Transitioning to forefoot run and calf pain (Read 91 times)


    I'm trying to make the switch from running heel to toe to forefoot running. Last Thursday was my first time trying, and on the treadmill I did a good warm-up, ran 2 miles like i normally do, and the last mile I did forefoot. Did my normal cooldown, and stretched good (before and after). Later that day my calves were hurting bad (expected), but the next day they were almost completely locked up, and I could barely walk. I did some stretches, took ibuprofen, got a massage, and soaked them in a hot bath. The day after was just as bad too (Saturday). Finally today, they were a bit sore but I could pretty much walk normal, so I went to the gym and did the same routine. Now my calves are feeling just like they did the other day, and I know tomorrow will be difficult walking again.

    It is a very, very, tight pain and my calves are very swollen and tender to touch. Is this normal for transitioning to forefoot running? I know it can be hard on the calves at first, but I want to be sure I am not injuring myself, as I can never tell normal pain from bad pain, and I have never experienced calf pain or tightness like this before, but that could be very well due to the fact I have always ran hell first, and have never really done many calf exercises, so I probably have pretty weak calves ( I am 24, female, 120 lbs and relatively fit, not sure if any of that matters).


    Should I just keep working through this, and will this pain and difficulty walking after each time gradually disappear? I am used to doing about 4-6 miles of cardio a day, and it really bothers me to have to take 2-3 days off every time I do this. Should I be trying to stay off my legs and rest for the 2 days that they hurt like crazy, or should I be trying to walk it off? I don't want to be counterproductive and prolong the healing process.

      This could be delayed onset muscle soreness.  Before trying this again, it might help to do several days of eccentric calf exercises:




      It is also possible that you are trying to alter your running style too drastically.


        See if there is something like "Good Form Running" offered close to where you live. Ask at your local running store or perhaps local running club.


        Letting off steam

          If 1 mile triggers such a pronounced reaction, Seilerts is correct, the transition is too extreme.  I suspect you're trying to land right on your toes, which of course will place huge stress the calf muscles


          Why are you trying to transition this way?  Are you overstriding (landing in front of your center of balance with a heel strike?  This would create a braking effect and transmit the shock of landing to your knees. Are you having  injury problems?  


          If it is simply because forefoot strike is "better"... it's not.  Really.  The vast majority of distance runners heel-strike in most circumstances, but they put very little pressure on the heel.  The first key is to ensure that the landing is under your center of balance, not out in front.  Then, in many cases, the heel touches first, but the midfoot is down so quickly that it's hard to capture even with fairly high speed photography.  

          You may not need to change your footstrike in any way. Often a more productive way to improve running mechanics is to check your cadence (steps per minute)  If you are singificantly below 180 steps / minute, try speeding that up by taking shorter steps at the same pace.   I
           f you're already there, a good local coach could look at your form and determine if you need to work on anything to do with footstrike.

          If you don't have the opportunity (or desire) to get such a gait analysis, I suggest you view the video below on "Natural Running" and see how little pressure the runner applies on the forefoot, even running barefoot at a fairly fast pace. This is the best form "primer" I've seen.



          If you still think you should transition, you'll need to cut down the portion run that way to maybe 1/10th of a mile and build up very slowly from there to avoid this soreness and/or  injury.