barefoot calf warm-ups

hi all, new to the forum and running, so please be gentle image


i'm in my early 40's and just started running. it was never something i enjoyed in school, but have recently taken it up as part of a general training & fitness regime and have changed my opinion completely! i mainly do 'mill running in the gym for very short distances - max 1.5 miles


i'm using barefoot daps (originally bought for gym work) and quickly learnt that heel striking does my knees no favours. tried running on the balls of the feet (is that forefoot or midfoot?), with the heel of the foot barely touching the ground, and found that it was much more comfortable, with virtually no stress on the knees. i started 6 weeks ago by slowly jogging 1/2km at about 7km/h and have 'built-up' to 1.5 miles at 8-12 km/h.

my warm-up consists of calf stretching followed by forefoot walking for about 5mins (1/2km), gradually increasing the pace. my 'run' then kicks off by setting the speed to 7km/h, working through to 12 or 13 km/h and slowing back to 10km/h for the final 40% or so. after the desired distance, i'll gradually slow the pace to a slow walk over 3 or 4 mins, then go through the stretch out described a bit later in this post.


my problem is that i occassionaly get a stabbing pain in the middle of the calf at a random time during the run, at which point i stop immediately and go into a lengthy stretching routine. this then means a week or so off, by which time there is no pain at all in the calf. based on this i'm assuming that the calf muscles (i've done the left once and the right twice) aren't pulled or ripped. if anything, it feels like an acute cramp hit.

i don't get this problem every time i run. it's happened 3 times in the last 15 or so runs. distance doesn't matter. it occurs anywhere within 500m and 2000m of starting the run.


if it's any use, this is the excercise diary for the last 2 injuries:

sat 6th oct - outdoor run. stretch in house. walk on balls of feet for 5 mins. gentle jog. left calf goes after 1/2mile

sun - rest

mon - static bike to excercise muscle. feels lots better after ride

tue - walk on mill for 1/2mile. no problems

weds - 1/2 mile jog on mill. no problems

thurs - ask one of the trainers to look at running style. do 1.5 miles on mill. foot fall was deemed to be ok, needed to lengthen stride slightly. longer stride felt a bit more comfortable. no problems

fri - rest

sat 13th - 1.5mile run on mill, right calf goes @ 1.25 miles.


now, whenever i've done any kind of training (weights, cardio etc) i've rarely, if ever, done a cool down or stretch out, which  has no doubt added to the problem. since starting the running, i'll usually finish with 5 mins of calf stretching and a few minutes calf massage on a powerplate.


am i asking too much as a new runner?

is there anything i can do to stop getting these calf hits while forefoot running?

is my 'warm-up' insufficient and if so, what should i be doing?





  • Hi, I have been using barefoot shoes for about a year now, and while i am no expert i can say that you probably shouldnt be stretching before the run, all advise for stretching usually points to stretch after not before.
    try calf raises for a warm up.
    make sure your strides are not too long and that your pace is quick enough, your foot should not be on the floor too long (don't have a 'sticky' foot) or that will place extra strain on the calf muscle (think springy foot not sticky foot, sorry hard to explain)
    Do extra stretching and massaging of the calves afterwards, slow steady stretching, not bouncing.
    Also if the pain is more like a cramp, you may find it could be an ITB problem, i had similar cramping and also shooting pains in one of my calves a while ago and someone suggested a foam roller treatment of the ITB, which seemed to do the trick.

  • thanks. had a very gentle jog last night, with extensive warm up and cool down. was aware of the calves, but nothing bad happened. they feel good today though and the one that pinged on saturday is no longer tender to touch and feels normal. i think it's going to be a case of slowly slowly catchy monkey, but reminding myself of this is going to be the trickimage

    i'm certain that the problem is caused because it's a part of the calf that i've not really excercised before. when it does go, walking is painful -- uncomfortable for about 4 or 5 days, but riding a bike is painless after only 2 days. i'll have a chat with the trainers at the gym tonight to see what excercise, other than running, i can do to strenghten that part of the calf. i suspect it's going to be based around calf contractions as per heel raises.


  • ITB is Iliotibial band which runs down the side of your outer thigh. it attaches just below the knee and can affect the nerves running down the leg.

    try a foam roller on both thighs and calves. And try ice and massage on the calves, and if they keep hurting rest them for a week or so.

    why 'calf contractions'? body weight calf raises are one of the simplest ways to strengthen calves. I am sure your trainers would agree.

    dont stretch on cold muscles, only on warm ones, after your run.
    make sure your barefoot running technique is correct, if not this will be putting extra strain on calves. With the correct techique you should have been able to build up to your current distance in less than 6 weeks so i wonder if you are doing something wrong. have a look on you tube for barefoot running videos.

    Also some of your calf muscles attach under the foot, and because barefoot running works the foot muscles more this may all be connected and causing calf pain. you could also try foot strengthening exercises, foot stretching and foot massage.
    Please note i am just offering options here, but dont underestimate the effect of trigger point and referred pain. For example, I was getting inner knee pain at one point, and nothing i did would sort it out, but having researched further, i found out that it could be caused by a combination of tight calf muscles, tight IT band, weak gluteus medius, and weak inner quads. having treated all that, my knee pain went!

    I'd recommend running more outside too as its different from treadmill running and more fun!

  • You may want to look at calf stretching as well as strengthening. Self-massage can be useful - in the evening on the day you run, and the following morning. Use hand lotion or baby oil (Boots' own doesn't smell too bad) and long strokes all the way up the calves.

    Don't try to stop your heel touching the ground. Yes, land on your midfoot but then your heel touches briefly.

    You want a short stride, landing with your foot under your body, not in front, and a fast cadence - about 180 strides per minute (90 each foot) or a bit higher.

  • if you previously naturally run heel strike then changing to forefoot/barefoot should be done with caution. yes it will take pressure off the knee, yes it will probably make you faster BUT it will also place more strain on your calf and significantly increase the risk of calf injury (been there, done that, got the T-shirt!)

    you need to do calf strengthening (both calf muscles). lots of it EVERY day

    you need to REALLY properly warm up with dynamic stretching, i even got to the point of hainv a sports massage every couple of weeks as that often highlighted pain that would soon turn into a minor injury. and of course it helped recovery.

    look at Mizuno Be as well (or at least the principles behind them)

    look to do at least 20 hours of slow zone 2 running stuff to strengthen your calf before going faster.

    if you are running on your toes (forefoot) rather than mid-foot (essentially flat footed) then you will be placing MUCH more pressure on your don't do it! run mid foot. or if you insist on running on your toes then the correct technique is to immediately put your heel down after your toes make contact (i tried but couldn't live with doing it so i now run mid foot and got a PB two weekends ago!)

    cycling: you should be able to ride a bike with a quite bad calf tear. you shouldn't be using your calfs for cycling. put your heel down when you push down. make sure your seat is not too high.


    Running 5k Better
    Goals: 82% Age Graded 5k and an open water Triathlon. 

  • stop the stretching before the run as your muscles will be like wood

    get off the treadmill, stop over complicating things and get out there and find some nice routes to run

    stretch after the run, you dont need to warm up just take it slow for the first few mins until you warm up.

  • thanks all!!


    i was only using the mill as something different to do in the gym as i felt my cardio was improving and it was an experiment to see if i still hated it as much as i did nearly 30 years ago in school.....

    the only run i've done outdoors resulted in left calf trouble less than 1/2 mile in, but i suspect/hope it was because i wasn't properly warmed up as prior to that, i was comfortably doing short (about a mile) runs without problems.

    i did modify the foot fall a bit last night so that my heel is lightly touching the floor very soon after the front of the foot lands. too soon to know the results as it was a very slow jog just to test the calf. i'll try midfoot after the weekend, when the calf has had 9 days of rest.

    i think what i need is some effective strengthening excercises that target the parts of the calf that fore/mid foot striking uses. certainly what max's mum suggests makes sense, so i'll be concentrating on lots of heel raises throughout the day, not just before a run.


    thanks once again.

  • u dont want to be using forefoot unless your sprinting

    midfoot for distance running


  • bit of an update on the above.....


    i've been working with one of the coaches at my gym (a very experienced runner) and he set me a great pre-run warm up routine that amongst other things involves some cool dynamic stretching of the calves. since doing that, i've kept the distances to less than 4k's and had no problems. all of this had been on the treadmill. the intention being to gradually increase the distance each week, with shorter (1-2 mile) runs on the in-between days. but still, i'd not made the transition to outside......


    we tried a gentle tarmac run across cardiff barrage yesterday - my first time outside since 6th oct - for a minuscule 3 miles. i was mainly forefoot running, with the heel of the foot barely touching the floor and everything worked great! i even managed to throw in a few sprints towards the end of the run just to see what they felt like. i'm NOT saying that the problem is fixed, but i've definitely made progress and the calves are now much more used to being subjected to this new (to me) technique.


    for me, this was an important milestone & semi mental block to get over. as a few have already said here, i found that running outside was a much better experience than running on a treadmill, and surprisingly, it was actually more comfortable. the only thing i was missing was tunes! why? well, i was running with the mrs, who was wearing regular running shoes, and the noise of the slap slap slap compared to the monkey feet i was wearing was very noticeable image


    so, having *finally* got my butt outside and not pull up lame, i'll now be joining the running club in the gym. good times.

  • Yay! Another outdoor convert. Outdoor running is so much more fun than treadmill running in a sweaty gym looking at a wall of telly screens.

    Going back to what Max's Mum said before - get yourself a foam roller. Great for self massage and easing out stiff and achy bits. Also great for highlighting sore bits you didn't realise you had! Regular use of one will keep you more supple and less prone to minor pulls and strains in the future, which can only be a good thing...

  • when i remember, i've been using a tennis ball to roll the problem area of the calves on after excercise. i have used the foam roller in the gym, but find the tennis ball gets to the exact spot more easily.


    the calves are a little sore today (in the exact place i get the aforementioned problems) as i don't think i stretched them out sufficiently after yesterdays run, but it's a lot better than needing to do the RICE treatment after damaging the muscle againimage

    the way i'm trying to approach this now is to be able to do a run, wherever i may be, but not rely on anything out of the usual stuff you'd find outside to do my pre & post run routine. e.g. if i'm diving in egypt then i don't want to be taking anything other than the monkey feet with me. shorts & t-shirts i'll already have.

    i'll still get a roller to use in the house though as it can't be anything other than beneficial. thanks for reminding me!

  • You're actually right about a tennis ball - gets into nooks and crannies a roller can't. As long as you're rolling it using *something*, that's the main point.

    Nice idea to go for the minimalist approach in more ways than just the shoes. Sensible too if you do a lot of travelling. I think sometimes we all get too caught up with gadgets and gear. Google Anton Krupicka to see a similar approach: he's an ultra runner who's so minimalist he barely even wears clothes!
  • Skipping's great for conditioning calves and suprisingly tough. I used to box and we'd do 15 mins warm up, was knackering!

    Static stretch after running, dynamic / mobilisation before running. Stretching (a low force on muscle) reduces power, you want power for running, flexibility after though.

  • skipping - i'll trip & break something image

    i actually do something similar as part of the warm up, just without the rope.

    did another 3 mile run outdoors yesterday and no aches from the calves today. i'm guessing the muscles are getting more used to this running forefoot lark now. not the most appealing of routes as it was a simple circuit from the house, but it served its purpose. the good thing is, i can lengthen the route quite easily, but also do multiple laps, so distance progression can be accomodated.

  • Sounds like you're increasing your distances sensibly slowly. Just remember: "if it hurts, rest, stupid!" That way you're more likely to avoid serious injuries of the "too much too soon" type.

  • yeah, it was handy doing the barrage run a few weekends ago as i know the lap from the house is 3 miles and not easily cut-able other than an out-and-back. it's got some gradients too which add a bit more variety and mean i get used to running on something other than a billiard table.

    i'm assuming that working on a base of 3 miles, i should be looking at increasing in ½ mile increments until about 7 miles then just add a mile at a time, with the increase in distance coming every 4th or 5th run? that said, i'll be listening to what the calves tell me and work it from there.

    gotta be said though, i love running in the monkey feet despite the problems i had (hopefully that will stay past tense) with the technique required by them!

  • a final (hopefully!) update on this sorry little saga....

    on reflection, my calf problems were down to over-striding while running forefoot and doing too much on muscles that weren't prep'd for it. i still run forefoot in the monkey feet (i can't ever see me running in anything different), but my footfall is now quite close to being under the hips and cadence increased to around the recommended 180 steps per minute.

    regularly doing 50 mins runs (about 5½ miles at the mo) and saturday 5k parkruns and the odd bit of trail running. all are preceded with a decent warm up and dynamic stretches. dreadmill is now restricted to 1 mile 'day off' runs image

    so far, i've had no repeat of the calf problems, but did pick up a minor Achilles strain (whilst out walking of all things) which meant 3 weeks off to give it chance to heal. the Achilles strain highlighted the over-striding.


    oh yeah, absolutely love running now!!!!

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