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How can I prevent this calf pain when running?

Hi I'm following the C25K and sometimes (not always) when I run, I feel a build up of pressure in the bottom of my calves just above my ankles which feels like there's no release unless I walk or stop and it hurts. I was running last summer and didn't suffer from this at all but this year it was really bad when I restarted the c25k and now it's occasional but still there. I stretch before I go out and I always stretch by standing on the bottom stair with my heels hanging over the edge of the stair and pushing down. How can I stop this pain from occurring? Thanks, Sherbet


Our expert says...

Hi Sherbet,

As we increase our running in progress of a running goal (i.e.C25K) the muscles in the lower legs, calves especially, can accumulate repetitive stress tension and this can result in a feeling of pressure and/or pain. It sounds like your calves are giving you some warning signs that they need some attention so first thing to do is to get a sports massage on them to reset muscle length and restore tissue flexibility. You may find this is all that is needed and you will be able to resume your C25K as planned.

A comment on the current calf stretch you are doing…….try to avoid where your ankle is simply hanging off a step as research is now suggesting that the muscle doesn’t truly relax in this position due to the risk of injury if we slipped so the ‘stretch’ pull we feel can be a muscle contraction as opposed to a relaxed muscle stretch. Instead place the ball of your foot on a smaller step, like a yellow pages, where your ankle is in contact with the floor, then simply push your hips forward to feel the stretch.

Once you have restored muscle flexibility consider the following to prevent any potential reoccurrences (these may or may not apply to you):

- Don't try to progress to fast, give your body time to adapt - The 10% rule. Ensure that your weekly distance/speed does not increase by more than 10% compared to the preceding week. Going too far too fast will soon bring on tiredness, soreness, injury and a premature end to all your good intentions. If you have had to shelve your training for a while, perhaps due to illness, injury or vacation, make sure that you start back at a much lower level and build up again. With the C25K don’t be afraid to repeat weeks till you feel ready to move on.

- The hard-easy rule. Ensure that every hard workout is alternated by either a day of rest, an alternative form of exercise or by a slower, less intense, easy walk. This allows your muscles to recover and recuperate from the previous day's hard training. A hard workout means anything that involves you walking faster, harder or longer than what is normal for you.

- A stretching regime. As with any endurance activity, walking doesn't do much for your muscles' ability to stretch. Therefore, stretching exercises are vital to remaining injury-free. If you don't stretch those muscles on a regular basis (ideally daily, but at the least after each walk!), they'll tighten up and will lead to injury.

- Correct footwear. Buy the best walking shoes that you can afford. You need to look for good heel cushioning, a flexible forefoot, lots of room in the toe-box so that toes can spread during the powerful push-off, and a stable and supportive heel. The top-end walking shoes should have flattish soles to better skim the ground and to accommodate the increased ankle flexion during heel-strike.

- Look into ‘foam rolling’ – the latest amazing device used by exercisers and runners especially for maintaining flexibility and preventing injury. Go to ‘The future is foam rolling’ article in the resources page of the website and seen why and how to use one!

I hope this helps,


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