Painful Calves - Chi Running

Painful Calves

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Wed Jan 9th, 2008, 14 comments

calf-painIf you have painful calves, here are some things to watch for:

  • Have someone videotape you to see if you can spot any form discrepancies. Compare what you see to images on the ChiRunning DVD. A good camera shot of your running will reveal tons of great information.
  • Check to see if your shoes are too stiff. They should be very flexible in the forefoot. If they’re not, it will cause you to engage your calf muscles needlessly.
  • Check to see if you are holding any tension in your ankles when you run. Go to your nearest track (or beach if you live near one) and run in the sand (long jump pit). Look to see if your toes make a small dish as you run over the sand. If there’s a divot at the toe of your footprint, it means that you’re either still pushing off with your toes, or you’re holding tension in your ankles.  Run across the sand until you can leave absolutely clean, undisturbed footprints with both feet.You can see this exercise in the DVD.
  • Check to see if your stride is too long. If it is, it will make you use more of your calf muscles as your foot leaves the ground.
  • Look at the bottoms of your shoes to see the wear patterns. If your shoes are worn at the toe, you’re pushing off. If they’re worn at the heal, you’re heel striking, which means that your stride is too long and that you’re reaching with your forward leg.
  • Practice relaxing your calves at all times. Not just when you run, but whenever you’re walking around.


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  • chirunning,
  • running form,
  • calves

14 CommentsLeave a comment below

Danny, good reminders. After working on relaxing my calves for many months, it looks as if the real problem has been shortened calf and hamstring muscles. I’ve been stretching them four times a day at the doctor’s suggestion, and tonight I ran more comfortably. Time will tell.

I’ve been struggling with sore calves for a little while myself.  I think my next step is to try a more neutral shoe to see if that helps and also continue to work on the items that Danny mentioned.  Brenda, is there any chance you could share the exercises and stretching regime you used.  Historically I have had tight calfs and hamstrings,  your post got my attention.

I have suffered from calf pain/tears for a while, especially in cold weather.  I have had success with warming them in the shower before a run, and covering them with neoprene sleeves during the run.  This keeps them warm, and lenthened during running.  I stretch them many times a day, but NEVER before a run.  Any stretch that puts the foot in upward flexion is good, but downward-facing dog is the most effective for me.  Also, avoid running hard up a hill until your injury is completely healed.

I have always had tight calves until I started pilates (mixed w/some yoga).  I agree that downward facing dog is the best stretch!! I also bend one leg toward my chest then extend it back while in downward dog (great strecth!!).  I started to incorporate pilates principles into running…and then I came across Chi Running which sounds perfect for me!!  Thanks for the tips Danny, I really can’t wait to read the book!

ok, i don’t know where to start.  I know ‘what’ i need to change but am having a really really difficult time putting everything together.  I seems really hard to just focus on one thing because to be effective with that one thing i need to also correct other things as well.  i have both heel and toe wear, which i believe is due to (years of) too long a stride along with toe push off (which i would need due to the too long stride).  I also have very stiff shoes (Saucony Grid Stabil - i only weigh about 115 but become injured with anything less supportive).  I am thinking about first finding a shoe that has a more flexible toebox but am not sure where to start since i have very flexible arches/feet and overpronate severely - any recommendations for a type of shoe (or brand/style) that would be a step down from my current so that i can start working into better form without injuring myself?  (Sorry, long post.)  I feel like my body has fallen apart over the past 5 years or so - no core, no place to start, EVERYTHING needs work!

i had 3 calf muscle tears in the space of 1 year! but since i started chiRunning I’ve had no problems. i think it is important to concentrate on lifting your heels off the the ground and not think about landing. If you follow Danny’s advise and keep your lower legs and feet and ankles relaxed you should not feel any calf pain. i think if you still feel pain then maybe you are still pushing off and not realizing it1 try danny’s sand running test [ as shown in the book and dvd] , run across the sand, if you are making holes or craters then you are still pushing off, practice until you can make full clean imprints on the sand, practice and calf pain will be a thing of the past! HOPE THIS HELPS

I have been running for 3 yrs, all of the sudden I am having trouble with my back thigh muscle, like there is a cramp, it gets very tight and then hurts to were I have to stop running. I can walk briskly with out trouble, I feel it but it is not painful. Any suggestions?

Who says that running is just putting one foot in front of the other.  The number of focuses seem to be increasing all of the time.  Not complaining; just an observation.

I took the 4 week class in April and May and in the first class learned enough to totally rationalize the cost. My calf pain is gone, my sciatica/piriformis muscle issues are gone, I enjoy running for the first time in years and my legs are relaxed. If you can find a class, I highly recommend it.

Is Chi Running agreeable for runners with flat feet?

Jorge De La Sierra Feb 6th, 2010 03:51pm

Thanks for the tips.  I have to say that I thought my calf issues were resolved months ago. (back to running after a 20 year break).  I aspire to run marathons and ultras and have been preparing accordingly.  Then, all of a sudden, two days before the 2010 Diamond Lake marathon (Hemmet, CA), my left calf went crampy again; like at the onset of my training five months ago.  I tried to run the race but I was only good for 5 miles!  The only shoe issue I would have is that I train with three different types; road/pavement shoes, trail shoes and light Keen hiking boots which I really like.  Accordingly, I train in three different settings; depending on what type of event is next.  Does age play a part in this.  No one mentions age as a factor in muscle pain and/or recovery.  I am 48 y/o.  Thanks for your input.

San Diego

As far as your question about whether or not age plays a roll in muscle pain, I’d have to say that as you age your body has produces lower amounts of testosterone which is one of the ingredients in maintaining muscle mass. Many older men add in some amount of weight training to their regular exercise in order to maintain muscles mass. That being said, I’d still have to say that if your muscles are sore for any reason, you’re overusing them or misusing them somehow. You job is to watch yourself carefully and figure out what it is that is making your muscles sore and then try to make the correction.

best wishes,

I solved my sore calves problem by making sure that my first foot contact was under or behind my column. I visualize foot contact as the back of the mid soul or front of the heal. I make sure that the knee doesn’t get too far In Front of my body. I visualize the foot contact under or behind my column and let the foot go down and back, not just straight down. This also helps the backward heel rise. It also ensures a forward lean. It worked for me. No more sore calves.

Chelsea smith Jun 9th, 2014 10:13pm

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!

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