calf muscle soreness while landing on balls of the feet

I've recently switched from heel striking to landing on the balls of my foot, which puts more stress on my calf muscles.  I've been running with this new foot mechanic for a few months now, but I still get some intense soreness in my calf muscles when I upped the distance.  I wanted to know if there are other runners out there that have made such a  switch, and how are your calf muscle handling the stress? Please help and thank you.


  • Main issue is usually overstriding, ideally want foot to land near to under you centre of gravity, I know cos I did it for ages image

    Other things that can cause it are carrying tension in lower legs &  pushing off.

    Want your cadence about 180 steps per minute  or higher. 

    Recommend get some POSE or Chi running coaching to help transition to forefoot, the immediate expert feedback will save a lot of pain in the long run

    Good luck

  • try to stop using them - relax your ankles when your foot lands and make sure you're picking your feet up with your hamstrings rather than pushing off as banjobx said. one of the hardest adjustments for me is not actively cushioning the landing by tensing my feet.

    I'm just going through the same process as you, I've taken it incredibly slowly - might you be trying to progress too quickly? make your increases small ones for a while so your body can keep up with what is a fairly serious change.
  • wow thanks guys! I'll definitely take all your suggestions into consideration and tried to adjust my running technique. One question for Banjobax, why do I want to increase my cadence to 180 spm or higher? wouldnt that put more stress on the calf muscle? Thanks.
  • Are we designed to run on our midfoot?

    Maybe, but you've spent the vast majority of your life heel striking. Your poor calfs (or are they cows!) are now expected to works in a very different range with a very different load quota.....

    Make sure you pyramid train - not just switch to 100% MFR a la Loci


  • 180 is where muscular elasticity comes in, you get to take advantage of the natural springiness of your legs.  Lower cadence requires more time in the air, usually achived by pushing off harder and absording more energy on landing with each step ie more stress on calves and everything else.

    A point I forgot to mention is let your heel come down if it feels natural, a common mistake is to hold the heel up artificially which creates an unwanted tension in the calves.  Dont force a heel drop either! let it happen naturally IF it wants to. 

    A lot of this is down to getting the right alignment and is difficult as its incedible how far out from reality your perception of what youre doing can be, thats why I recommended getting some coaching .

  • Yes, I have successfully made this transition. Here is how and why:

    When I started running I was a heel striker and I suffed from shin soreness all the time. I assumed the solution was to get a decent pair of trainers so I went and got my gait analysed, was established as an over-pronator, and sold suitable shoes. While they did help my shins, they did not rid me of the problem entirely.

    About three and a half months ago, after much research, consideration and evaluation of my running technique I determined that the shin soreness was most likely caused by heel striking and overstriding. I made a deliberate effort to shorten my stride and to also adopt a mid/forefoot strike. For a few weeks I mainly did some very very slow runs in order that I could concentrate properly applying these - and other - techniques. The shin soreness pretty much disappeared altogether, but now, like you, I found that my calves were always stiff and sore after a run.I made an effort to stretch properly after a run, and also to stretch once or twice on non-running days. I also (grudgingly) rested a little longer between runs. My calves still get a little stiff, but do not really get excessively sore anymore (unless it's been a particularly hard session, but then it is to be expected)

    What is interesting is that I went and had my gait analysed again a couple of weeks ago, and I now have a neutral gait, and so I bought some neutral shoes. Since running in these, the ankle soreness I had has also disappeared. I assume this was caused by running in shoes that were no longer suitable for my gait. 

    So, to summarise: a) you will get used to it in time b) stretch, rest and don't overdo it c) it's worth getting running shoes suitable to your new running style

  • hw - I think it is pretty clear that we were "designed" to run midfoot. the simplest test is to take your shoes off (they weren't taken into consideration in the "design" process) and try running on your heels.

    I don't think you should mix heel and midfoot, you're trying to create new neural paths to make your new style natural, mixing in your old style won't help. that said, it was easier for me as I was starting from scratch.
  • awesome suggestions and recommendations, and stories...all the replies contain very useful information. thanks lots!  Would anyone know if numbness in the feet is related to tight calf muscles?  I tried losening up the laces but the numbness does not seem to go away completely.  Is this numbness part of the adaptation phase?
  • How things have changed - and that's not the advent of the waffle sole!

    When we came out of the sea and onto 2 feet (that's evolution in 10 words!) we first walked with bent knee's that didn't need much ankle movement, so we walked on the balls of our feet. As we evolved and adapted to stand taller and use or knees and ankles to propel us forward faster, we developed plantar fascias that via the windlass mechanism help preserve 80% odd of the energy to ping us along.

    Heel strike engages the clutch as such - energy in, energy minus a bit out. We've worn shoes for donkeys years that maintain, evolve and keep (and destroy) plantar fascia. Everybody walks using heel strike, not mid foot. Most people run with heel strike a few don't. Most peolpe don't run in Dunlop Green Flash!

    I'm not saying MFR is wrong I'm just commenting that what's good for the gander is not necessarily good for the geese.

    Donny C - try to find the cause, don't just try to change the symptoms



  • hw - are you suggesting we've now evolved to run on our heels because we've been wearing shoes for generations? apart from the fact that it doesn't work like that - chop the tails off 50 generations of mice, the 51st will still be born with tails - you should watch kids run: young kids run midfoot, at some point we learn to run on our heels.
  • I think running to a schedule might be to blame. i.e a training manual says run 20 mins at 65% - 70% HR so what do we do - we slow down.

    How and why do we slow down? We lean back and brake with our heels!

    I have just realised that I have spent eight weeks holding back on my basic speed because my half marathon training plan told me that I should.

    A couple of weeks ago I ran 10 miles in training on a flat towpath and now realise that I focused on holding back because I did not want my HRM to go over 80%. When I turned round and just ran back to base without really bothering about the pace I found I was almost three minutes quicker on the return.

    I wonder if the Kenyans and Ethiopians consult their Garmins every couple of minutes?

    Finally, last w/e in the Basingstoke Park Run I ran 22m 04 secs - where did I lose the 4 secs? In adjusting the HRM that had slipped down my chest! DOH!

    Next week I am going to just "return to nature" and run for the hell of it as I did at school many years ago. My lungs and legs will tell me all I need to know...

    Off to Luxembourg Route du Vin at the w/e - been challenged by my son to run the half marathon along the banks of the Moselle between the vineyards. His 5th race at this distance - my first! BTW he is 32 years of age and I am 62...

    Can't wait..!

  • hi mike, that sounds like a great race. good luck with it. do they hand out wine at the water stations?
  • Ha Loki you are closer than you think!

    They hand out a bottle of Cremant (local variant of bubbly white wine) when you pick up your number and timing chip.

    I have four members of my family entered so we will have quite a party afterwards...image

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