Calf concerns

Hi thereimage

I feel awful writing something which is probably a really common thread on here but I'm desperate for some advice with regard to calf injuries/tears etc and I hope you can excuse my long (most probably boring) situation as it stands.

I’ve been a regular runner now for about 4/5 years, as well as doing regular classes at the gym such as Body Step, Body Combat, Body Attack however, as the years have gone by, I’ve upped my mileage running and cut down on cardio classes because of problems with IT band, ankles, calves, knees..which seem to always get worse from impact in classes.

Since January of this year I had been running 6 miles 5 days a week, plus two Body Attack classes a week.  I loved the routine I had, however was really suffering with my calves in Body Attack, always having to stretch them out in between tracks. I carried on running fine (although my calves were always quite tight) but suffered mostly with the pain in Attack.  I would also get awful cramps and spasms during the night, whereby if I stretched out and pointed my toes, my calf muscle would spasm so much so, it was extremely painful and felt like my muscle was going to explode out my calf ! -I always stretched thoroughly before and after a run too, especially my calves because of the spasms. (I had never worn calf compressors at this time).

Then, the Friday before the Jubilee weekend, I did a 12 mile run (which I had never done before), My calves were a little tight but nothing unusual.  I then had a very busy weekend being a bridesmaid and such like, and when I returned to work on the Wednesday after that weekend, I hadn’t done any exercise, nor stretches since the 12 mile run.  I did run however, that morning, and also the Thursday morning, both 6 miles each morning.  I noticed on that Thursday after my run how bad my calves felt and Thursday night I attended my usual Body Attack class.  Half way through the second track I felt my calves getting tighter which was concerning me as it happened all of a sudden, and when it came to what is called the Agility Track, they really knotted up, I took one step and my left calf popped.  I couldn’t put any weight on it, and I know people reading this who has torn their calf muscle, will be familiar of the pain ! - I went straight to A&E and they confirmed I had torn my calf muscle.  Not having ever done this before, I really thought I would be up and running within a week.  The thought of no exercise (I was told about 8 weeks off) scared the hell out of me.  I HATE SWIMMING ! The trouble for me was, I work about 2 ½ miles away from home and I don’t drive.  I therefore run to work (we have a shower handy enough) every morning.  So if I couldn’t walk/run to work, I was going to have to cycle. So I cycled everywhere for the next 2 ½ months whilst my calf repaired.  I also changed up my routine and did classes such as Body Pump and Kettlecise. This was great but I hated not being able to run. 

About 4 weeks ago now, I slowly introduced running again (wearing calf compressors).  I started with about 1 ½ miles about twice a week and went from there.  I found that I was suffering mainly with my other calf (the right one) and not the one which had been torn.  It was quite tight and sore more so than the injured one.   I also went back and did Body Attack but on the third class, I felt it was useless. I had so much pain in my right calf and had this sick feeling in my stomach that that calf was about to pop too. As I didn’t want to chance my other calf tearing, I made the decision of giving up Body Attack altogether.  This was and has always been my favourite class at the gym


  • oops its so long it cut me off :


    I am so annoyed that I have to stop because my legs cant take it. 

    So, Last week I did my first 6 mile run since the tear (plus 4 miles the other 4 days).  My calves were fine, but again quite tight in my right calf.   Today is the worse day I have had since going back running.  I did 6 miles again this morning (after having the weekend off ) and struggled immensely. They were both really tight, really sore and felt as though again, the right one was about to pop.  I was so scared and kept stopping to stretch it out.  I feel like whenever I rest for more than 2 days, my calves just get so ceased up and when I run again they cant take the pressure.

    I’m so worried as I feel like I’m just waiting for the right calf to tear now and I cant bear having to spend another 2 months or so out of running.  I really don’t know where I’m going wrong.  I stretch before and after, throughout the day (I do wear heels when at work but this feels actually easier than if in flats), I have a million and one pair of Nike trainers ( all ID Running ones and all the best I’ve ever run in), I wear calf compressors on both calves. So why do I feel like I will never comfortably run again??  I also find it weird that my right calf feels like its going to go, when that calf has had the rest along with the injured one – so what’s its bloody problem ???

    ARGH I’m so frustrated.  As if giving up my classes isn’t enough! I feel like, what’s the bloody point!

    Also, this may sounds realllllllllllly stupid, but I don’t really know about muscles and all that but I am very petite ( 4ft 11ins) and my calf muscles are really quite big and noticeable.  It almost feels like I cant build any more calf muscle and like my tendons cant take any more muscle build.  Almost like I cant keep working them out because the tendons will burst because the muscle is already big enough for my leg!  IS THAT REALLY STUPID???.  I know you are probably laughing at that, but its how feels.  It throbs and pulses through the day as well, like its going to pop out my leg !!! (but the injured one doesn’t!)

    Another thing is, I sometimes feel as though the compressors are maybe doing me harm than good, like they are pulling my muscles tighter and I would feel a lot free-er without them.  But again, is that just stupid?

    I’m so sorry I’ve babbled on.  I’m just desperate for advice.

    Thank you for reading and I appreciate any advice you can give.!


  • I have had problems with both my calves: it turns out that I am getting tight calf muscles as my glutes are weak. The physio initially diagnosed a calf tear- which I'm afraid took 8 weeks of NO running to heal. I now use the "GRID" foam roller(look it up on u tube...) regularly on my calves. It can be q painful on tight muscles;but is good. I also have the "STICK" which is used to massage the muscles. My physio then gave me exercises to strengthen my glute and hip muscles. I too wear calf guards AFTER my runs(as I'm a bit self conscious wearing them whilst running!!). The calf guards I initially bought were xs......I found these too tight(there were friction marks),so I bought the small.......much better. The GRID and the STICK are both expensive. I had the STICK a long time ago;but have just bought the GRID. Sports massage by a professional is also a good option. If you see a physio- they should be able to assess if you have a muscle weakness which may be causing your calf problems. I've not answered all your questions....;but I hope this helpsimage

  • Hi Tan

     One thing about injuries is that you need complete recovery, not just until the pain subsides, otherwise you will continue to breakdown and the injury in time may develop into a weak point. If your left calf 'goes' and after a while you feel better you may run and train subconsciously favouring the left calf thereby straining the right calf and maybe just maybe you pull/tear the right calf! If your calf muscles are as developed as you say why are you compressing them - no wonder they are exploding for goodness sakes!

    I guess that since you go to gym and do classes and own a million trainers you may have some money to throw at your problem! My first suggestion is that you and your body may be stressed out. You need some REST and I mean perhaps taking a few weeks away from all your training - what is it all for? Have you got a goal in mind? Perhaps go for a walk each evening maybe a mile from home and turn back.

    I would suggest some MASSAGE but not a deep tissue sports massage. Just get a Swedish and some aromatherapy. Ask the masseuse to give some extra attention to your calf, hamstrings and quad areas. Maybe get two massages a week just for 2/3 weeks until you are much more relaxed then maybe once a week for a short while. Thereafter maybe once or twice a month but they can be addictive.

    After 4/5 weeks have yourself fixed up with a Coach/Personal Trainer - don't be too proud of your sporting prowess/experience - ask for lessons in the correct way to STRETCH and maintain FLEXIBILITY with special emphasis on your leg muscles. The reason for 4/5 weeks is to ensure any injuries are well repaired. If you do experience any ache after that time you may indeed need deep tissue massage as it is likely to be scar tissue needing broken down.

    If you have strong. flexible calfs you do not need calf guards. Guards worn routinely will leave your calf muscles weak and dependant on the support of the guards. The reason high heels make your calf feel O.K. is because the calf is being kept short and not being allowed to stretch.

    Ease yourself gradually back into your routine and remember it need not necessarily be as punishing as it has been unless you have a clear vision where it is all leading. If you simply want to feel and look good then it is about enjoying yourself.  Look after your body with care and it will look after you but the opposite is also true.

    Best of luck

  • Hi there !

    Thank you so much for your replies.  I really enjoyed reading them.  First of all Bambi, thanks for the recommendation about the foam roller.  I really really should try this actually as somebody else mentioned that but I had totally forgotton about it.  If you find it helpful im going to give it a go.  I also like the idea of putting a compression sleeve on AFTER my run.  As we speak, my right calf is pulsating and twitching and I feel as though a compression sleeve at this stage could be helpful.  I did have physio when I tore my left calf and they werent overly helpful.  Just said the norm with the exercises to do and to ease the running in gently when I feel the time is right ! (which I thought I did)

    My next step, as Martenkay has mentioned, is to get a sports massage. I couldnt afford to have it regular though (despite you thinking I have money to chuck away, not at all, I dont have kids, I dont drive, and I live at home, Im paying a large debt off but my spare money goes on my passion - running gear!).

    Im intreagued about your comment of wearing compression sleeves and am now minded to only wear one sleeve on the torn calf and let the other get some air, as you could be right in that fact that its probably just suffocating it more than anything.  Thank you for that advice. x

    I didnt run on my torn calf for 2 1/2 months so I would have thought it would have repaird by then, and I also think that yes, Im over compensating maybe and using my left calf hence why it now feels really tight. I just needed to hear that from somebody who understood. It feels like a viscious circle !

    I agree, I love running, (even with the pain) and it shouldnt be a chore or anything.  I think that is why Im so upset because its one form of exercise i genuinely enjoy doing, just to maintain fitness, wellbeing and shape.  I dont have a goal, I dont compete, I just challenge myself.  I find the best person to challenge, is ME, setting myself little goals.  I love the focus of running and making myself run that little further, that little faster, up that steep hill etc etc.  When nobdoy is around just me, my music and my thoughts.  

    The reason I run first thing before work is so Im done for the day as well, as I work full time and I have a small dog whom I love, and so dedicate my evenings to (for long walks) and actually cycle every day home and back to take her out.  I would hate having to use my evenings up every day at the gym (like I had been whilst in recovery). It killed me.  Its nice to have my exercise time in the morning, then my chore of work during the day, and then dediction to my pet after work. I think thats a healthy balance.

    I really apprecate all your comments and would love to hear any more advice you have.  I may run tomorrow without the sleeve on the tense calf then and see how that goes?  and make sure I book in for that sports massage also.

    I MUST GET A ROLLER ! - also do you recommend maybe ice or heat on it after a run ? or even any supplements.

    I did try Maxitone shakes for a while in the hope it would help repair muscles, I felt they bloated me out and sat on my tummy ! - but what is your opion on this maybe helping my recovery ?



  • MuttleyMuttley ✭✭✭

    Here's an excellent calf stretch. Stand on the stairs, steady yourself with a hand on the bannister if needed, making sure you're standing on the step by the toes and as much of the front part of the foot as necessary with your heels hanging off the edge. Let your heels drop, and hold for 10 seconds or so. Repeat. You'll feel the calves stretching out and lengthening.

    This was given to me by a physio years back. I stop and do it nearly every time I go up the stairs. The physio told me it's a safe stretch that can be done as often as you want.

  • Tanya, not sure if this helps but I have been having calf problems and have had to stop running for 5 weeks (I do my first marathon in four and a half weeks!), my problem is achilles tendons but (other than pain and stiffness in the morning) the affected area is my calf muscles.  I have been to an osteopath/sports injury clinic and this now looks to be sorting me out; would suggest the consultation at a good sports injury/osteopath (get a recommendation if you can) as they are likely to be able to pin point the source of any problems - once you have that you can start to find a long term solution. It has taken me the best part of 12 years to get round to finding one for me!!! Good luck  

  • Hi Tan

    Foam rollers, compression sleeves, stretching all have a part to play if you know how to use them otherwise they may do no good or worse cause injury or make injury worse. Again I advise a coach/personal trainer or possibly a physio to ensure good practice at the outset.

    R.I.C.E. rest, ice compression and elevation are the basics.

    I tried to encourage you to rest in my post. Both calf muscles may be swollen from what you write about your training and injuries. If your right calf was "pulsating and twitching" today all is not well. I don't think your idea to run tomorrow is a good one.

    Ice will help reduce any swelling noticeable or suspected. No more than 10 minutes and leave an hour or two before repeating. Break this rule and you risk burning your skin. The ice whether a bag of frozen peas or other should not be direct on the skin but maybe wrapped in a dish towel. You can get an ice pack in Boots.

    Compression may help after icing. However if you can stand on your leg(s) don't keep the sleeve on for prolonged periods. Don't try to sleep wearing them.

    Elevation after any icing and/or compression. Typically your legs should be at least waist level if not at heart level. Not a position that your boss would appreciate in a busy office! However anything under your desk to keep your feet off the ground might help.

    The above obviously is best done at home.

    Say you have done all the above and your legs have had a good nights rest - is it really a good idea to rise and pound them six miles on the pavements first thing in the morning - No- you will undo all your efforts. Have breakfast and go for 20-30 minute walk instead. Cycling is excellent for calf muscles as no impact and helps strength and flexibility.

    If you can, wear flat (or low heeled) shoes as often as possible when walking or at work. This will provide your calf muscles with natural physiotherapy on a day to day basis. If you can walk without the calf sleeve(s) so much the better - again natural physiotherapy.

    I think a sports massage is best done when you know you are not injured. A good masseuse should refuse if you are suffering injury. You will find such a massage uncomfortable and may feel achy for 24 or 48 hours afterwards. This is why I suggested Swedish/aromatherapy.

    We all understand why you enjoy running and why you are impatient to get well again.

    Good luck


  • Hi Tanya, It is so nice to finally read that someone else suffers like me, but sorry for you.  I have been having this 'problem' for about 4 years now.  I tore both calf muscels, took the required time off from running, did physio every week for over 6 months, kept up the physio designed exercises for another 6 months and then slowly got back into running, on my physios advice.  All was good for 3 weeks and then BAM.  I now feel that one of my calves is going to 'pop' if I keep running.  It seems every time I get back into a running routine my calves have other ideas (I rest then get back into running and 3 weeks later.....).  I stop running immediately and walk, but am SOOOOOOOO frustrated because it seems I will never be able to run properly again (for more than 3 weeks at a time).  I too bought compression guards, but only use them if my calves feel 'twitchy'.  I only wear flat shoes now.  Actually I can now only wear flat shoes.  If I put heels on, my calves go into a spasm and feel like they are going to pop.  I suggest you wear heels only when very necessary- your calves will thank you.

    I really wish I could 'fix' my calves, as over 4 years of feeling like they are going to pop and not running as I like is leaving me in tears.  Not to mentiont the weight gain.  I can no longer really flex/ stretch out my calves because if I do they spasm and cramp.    

    My calves have always been well developed, and on my physios advice I learnt how to use my glut muscels more to power my running.  Each time I run I 'engage' my glut muscle and try not to use my calves.  This really has helped, but not to the point where I can keep running on a weekly basis.

    Is there any other advice out there?  Any other forms of therapy? Has anyone tried Bowen Therapy for this?  I have also begun to take magnesium supplements. 

  • Tanya: I'd an injury about 8 years ago that needed surgery.

    The consultant and physio told me: Simply stand and slowly move feet up until  you are on your tip toes. Then slowly return to normal foot plant with both feet on the ground. It's a simply calf raise.

    Gradually build up. It worked for me and I do these calf raises daily.

    I know it sounds simple. Almost too simple, but it has worked for me.

    Hope this helps.

  • 'Since January of this year I had been running 6 miles 5 days a week'

    'So, Last week I did my first 6 mile run since the tear (plus 4 miles the other 4 days).  My calves were fine, but again quite tight in my right calf.   Today is the worse day I have had since going back running.  I did 6 miles again this morning '

    Quite simply .. too much, too soon (twice)
    I would advise less volume and less sessions, lost of stretching and physio led exercises or you will be back on the same road regularly

  • Hi tanya, As nice as RW forumites are, your best bet for advice is going and getting yourself seen by a qualified sports physio straight away. Do not let your previous experience put you off - the body is a complex machine and there is no substitute for proper diagnosis, correct rest and rehab regime (strength exercises, massage etc).

    Ring your local running club, speak to gym buddies, check affiliated websites but pick a physio based on recommendation and get a proper diagnosis rather than hearsay from a running forum. Oh, and once given advice, be patient and you'll soon be back on your feet, literally.
  • I have had issues with both calves. Both have been tight and eventually went 'ping'! Recovery in both cases was frustratingly slow. The injury seemed like it was better, i would try and do something and pop, it was away again. Going to get physio helped a bit. They did some deep tissue massage, a bit of ultrasound and that brought some improvements as did RICE, ibuprofen all the usual stuff but the key was really rest. Long rest. It took a couple of months to get back and that also involved strengthening exercises like heel raises and a new rigorous stretching routine.

  • Just my 2 pennies worth in amongst so much good advice.  I had terrible calf problems around 15 years ago and frustrating as it was a decent rest that helped most.  I now find it very productive to do other exercises that have less of an impact on my calfs such as road cycling or using an elliptical trainer.  I think this has helped develop my quads and glutes, which in their turn take some of the stress out of my calfs when I'm running.  It's already been said but you've got to lose the heels!

  • Hi there

    Thanks for all your responses which I have been going through again and again.  This is just another cry for help really.  Now I am now 7 months after my injury on my left calf.

    Basically Im still suffering really really badly with my right calf.  I almost feel like I have torn it but not as bad as I did the left one (I havent felt a pop).  My calfs dont spasum anymore either but my right calf twitches all day long.  The thing is I feel I have tried everything now and nothing has helped.  I was wondering if there is any supplement I could take which helps with muscle repair.  Im not very good when it comes to supplements etc and probably the only thing that lets me down as a regular runner.

    My routine now is 7 mile run, 5 days a week and that's it.  Before my run in the mornings (I leave at 6.30 and up at 5.30 ) I have time to stretch 30 seconds on my calfs, achiles, hamstrings, quads etc, I drink just under a ltr of water before I run and I smother my calfs in deep heat ! - I sometimes wear calf supports, compression socks, and sometimes I dont. 

    It feels like my hamstring is tight and I wonder if that has anything to do with it, a knock on affect?

    I'm in the process of waiting for an appointment with a sports therapist for a massage.

    Other than that I feel I have done everything that was advised and I feel like its just a waiting game now and waiting for it to tear completely.

    Funnily enough the one I did originally tear is not casuing me any trouble at all and it almost did my leg a favour by tearing !

    I guess what Im asking is for any supplement advice that may help this issue ?! (I drink 4 ltrs of water a day !) and eat well.

    thanks for your time x



  • Tanya,

    Cant help much other than to say most of these things are sorted by rest.  I started this post prior to running my first marathon as I had repeat calf rpoblems and was only 10 weeks from marathon start.  I went to see an osteopath on one of the recommends. They were great, identified the problem (it was actually an achilles problem) which may have been caused by a range of things.  I was given some very specific exercises and total rest for 5 weeks.  I then was allowed 3 runs over three weeks and it got me fit enough to get round the marathon.  I continue to follow her advice and have no problems since.  The great bit was she did a proper skeletal check and the whole mechanics for me.

    Hope that might help


  • Thanks for this.

    ARGH difficult cos I have rested it, on a number of occasions, and I find its even worse after the rest! Its like all the exercises, stretches, massages in the world wont help ease it.  I have to admit, I do wonder if its directly related to my calf or if it stems from achilles or hamstrings as both are sore and tight.

    I will keep investigating!

    Sounds really silly but I the past 3 mornings ive used my nike sweat band and wrapped it around the ankle area three times - it has really helped ! like it has supported it.  I get that its stupid but I feel like I need more support somewhow.  

    I may need some more supportive road trainers.

    my search continues.....

  • Hi everybody i have just joined and very interested in reading all the comments .I too have calf problems I have been doing the 5 k park runs after about 1k both my calfs start hurting on outside .it hurts for a couple of days then goes back to normal .I have no swelling .Tried all the usual but no success .If i rest it should i still continue to do stretches .I am 68 wheather this has any bearing on the problems any suggestions Thanks

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