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5615 Views 6 Replies Latest reply: Jun 20, 2011 12:13 PM by JamesJohnsonLMT
Biggest_T Amateur 31 posts since
Mar 11, 2008
Currently Being Moderated

Jun 8, 2011 2:45 PM

Chronic Tight Calf Muscle

Hello.  I've only been running since February and I have started having issues with tight Calf/Achilles with plantar fasciitis [of the left leg/foot].  I overpronate but have been fitted for proper shoes at my local store. I try not to be a heal striker, but I think that with my left leg I do tend to land that way.  I have done some exercise and stretching of the affected areas, but nothing seems to loosen the tightness.


Seasoned runners:

1.  What are your suggestions for this problem/?

2.  Have any favorite stretches and if so, how often should I do these stretches per day?

3.  Will these issues eventually loosen up, or is this going to be a life-long issue?


Any insight you can give is much appreciated!




p.s.  Compression sock worn while sleeping allowed me to walk instantly upon waking this morning. WOOT! 6/8/11


Message was edited by: Biggest_T

~Running. Cheaper than therapy. Safer than drugs. -Me, 2011


Believe. Achieve. Inspire.

05/14/2011 St. John’s Sunset Run 5k (31:42)(PR)

05/21/2011 Bear Lake Challenge 4mi (41:22)(84/153)(3/10)

05/28/201 Run for the World 5k (30:07)(PR)(62/164)(3/18)

06/18/2011 Gary McAdams 5k (28:00)(144/356)(3/18)(PR)

06/25/2011 Blueberry Bash 5k (29:06)(26/78)(2/21)

08/13/2011 Argonaut 5k (77/117)(30:17)(77/117)(1/4)

09/03/2011 Dolphin Dash 5K (27:50)(56/105)(2/3)(PR)

09/06/2011 Met my 2011 Goal of running 10K (11:39/mi)(PR)

09/24/201 Pensacola Seafood Festival 5K (missed due to injury)

10/01/2011 Superhero 5K (27:32)(PR)(48/148)(3/18)

10/08/2011 Tiger Trot 10k - canceled due to injury

  • JamesJohnsonLMT Legend 1,291 posts since
    Aug 23, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Jun 1, 2011 5:01 PM (in response to Biggest_T)
    Re: Chronic Tight Calf Muscle

    It is normal in your first year or two of running to go through a  number of physical adjustments we often call "injuries," but I think it  helps to avoid labeling them at this point. As you know, once you give  something a label, your options for dealing with it tend to narrow down.  You seem very enthusiastic about the sport and may have jumped into it  with both feet. Like any major venture in life, the downsides are not  always apparent, or even credible until later in the game when you have  already committed yourself. Rest assured many of us have been there  before, and have developed our own strategies for dealing with the aches  and pains of the competitive life.. but each body is unique, and  another's successful healing strategy may not be your own.


    The beginnings of your pain and muscle tightness probably start with what you called overpronation, and it looks like the "shoe people" got you into a pair of over-pronation-ready shoes. These are designed to restrict pronation  by stiffening the mid-sole of the shoe, usually with plastic that  cradles the arch and prevents it from twisting. In general, these shoes  are less flexible than neutral footwear, and that's when other problems  can start. Groups of muscles that have worked together a certain way  have to adapt to this change, sometimes with negative results.


    Some people have hips, legs and feet that combine mechanically to require a little finesse at the end of the footstrike  in order to maximize propulsion and spread out the impact among the  many bones and joints of the foot (which remain the same even when the  shoe changes). The more exaggerated this motion is, the more likely it  is to be called "over-pronation." That little bit of extra work by your  muscles can add up over the weeks and months to produce muscle fatigue,  which in turn can cause overuse of secondary muscles in the group that  is responsible for this type of movement. On the other hand, when the  shoe changes, some of this movement may be resisted by the footwear,  causing a different kind of accumulated fatigue. In either case, tired  footwork can result in actual damage beyond soreness.


    Just like driving a new car, running in a new shoe  often requires changes in how you use the vehicle for maximum advantage  and safety. If your legs and feet are the type that over-pronate,  teaching them to stop does not automatically come with the shoe. Chances  are, some of your many calf muscles are doing more work with the  current arrangement. This does not necessarily mean you must change back  to your old shoes, although many find this to be the easiest thing to  do. You may need to retrain your running form, or to take other steps  that make over-pronation less necessary.The two often go together.


    This approach differs from simply restricting excess movement with shoes and/or prescribed orthotic devices.  You move the way you do because your brain coordinates this movement to  match what it thinks is the least effort to get the job done. It bases  these decisions on feedback from muscles, nerves, the balancing  mechanism of the inner ear, some genetic coding, and what you see and  think is happening and has happened before. Your job is to think ahead  of all this and set up feedback that will deliver better results. You  first need to assess the physical traits you came to the sport with, and  what you can do to change them for maximum mechanical advantage. When  people think it is as easy as simply changing shoes, they are often  disappointed over time. Regardless, if you stick with any system long  enough and do not overuse it, you can probably train into any way of  getting by, once your body adapts. The question is whether you want to  run long, far, and fast, or just run. I'm willing to bet you want to  push yourself further, and will not tolerate mediocrity. This means more  growing pains, more adaptations, and a greater sense of accomplishment.  Good for you!

    At this point there is no magic solution,  because it is far too complicated than that. There are things you can  detect by looking in a mirror or having someone knowledgeable observe  the way you run. You may have already done this in order to get the  shoe. What you may not have done is find out why you over-pronate. This  is because pronation is a chicken-or-egg question. Do you pronate  because your arch collapses, or does your arch flatten so you can  pronate? Do either of these things happen because the bone, muscle, and  ligament structure of your foot demands it, or is your foot simply not  conditioned to be stable? Does your leg rotate outward to protect your  ankle and foot, or does the footstrike reflect restricted rotation of  the hip? Are all these things related to shortened flexors of the hip,  or to problems with spinal mobility? Do your three layers of gluteal  muscles properly support your pelvis so everything below can work  properly?


    There are almost as many types of feet out  there as there are running shoes. Not all of them are equipped with the  same mechanical advantages for running. The shape of the heel bone and  other bone surfaces, relative lengths of the metatarsals, flexibility  and inflexibility of the many joints, ligaments, and tendons vary  considerably by individual and matter a lot to things like pronation. A  strong and balanced leg requires a strong and balanced foot. Once that  is taken care of, other things may fall into place, while others may  need further attention. Hips, glutes, and core muscles are commonly  unfit for running.


    When people move from the couch  to the 5k, it is sometimes important to determine how much damage that  couch may have done, before relying on muscular systems that are already  in dysfunction, and may get worse when called upon to work much harder.  These things are best done in stages, and it can often help to train  for your training. It may be fun to just go out and run with what you  have, but you will hit the wall a lot sooner if you don't increase your  general fitness first. Running multiplies the forces acting on your  balance and posture. Your lifestyle, which includes the dress shoes you  wear, how much time you spend in chairs, and with your foot stuck on a  gas pedal, will greatly affect how you feel when you hit the pavement.


    You mentioned stretches. The word stretch is too broad  a term for a yes or no, on whether it can help, because there are  probably more wrong ways to stretch than there are right ones. In  general, moving a muscle through its range of motion when it is healthy  and warmed up has a beneficial effect, if not held to resist  contraction, not held too long to allow for free circulation, and not  done at risk to the joint capsule in use. The brain is educated by a  stretch within its range as long as the stretch is safe. The resulting  physiological changes are good as long as they produce no further  damage, but no light will come on when your muscles extend to a range  that does not contribute to the movements you plan to make. A certain  amount of kinetic energy needs to be stored and released for efficient  running, which is impossible when a muscle is too elastic without  expending excess energy on contraction.


    Some research  suggests, for example, that the best stretch for a rear calf muscle  simply invoves dorsiflexing your foot without any assistance at all,  either from ropes, a curb, or the floor. This is because a muscle  resists stretching the least when the antagonistic muscle on the other  side of the joint is stretching it. You are basically training the  muscle to release, rather than to resist. This is more important than a  mechanical stretch because less energy is wasted when muscles do not  actively contract on both sides of the joint. It's more complicated than  that, but the takeaway message is that toned muscles store and release  energy like a spring. Energy is wasted and injuries increase, when  muscles actively oppose one another, or when the muscles and joints are  hyperflexible, beyond usable range. All of these things carry over into  your running, and affect your risk of injury. The kind of stretches that  contribute to running efficiency are aimed at reducing opposition more  than restriction, and resemble more the kind of stretching you might do  after getting out of bed in the morning. Frequent repetition of these  gentle movements promotes better cooperation between your muscles, and  better awareness of their health.


    In your case, the  tight calves are the result of accumulated damage from training. They  are protecting you from further damage by restricting your movement.  There may have been too much movement from miles of overpronation, but  restriction of movement by the shoes could have been counterproductive.  You can rest them, ice them to ease the pain (but not to numb them for  further abuse), massage them to increase healing circulation, and gently  move them through their range of motion when they are warmed up, to  un-train the restriction and ready them for future use. You may be  anxious to go out and risk further damage. If it's just a little  stiffness and you continue to feel better afterwards, that's ok. If the  legs keep telling you to stop, and you go, just ask yourself which will  make your calf muscles faster in the long run, healing or scarring?


    The  more you ask of your body, the more important fundamentals are. The  most important of these are balance and restraint. The experience gained  from years of running, and the injuries I've had, taught me to address  the fundamentals of stability first. I balanced my left and right with  slight custom modifications to my shoes. I balance my terrain by chosing  running surfaces that do not slant too much to the left or right, and  balance my intensity and mileage with a mix of short and long, fast and  slow. Injuries taught me restraint. I have learned when to push it and  when to back off by listening to my body, always trying to think ahead  to how I will feel on at least the next few runs, and even the next  year, as a result of what I do today. Risking it all and going for broke  is fun, until you pay the price. Being able to run injury free the rest  of my life is far more gratifying.

  • JamesJohnsonLMT Legend 1,291 posts since
    Aug 23, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    3. Jun 9, 2011 11:33 AM (in response to Biggest_T)
    Re: Chronic Tight Calf Muscle

    Couldn't even re-read it myself, lol. Guess you caught me in one of  those "stream of consciousness" moments.. Just so you know, I have them a  lot..


    There was a sort of summary in the last couple paragraphs, but I'll repost a little later with a skinnier version.  It's a very critical kind of quasi-injury that makes or breaks a lot of  runners. You are at a point in your running where you deserve clear  advice, less babble, so you can just get things done without overdoing  them (like I overdid the post ).

  • njnitehawk Expert 50 posts since
    Mar 21, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    4. Jun 11, 2011 4:10 AM (in response to Biggest_T)
    Re: Chronic Tight Calf Muscle



    i have suffered with that several  times


    after running between  5-10 miles it occurs


    i got massages for 1 hour only on my calf


    i got ulltra sound


    i rolled and iced


    i hydrated for days 100oz per day w/ electrolytes added


    but i found graston really works(but it is really really painful really)


    look it up and find somebody that does it




  • cmon2 Amateur 20 posts since
    Feb 26, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    5. Jun 15, 2011 8:21 PM (in response to JamesJohnsonLMT)
    Re: Chronic Tight Calf Muscle

    hey I'm good because I read the whole thing you posted without trouble


    oh and I enjoyed it! I find it useful. especially what you said about which kinds of stretches are good. it soo resonates with my experience. I like that example of calf stretch.... and the philosophy in general. I would like to say thanks for your post.

  • JamesJohnsonLMT Legend 1,291 posts since
    Aug 23, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    6. Jun 20, 2011 12:13 PM (in response to cmon2)
    Re: Chronic Tight Calf Muscle

    You're welcome.. I hope you guys are on the mend. What happened to Biggest-T?

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