufficiently can cause ongoing problems. I would imagine you have some substantial scar tissue in the muscle, as well as weakness, if not rehabbed thoroughly. I would advise you to make an appointment with an appropriate therapist.

      Reply
  28. Jessica

    For the past few weeks I’ve had a weird pain in my left calf. Not sure if this other pain is actually linked in any way but I first had a pain in my left arch, continued running and it went away. Later that day a pain in my left calf developed. I rested my leg for a day, it felt fine so I went on another run. A tightness in my left calf emerged then turned into a sharp shooting pain. I slowed down but kept running and it went away. But when I was done running and just walking around there was a pretty bad pain, stairs would cause a sharp pain. It will feel better, I’ll go on another run and the pain comes back. I haven’t gone running for a few days. IT’S DRIVING ME CRAZY! I’m planning on going on a short run tomorrow (3mi) I’m just scared the pain will come back.

    Reply
  29. Andreea

    I have been a runner for about 4 years and I have run quite a few marathons. My last marathon was in June this year and since then I felt the need to cut back from running for a while. I’ve been also swimming for a year now and I’ve been more focused on improving my technique there and taking part in some amateur swimming competitions as well.
    I was doing some occasional 10k runs every now and then but not too often (1-2 per month). Of course, I was slower than I used to be but I was feeling ok, no particular pain or soreness. Last week I wanted to go for some runs again but I started to have calf pains and tightness. At first it was only on my right leg but now the pain is on both legs. On my first run last week, the pain appeared after the first 3-4 km but now it starts in the first 500m. The calves become so tight, almost blocked and today I needed to stop. In my previous 3 runs I had since last week, the tightness was there but I could run with it. Today I couldn’t. If I walk, I still feel some tightness but it’s ok. The problem persists for 3-4 days. The first morning after the run, I can barely put my feet on the ground and walk. At least for the first steps, it’s a bit difficult, I am limping, it feels painful and very tight. Then it subsides a little and becomes bearable. After swimming I feel even better. In 3-4 days I can run again but the pain starts to show again very quickly.

    I don’t know what this is. I have never had pain in my calves in my 4 years of running. After marathons I usually had some soreness, but it was ok. Never had pain/tightness while training. As running injuries, I had ITBS in my 2nd year of running (I went crazy and was over training) but with rest and physiotherapy I got better and never had the problem again. I really don’t know what this is and it’s driving me crazy! Maybe with all the breaks, my muscles got weaker? But still, could it be so bad?

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      It could be a case of deconditioning as you cut down your running so much, and then tried to do a few longer runs – although not as far as you have done, 10k straight after a rest period is quite a lot. I would recommend getting the calves back in the best condition you can with a combination of massage, stretching, foam rolling and then strengthening and then start at the beginning again in terms of distance and slowly build. If this doesn’t help – see a professional.

      Reply
  30. Daren walters

    Hi,

    I did the 10 mile great South run about 4 weeks ago and ever since I can only run 3/5 mins before both my calfs get really tight and pain full, tonight I tried it with compression socks and no better. I have an iron man in 9 months so need to run train so am interested in your help and advice

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Did you notice anything whilst running the race and have you suffered with any calf problems before? It’s hard to advise you without being able to perform a full assessment. All the advice I can really give is already on this page. If rest and stretching don’t do the trick, you may need an assessment from a therapist who specialises in running injuries.

      Reply
  31. Bec

    Hi,
    I’m not a runner but I have started around the past two months. I started basic soccer drills in cleats however about a month ago I got cross trainers, which are used for strengthening ankles and I’ve been running mostly 5km occasionally 8 and 10. Run and walk moderations are used. At first I felt tightness around my soleus then when I went out the second day, directly after, it got so bad that I had to stop after 1km. It’s gotten to a stage where without 3 days break between I can’t run even 100m.

    I don’t feel tired whatsoever. My body is fine however I feel a burning pain in my calfs and they start shaking uncontrollably. Once I was around a mile away from my home and I couldn’t walk back because my feet wouldn’t support my weight

    I stretch adequately however some specific calf strengthening exercises agrivate it further. If I don’t ice as soon as I return home then my calfs will continue hurting for around a week. I will be able to feel each individual vein while I walk for the next 7 days. It’s the same in both legs. Technique may be a problem however I studied against others and mine isn’t too much of a problem

    If you could recommend any stretches or changes that I could do it would be very much appreciated. As a new runner I need all the help I can get :)

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      If you haven’t already – go for a gait analysis and make sure you have the right footwear. This is the most important factor for a new runner and the most common one to cause injury if not done. Secondly, make sure you warm-up your calf muscles thoroughly. Dynamic stretches are the best form of warm-up for the calves.

      Reply
  32. paige

    Hello im wondering if any one got any advice into what I shud to iv been doing some 1hr long work outs to lose weight for a couple of days n now mu carfs both are soo sore like to stage were I really struggle to walk but find if I walk for around 20 mints in pain they dont seem to hurt as much Thank u
    Hope some one can givr me some advice

    Reply
  33. Rajat jain

    Hi,
    i started going for morning walk to put off some extra weight from just 15 days & i realized that my legs go stiff while running. i am not able to complete even a single round of park.

    i am confused about whether to continue my walk or should i go for other alternative to reduce weight

    Reply
  34. Dave Shook

    “It is important however, to still allow the heel to touch the ground, just after the mid-foot.” How is this possible?

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi. Sorry for the delay in responding. I do agree that it is not worded very well – I will amend it. I think the point I was trying to make was that you shouldn’t be trying to run on the toes/forefoot as this puts a greater amount of strain on the Achilles and calf muscles. But yes, it isn’t possible to put the mid-foot down and then the heel. Sorry!

      Reply
  35. lizzy

    I have pain/tightness on one calf. It aches when I’m sitting/standing. But when Im running it fades away but as soon as I rest it starts aching again. I run XC/track. My achilles and foot aches on the same leg.

    Reply
  36. PamelA

    I started the couch to 5k in January but after five runs had to stop due to tight ankles and calves. I’ve been resting till now but my calves are still tight and don’t yet feel rested enough to run. I’m desperate to run to shift some weight, plus I started to enjoy it and was much better than I ever thought I would be. Do you have any advice for me please? Shall I still run and push through, or am I causing damage?

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi
      Sorry for the slow response rate!
      My advice is to follow what it days on this page regarding checking your running shoes (get a gait analysis if you haven’t already and make sure they aren’t old and worn out), do loads of stretching, invest in a foam roller and a few massages to improve the condition of the calf muscles. Once you feel ready to try running again, think about the way you run to see if this has an impact on your calves. In my experience, both heavy heel strikers and forefoot runners are prone to calf problems.

      Reply
  37. Joseph

    Hi. I have had recurrent problems with my calves over the years. 4 years ago I completed an ironman but generally and during the training suffered from incredibly painful calves.

    I am now training for a half ironman and the pain has returned. I have built up to 17.7km slowly over 4 months and been pretty pain free, but just recently it has begun to start. The tight calves tends to happen if I run the day after cycling or if I try to do three runs in a week. Once it starts, all I can do is reduce my training load as it builds and builds.

    Am I best to rest for a while or to push through. Is the onset of this sort of pain usual so far into a ttraining plan

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi Joseph,
      It sounds to me like fatigue if it happens most after you have run more or cycled the day before a run. Maybe focus on a strengthening program for the calves. Calf raises and heel drops – both straight and bent knee versions.
      I wouldn’t rest completely, but maybe alter your training plans to avoid running more than twice a week and allow a days rest between (either a rest day or swimming).
      Lots of calf stretching, foam rolling and some massage will also help. Good luck!

      Reply
  38. Georgina

    Hi,
    I’m a university student and I’ve decided to get fit by starting to run, in the first week I’ve done 5 runs, but I’m only covering about 1-1.5 miles in distance with walking breaks.
    I’ve also been running in tone up shoes as these are the only par of trainers I have at the moment and I can’t afford to buy a proper pair of running shoes (hopefully will in a few weeks)
    The last 2 runs I’ve been getting severe cramps in my calves while running and severe tightness after, Is this because of my shoes? And if so, what are your recommendations for a good pair of running shoes, I’m flat footed if this makes a difference,
    Thanks a lot!
    Georgina

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      It could well be because of your shoes. I don’t personally recommend those toning trainers – especially for running. I would stop until you can afford to buy a good pair of runners!

      Reply
  39. Lauren Perkins

    Okay so my right leg was sore when I was running the other day. It felt like it was pulling apart and on Fire. That was three days ago now I point my toes and my whole calf and top of ankle hurts really bad. Please help me

    Reply
  40. zelda

    Hi…. I experience tight calf musles as soon as I have run for about 100 meters…. Will this get better as soon as I am fitter…. I am a new runner, afe 55….

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      It may well improve as you get fitter as fatigue can be a reason for calf tension and the more you run, the stronger they become and the less easily they fatigue. However, that the tightness comes on so soon is reason for concern. Have you tried doing lots of stretching? and maybe some massage or foam rolling? Also – are you wearing good running shoes?

      Reply
  41. Cameron Fern

    Hi, I’ve recently had a problem with my lower leg. Originally it was my left leg which hurt and was more a shin splint/muscular problem from what the physio believed to be over pronating when running. I sorted this by sorting firstly changing my running style and sorting a slight twist on my right pelvis through specific stretches/exercise. I also improved my glutes and hamstrings along with this! As a result I seemed to solve the problem above, however now I seem to have a new problem. Where I get a massive build up of pressure/pump in my calves (all over in both) when doing short sprints/hill sprints or going fast on hill surfaces over longer runs. It becomes very difficult for me to run eventually due to the lack of movement and response from my lower legs. I wear good running shoes, use a foam and stretch after exercise frequently. Do you believe the changes to solve the first problem are now making my calves work properly and there not used to it? But any thoughts would be great thanks. Oh and finally I’ve been building reasonably (running terms- no great distances) and have never had this previously till sorting the first problem!

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      It does sounds like your calves are overworking. When you changed your running style – how did you change it? If you’re running more on the forefoot with less heel strike this make answer your question.

      Reply
  42. Cameron Fern

    Also I forgot to mention the pump/pressure build tends to last quite a while and goes after 30 minutes, along with some stretching and the use of the foam roller, to which I have to continue to do throughout the day/next day as my calves tighten up quickly after otherwise!

    Reply
  43. MB

    Hello there!

    I’ve started changing my lifestyle and love the feeling of a good run. The only reservation is that my calves get so tight and sore after running – I warm up and stretch before each run. I have had a history of tendonitis problems in the past and am a bit top heavy – what do you suggest to over come these hurdles? I tried foam rolling and can’t quite get it to work for me. Any advice would be helpful!

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi MB. Have you tried all the advice on this page? Not just foam rolling, but stretching, massage, strengthening etc? If not I really recommend it. Gait analysis too if you haven’t had that to make sure your running shoes are right for you.

      Reply
  44. Karyn Lee

    Hi,

    I have just started the couch to 5K, after years and years of being inactive and being overweight. I have had numerous ankle injuries and I am constantly watching where I walk to make sure I don’t go over on my ankle.

    Anyway I have decided to do this program with my sister, however the pain in my calves and ankle ligaments even when doing the 5 min warm up is unbearable. I don’t want to give up because I need to do this for my health and because we have entered the 5k Race of Life in July.

    I don’t wear heels because of my ankle and when I jog I wear ankle supports but nothing seems to help, if anything the pain is coming on quicker and lasting longer, I tried the ‘run through it’ approach but I had to stop because the pain was unreal.

    I’m really struggling and I would like to help if possible.

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi Karyn. The run through it approach is definitely not the way to go! I think you need to see a sports injury therapist to get this looked at as it is unlikely to go away on it’s own. I would imagine you need some soft tissue work and an exercise rehab program. The problem is more than likely stemming from your previous ankle injuries.

      Reply
  45. jay

    I’ve been having tight calves every time I exercise. It actually tightens so much I can’t wear my skinny jeans after a workout. It lasts for a couple of days after a workout and returns to a soft flabby mess. My joints are weak so I was recommended cycling rather than running, so I’ve been doing 30-40 min of cycling and the tightness is just so uncomfortable it demotivates me from exercising. Do you think it’s due to lack of flexibility. I’d really appreciate help. Thanks!!

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi. There is most likely something else to it if you are having problems even when cycling. Lots of stretching and maybe foam rolling may help to an extent so it is worth trying that first. But it is probably worth a visit to a sports injury therapist for an assessment. Good luck!

      Reply
  46. Dawn

    My calves get very tight when I run – especially my left calf. It’s like the blood is not flowing to the muscles. I have to stop almost every half mile to stretch. My left foot starts to go numb about 2 miles into my run. I am 46 and have been running for about 15 years. I have noticed the tight calves over the last 2-3 years. In the past 2-3 years, I have spent many more hours sitting at my desk working. When I do get up, I feel like I am retaining water from the knee down and there seems to be poor circulation and tightness. Could there be a correlation to my sitting more and my tight calves when I run? I’ve also received massages on my calves & the therapist will note an area in my left calf & ask if I’ve had an injury – but I have no recollection of an injury. I would appreciate your feedback. Thanks!

    Reply
  47. Mark Reid

    Hi
    Have been a regular runner for the last few years, ran a marathon last year and have done 10km run in April.
    This year I changed to doing more gym work than road running but did include 3-4km on a treadmill.
    I have recently decided to go back to running and am having problems with my right calf on 3-4 miles. I get a sharp almost cramp like pain which reduces me to a walk.
    I then literally can do nothing for a few days as its painful but eases….leave it for a few days try again and same problem.
    I have used foam rollers, changed warm ups, cool downs but still getting the sharp pain and its beginning to get me down!
    I can walk fine, I can use a cross trainer with no pain…the minute I run the twinges start and on about 3 miles bang goes again.
    HELP!!

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi Mark
      If it is a sudden sharp pain then it sounds like a small calf tear which will take longer to heal than a few days and potentially some treatment too.

      Reply
  48. Lee

    I have recently had a left knee reconstruction for a snapped ACL. My left glute/guad/hamstring have shrunk as a result and I am working in the gym a lot doing squats, lunges, leg press etc.
    I have been running three times a week between 3-5km depending on how my knee feels.
    Since I have recently started going to the gym I have noticed a gradual building of tightness in the opposite calf (right) and have had to stop my last couple of runs short due to pain and concern of a muscle spasm. I suppose it has to do with muscle inbalance, gait, etc but any advice would be appreciated. I know I have the correct footwear and I suppose I could stretch more. I was thinking of taking magnesium/bananas and poweraid which used to stop calf cramps when practicing jiu-jitsu. I just want my knee to be like it was and get back to 100% fitness, running with no pain etc
    Thanks Lee

    Reply
  49. Jarrad

    Hi,

    I am a referee in rugby league
    I have had 3 years off and have just returned 4 weeks ago.
    I had to give up my centre referee spot last Sunday as both calves were so sore/tight.
    I have been drinking plenty of water the last 3 weeks and have cut fatty and sugar foods out of my diet.
    Last night I went down the oval and done some basic running and straight away I felt it again, this stopped me from being able to sprint at my fast pace.
    I did notice its my lower calves then goes down towards my Achilles.
    Could you please advise what this could be and if there is a quick fix as I have an important game this weekend

    Thanks :)

    Reply
  50. Cindy

    My calves and even feet are sore but only after resting. It also goes away after a minute or so of walking. Any advice?

    Reply
  51. Don

    I have recently had surgery to remove vericose veins from my right calf. Even before this, I was experiencing extremely tight calf muscles (main the right one) for years. I can do all exercises with no problem, except running. My calfs keep on getting tight, and in the worst cases if I don’t stop it will go into spasm and then I’ll be out of exercise for weeks. I have had MRI’s done, seen a sports therapist, tried all sorts of stretching and resistance training, but still I have the same problem I had before my surgery. I need to get this sorted so I can get back into running properly. Do you have any advice?

    Reply
    1. Heidi Dawson Post author

      Hi
      If you suffer from tight calves when running then obviously your calves are overworking when you run. Their job is to propel you forwards when you push off. However they are not the only muscles which should be helping you move forwards! The most likely reason for your calves overworking is a weakness or inhibition in the glutes, or perhaps an issue with your running pattern which means you can’t use your glutes sufficiently.

      Reply
  52. Merrik

    Hi there, I have been running now for about 10 weeks, gradually increasing the distance, and have recently had a calf problem where my calf tightens up after a couple kms but not severe enough to stop running. At a recent event the same thing happened, however after about 8 kms my right calf tightened up to the point where I could not continue running. A person that was running behind me noticed that I flick my right leg out a bit when I run and suggested that I had a weak ankle tendon and that it would be wise to strap my ankle to avoid further injury. If this is the problem would strapping the ankle help or is there something else I could do to avoid this injury?

    Reply
  53. Mark

    I recently strained or pulled my right calves. I rested it for several weeks. But now everytime I run, especially play basketball, it tightens up real bad. What’s wrong with it?

    Reply
  54. Elizabeth

    Hi,
    I ran for the first time ever yesterday, but I used to dance so I understand the concept of warm up and cooling down correctly. I even made sure to look up proper running form and the proper ways to warm up and cool down. I took it really slow and ran a 15:00 mile with run and walk alternating. My calves were pretty sore after I finished, and this morning I can barely walk! Did I strain them or are they just tight?

    Reply
  55. Axel Bundy

    Hello I’ve been running 2 miles a day and this is my second day I’m 15 and a bigger guy and I’ve been experiencing cramps in only my right lower calve and was wondering why anything helps thanks guys.

    Reply
  56. tigerBREW

    Hi, I am an avid runner and have been running for a number of years. I recently started to experience pain in my left calf (only) mid-run. The pain can last for a day or two depending on the length and frequency of this week’s runs. Some days are better then others. I am in the midst of training for a half marathon now. I am certain the pain is due to imbalance/weakness in my right hip flexor.

    My question is – what is my best approach to reducing/eliminating the pain? Should I focus on stretching/massaging the calf? Focus on the hip strengthening/stretching??

    I would like to finish out this training cycle and be able to run the half pain free…but right now it is not looking so good :(

    Thanks in advance!!

    Reply
  57. Daniel m

    Hi I have been run twice a week(Monday to Thursday) not that far around 3mile each time
    But i am getting really bad pain in my lower legs the back normal(calfs) to the point I Carnt walk and the stairs is impossible!
    I have just got new trainers because some one said it could of been that

    And ideas

    Reply
  58. Jamie

    Hi

    I start out running say on Sunday and do about 5 miles, then on Monday I laboured through 3 miles. The run was painful from almost after the first mile.
    By the time I’m done I’m practically limping
    My symptoms are
    I feel gripping ” jolts of shooting pain along the side of my calf and will continue for the next 3 or 4 days after I’ve stopped running.
    My legs will also ache.
    I’m at a loss as to what it is
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated

    Reply
  59. Michael Mc fadden

    I get a sharp pain in my calf when I seem to go at a faster pace like a stabbing pain. Anyone experience this and have a remedy

    Reply
  60. Alex

    I have been going to the gym for a while at least every other day , using this calf machine and track began since last week and recently my calfs are killing me. I’m a sprinter and when sprinting I am tiring out quicker and being a lot slower than usual. Also I take adderall for ADD which makes me eat less but I drink a lot of water.. Can I still run? Or what can I do to make it better? Ice, heat pads ?

    Reply
  61. Sergio Garcia

    I have never felt this my calves felt like they were swollen when running and I stretch before and after how can I fix this.

    Reply

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