Calf injuries and you
Calf injuries during race season
There are few things more frustrating than spending months training for a race, only for an injury to prevent you from being able to run it. Calf and lower leg injuries are responsible for a good number of these ‘DNS’ (Did Not Start) type injuries, but many of them are preventable.
Your calf muscles and lower legs are like barometers for how well you are handling your training load. Pain and muscle tightness are often signs of overuse and may signal an oncoming injury. The biggest cause of running injuries are errors in your training approach. At this point of the season errors may be due to not allowing sufficient recovery time between hard sessions, and failing to heed warnings that you are pushing too hard.
Optimal performance comes from finding a balance between a decent volume of training, while allowing enough time to recover. Your recovery can be aided through ice baths, and manual therapies such as massage, dry needling and foam rolling. When these things no longer relieve symptoms, a more serious injury may be presenting.
Common calf injuries include muscle tears, tibia stress injuries and Achilles tendinitis. Muscle tears can arise purely from bad luck (though over exertion is usually a factor), but as with the other two injuries, they may be a result of overuse and/or bad biomechanics. If you’ve trained for much of the year, you would likely have worn through at least one pair of running shoes by. Having a relatively new (but worn in) pair for your goal race is a sensible idea. Dramatically changing the type of shoe however, isn’t.
The heel pitch (height of the heel compared to the forefoot) can affect how much strain is placed on your calf and Achilles tendon. The average running shoe has a heel drop of about 10mm (meaning the heel sits 10mm higher than your forefoot). If you were to suddenly start running in a shoe with much lower heel drop – which a lot of racing shoes do – you may find yourself with a painful calf and/or Achilles.
Wearing a shoe that has too much, or too little pronation support can also be an issue. Pronation support is a feature in shoes that may help to reduce strain on parts of your foot and leg – assuming you need it. Wearing a shoe with an unnecessary amount of pronation support and stiffness can result in excessive force on your leg, Achilles tendon and calf muscle.
In cases where correct footwear prescription alone isn’t sufficient to remedy an injury, it may be necessary to consider a foot orthotic. A podiatrist can design a shoe insert to improve your foot biomechanics which may help lessen the impact on your leg and calf.
If you are having issues with your calf (or want to avoid them) contact the intraining Running Injury Clinic for an appointment. Our team of podiatrists are able to prescribe the ideal training or racing shoe for you (and custom made orthotics if necessary). Additionally, physiotherapy can be useful for pre-event massage and dry needling to get you running at your best.
Good luck with your winter running season!