>Health and Nutrition>Calf pain - why worse when walking?
Petco Run/Walk/Wag 5k
Note: I do not have a normal calf (see background below)
The issue: left calf pain for 1st 2 mi or so of run/jog. Starts to get tight during warm up walk, then tightens when starting run. Can get past it if I walk/jog/walk. Have noticed that the calf aches more when walking than when running. Don't understand the physiology of that. Why would that be?
Background: Left calf had faciotomy in 1986 leaving it and foot larger than right. Lots of scar tissue, 10x1.5 in scar. I didn't have any problems with it until about 4/5 months ago. We moved from more level Fort Worth to a hilly neighborhood in Austin in July. The new neighborhood is hilly with impossible to avoid hills ranging ~3-9% grade versus Fort Worth neighborhood which was mostly rolling 1-2% grade and easy to avoid 6% grade hill. About that time I also started transition to minimal near zero foot drop and BF running. The left calf started acting up sometime in Nov, and I ran a very hilly half marathon in VFF Bikila's in Dec.
I'm beginning to think the hills and minimal shoe transition have been building the calf muscle. Which being growth/blood flow restricted (?) is objecting to the growth and now takes a lot longer to warm up. Its worse in my neighborhood than when I head out to track or level trail.
What really confuses me is how it aches worse when walking after a run than when running! What causes that?
bob e v 2013 goals: keep on running! Is there anything more than that? Maintain base thru the summer for good running season this fall/winter that includes Atlanta Half and Austin Distance Challenge of 6 races
History: blessed heart attack 3/15/2008; c25k july 2008 first 5k 10/26/2008 on 62nd birthday.
1) I'm not a doctor
2) I really do love minimalism
3) I think the shoes and hills are to blame. Did you run a lot in barefeet or flats as a kid, in high school, in college, and ever since? Have you always gone minimal? If you can answer yes to these, then minimalist running should be no problem for you. If that doesn't describe you, then the shoes are constantly straining your tendons and muscles and then the hills are adding an extra stress on top of that. Minimalism is great, yes, but you can't just go out one day or month or even year and expect to undo adaptations your body has made since childhood to accomodate more built up shoes.
It feels better when moving faster because you are generating greater bloodflow. The free flow of blood helps alleviate the pain, but does not necessarily make your calf/Achilles more elastic or at least elastic enough to handle the range of motion you're asking it to have, so you can still be pulling at it whether or not you're walking or running. You're likely tugging at those muscles and tendons a lot whether you're walking or running, except that when running your body limbers up more and it becomes a bit more tolerable.
Here's a curious experiment to try. Sit in a chair with your knee at a right angle and then your ankle making another right angle. So your leg from knee to ankle is perfectly straight and your foot is flat on the floor. Now raise your toes, bend the ankle, and keep your heel on the ground (without letting your foot turn to the outside or inside). Try it individually with each foot. My guess is your right healthy leg will go higher and try to turn out or in as it gets even higher. My guess is your left leg will not make as big of an angle with the floor and that it won't turn out or in as easily. If your left foot isn't getting more than a 30 degree angle with the floor, then you don't really have the flexibility to be going barefoot or using minimal shoes. Really you probably need more like a 45 degree angle to be able to safely go barefoot or wear flats. Most kids growing up in standard shoes don't have that kind of ankle flexibility, whether because of weak ankles, short Achilles tendons, or tight calf muscles... or a left calf faciotomy.
Now you can improve your range of motion some, but the best estimate these days is that it takes 3 months to make the adaptation, requires being 100% healthy when you start, a very gradual buildup, involves only wearing the minimal footwear when your legs are feeling limber, and certainly does not involve hitting hilly pavement first thing out the door.
My recommendation is to try shoes that are low to the ground, but have a respectable heel height to protect your calf from stretchign too far. The best example of this is the Brooks T6, but even that might be too minimal if you're recovering from injury right now. Consider something like a Mizuno Wave Precision, adidas adizero Ace, or adidas adizero Adios.
But more importantly you need to recover. I recommend a lot of walking in sneakers, maybe some hikes, and then down the line ease into jogging. Keep it conservative for several weeks. Find a nice dark place in your closet for all your minimal footwear and don't plan on looking at them for years. Also consider driving to flat terrain for your runs instead of using the neighborhood hills.
Thanks for the thoughtful reply Joe!
Should have mentioned a couple of other things; I am heart rate limited due to medications (Measured max = 137) and I started slow migration to BF running about 18 months ago. Did a BF run about every 10 days and got as far as 3mi BF before the move. Stopped BF'ing because of construction debris in the new neighborhood. I also frequently wear one of two pair of Tom's shoes which have zero heel drop (noticed foot/calf pain when I first started wearing them 2 years ago, but that went away). DW doesn't like the idea of my going BF and bought me a pair of VFF Bikila's. I also wear Croc's a lot which have little heel drop. In fact I converted an old pair of Croc's into running shoes by slitting the toe box. Have close to 200 mi on them.
I tried the toe lift and it looks to me like both feet raise the same amount, hard to say if it reached 45deg, but looks greater than 30.
We've both come to the same conclusion tho, although I think the hills contributed more than the VFF's/BF and I need to spend more time on level ground. The calf reacts when I wear the Croc's ,END OTGs, or Brooks Adrenalin's. Although that could be from irritation I guess. I rotate and don't run in the VFF's everyday.
I've been planning on spending more time on a nearby level trail, but its 20 min from the house and not lighted and could be problem with DST (I'm an early morning runner), even with a cap light. Am going to have to push myself to get up early enough to get up there before work. I'll be able to spend more time on the level trails once the tax season is over and I'm back to being retired again. Why I'm preparing taxes is another story relating to a nervous DW... but it does get me out of the house and interacting with others. The office I am in at the moment has internet access and few interruptions! LOL.
I've also planned on adjusting neighborhood running to spend more time jogging downhill and walking on the steeper inclines until fully warmed up. Actually thinking about your input I might try just walking the inclines for a few weeks/months and leave full running to the trails/HS track.
Update. Ran this evening with barefoot group at Clark Field, Univ of TX, then out and around the Capital building and back. Got 2.76 mi in barefoot. No calf problems what so ever, even with some short hills. Could be the calf was flush with blood from being up all day?
Update: Headed for more level terrain this morning, and used light weight END OTG stability shoes. Also massaged calf with biofreeze before heading out. Did a slow 3.4mi, 16 overall pace, starting with 1mi walking. Just a little twinging in left calf, but not major. Am going to have to continue to make the effort to get up early enough to get out to the trail or track and also reduce frequency of VFF/BF running. This only data point so far, so we'll see how it works.
I'm glad to hear you're still moving along.
Keep in mind that what you do today can be the reason you ache tomorrow. So if you find yourself hurting when running in a stability shoe after you felt fine yesterday going barefoot, that doesn't necessarily mean the stability shoes are to blame. It can easily mean that your legs are sore and tight from what you did yesterday. I'm not saying that's necessarily the case, but just trying to point out that you can't always judge today's pain on today's activity alone.
Keep in mind that what you do today can be the reason you ache tomorrow.
Keep in mind that what you do today can be the reason you ache tomorrow.
Exactly! That is why I am taking off days between runs. Trying to isolate the aggravating causes by process of elimination. I can feel the difference in the left calf when massaging it this morning with Biofreeze. Significantly less soreness. I've also stopped wearing zero heel drop sandals and Tom's shoes, at least for a week to baby the dang thing! Even tho I love those shoes. Will not give up just wearing socks fo bf around the house tho. Going forward I'll continue flat running by driving to the trails. Won't add the VFFs or Huaraches back into the mix for a week or so. Depends on how the calf does after Sunday 5k, which I'll run in either the Crocs or END OTG's, probably the Crocs. Don't think I'll do more than slow walks in the neighborhood for a few weeks or I am sure the calf doesn't mind the VFFs etc. Tax Season will be over in 4 weeks and I won't have to get up early to get up to the trails after that. That extra 30 min in bed is one reason I continued to do the neighborhood route... mistake! LOL
quick update, 11 days into revised training approach. Found a reasonably level shopping center closer to the house than the trails in the town north of us. Steepest incline is 2%. Good sidewalk area and large Texas parking lots. Over 1mi end to end. Have used that with light weight, non-minimal shoes (END OTG w/inner sole removed - a light weight stability shoe, and Crocs modified for running). Also massaged the calf 2x/day with Biofreeze for a week. Ache in the calf went away within a couple of days. Did a 90min, 6+mi long run on Sat on the trails north of me with no problems. Got in a 3.3mi this morning, including a maf mi attempt, first in a long time. No problems. No aches or twinges. Did one run Fri with VFF Sprints - felt some pull but no pain and no after effects. Am thinking 1x BF/VFF/Huaraches for a few weeks then increase to 2x/wk for a few more. Took a 3+ mi neighborhood walk Monday morning, using a pair of New Balance neutral shoes I generally use for gym workouts. Slow jogged down a couple of hills but nice and easy. No negative effects. Am not sure yet, how much, if any neighborhood running I can do going forward. Will keep running my experiment of 1!
One interesting thing that happened is a run I did in a pair of Brooks Adrenalins. They really felt heavy and awkward. Heavier than the New Balance shoes and much heavier than the END OTG and Crocs. I found it hard to get into a nice running rhythm. Might have to retire them...
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