Why Do My Calf Muscles Get Tight When I Run?

Many people tend to have one common challenge when they run; experiencing calf tightness. The main reason for this is because calf muscles are made up of two main muscles, that together create all the power you need to point your toe downwards and move forward as you run.

Experiencing a tight calf is a common ailment with runners, both new to running and long-time runners. However, while some runners have the experience of knowing when something is wrong with their calf, the pain may feel like it came out of nowhere for newbies. I hope this article has helped you understand why calf tightness happens when you run.


Why Do My Calf Muscles Get Tight When I Run?

We will now take a look at the main reasons your calf muscles get tight when running. 

Overloading The Calf

Overloading the calf is the biggest reason runners go to the clinic for calf tightness treatment. Many people run too much, and doing this with barely any recovery can make the calf tightness accumulate.

As earlier discussed, the calf region is surrounded by two major muscles, the gastrocnemius, and soleus, that are involved in the movement of the leg to run. For instance, if one of the muscle groups is overloaded, it will affect the other.

Some of the causes of overloading the calf happens when you introduce new activities and increase training intensity and weekly mileage. Another factor that can cause an overload to your calf muscles is the introduction of different drills to your standard running.

Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome (CECS)

If you have ever experienced CECS, you will know that it is a condition you need to take seriously. CECS involves the swelling of 1 of the four muscle compartments in the lower leg.

The muscles in the lower legs are enclosed by a soft tissue that keeps them in four separate compartments. With CECS, the fascia is not as flexible as your muscles, so there is only a limited space in the compartment. Therefore, if you have significant swelling in this area, it can quickly stop you in your tracks.

Runners have a higher risk of developing Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome. You should seek help immediately if you think you have CECS due to limited blood flow in and out of the compartment. Your body may not be able to supply oxygen to your tissues.

Wrong Footwear

If you wear inappropriate footwear, it can cause calf tightness when running. For instance, if you wear footwear with elevated heels, your calves will constantly be in a shortened position, even when you take the shoes off.

I’m not just talking about high-heel shoes for women, but even men’s and flats shoes sometimes have slightly elevated heels. Furthermore, if you move too quickly from the standard shoe trainer to a flatter shoe, your calf muscles may also be overworked.

Before you shop for the best running shoes for calf pain, you need to ensure that they are the right choice for your feet. It must fit perfectly, and you should also consider footwear with cushioning features.

Running Form

Running form has also been known to affect muscle tightness. The strategy you apply when running will affect your calf muscle in the long run. Specific running techniques tend to stress some tissues more.

For instance, when you put your calf muscles in a position where you make them work too hard to move you forward, they tighten up, get sore and tired.

Also, if forefoot initial contact style is one of the most likely running methods that overload the calf muscles, especially if the heel doesn’t reach the ground after it makes contact. With about three times your body weight resting on the limb while running, a massive extending or weird force passes through the tissues when the forefoot reaches the ground before other parts of the foot. 

Ankle, Foot Structure

Runners with a more flexible ankle or foot type that produce an inward breakdown of the inner foot arch or heel bone could put more demand on your calf. These people are usually regarded as flat-footed.

While the trivial phony muscles are mainly producing force for the backward or forward sagittal plane, there are extra forces that this outer calf and deeper calf must endure in the frontal or side-to-side plane. Also, you should consider that the deeper calf muscles are also infamous for being part of the cause of calf tightness.


Next Article:

We’ll now take a look at whether bad running shoes can cause calf pain or not. In most cases you will find that they do, but often people don’t realise that it could also be down to a weakness or injury somewhere else that causes an in balance whilst one runs.

Written by Mark

Having researched and advised on hundreds of footwear products, I'm confident you'll find my articles insightful to the most common questions that's currently being asked online.

December 5, 2021

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