I'm a newbie runner who started ~six months ago and run ~3 miles ~3 times per week. When I run both my calf muscles and get really tight, to the point where it is too painful to continue. I tried things like extensive stretching beforehand and lots of warm up, but to no avail. Then I tried switching shoes. I usually run in Asic Gel Cumulus 13's (recommended by my local running store), and I switched to the only other pair of sneakers I have, a pair of ancient beat up NB 805s that are some type of cross trainer\trail runners. The NB's were hot, heavy, and uncomfortable, but my calf\achille's pain went away. When I run in the Asic's it feels like there is too much padding in the midfoot, to the point where it seems like I'm rolling over a little speed bump each time I put my foot down. So I'm thinking that the way I run maybe isn't compatible with the shoe and may be contributing to the calf pain.
Given all that, any recommendations on a specific shoe or type of shoe that might be a better fit? Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.
Getting rid of shin splints I think is more of an art than a science. In my opinion shoes tend to get the focus as the root cause of shin splints, however I think they probably don't have as much impact on them as many think. When I had shin splints (I assume it's what most people would call anterior shin splints) the issue was the strength of Anterior Tibialis - the muscle on the front of the shin. My belief is that what caused the pain was this muscle's poor performance in controlling my foot after the heel struck the ground but before the foot is completely on the ground. For those that heel strike this muscle is responsible for making sure the foot doesn't slap the ground. So with every step that muscle is doing work - slowing down the foot while it rotates to being fully on the ground.
Again, when I had them (10 or so years ago) they improved when i strengthened those muscles. I hung a plastic shopping bag from my foot, put a couple of cans of soup in the bag, and raised and lowered my foot - exercising that shin muscle. (Be sure you lower the bag slowly with each rep. You want to build strength for the situation where the muscle is becoming longer.)
For some of these non-heel-striking running forms (Chi Running, Pose Method, etc.) I think this is why those who have had shin splints sometimes see them go away: They're not landing with their heels.
One additional story to support this theory: Twice I've visited my daughter who lives in another town a long ways away. She lives on a hill and we have to walk down hill to get to public transportation. Both times - after 2-3 days of being there - I leave with horrible shin splints. I'm completely convinced that extra downhill walking (remember - heel striking and having that muscle have to work to control the foot) overworks that muscle. I get home to my normal routine - which includes a running form where I don't heel strike - and the shin pain goes away immediately.
"Kick off your high heel sneakers, it's party time."
-- From the song FM by Steely Dan
Is it shin pain or calf pain? In either case, strengthening the shin and calf muscles is important - as Jim mentioned above. The other thing you might look at is whether you are overstriding - landing with your foot well forward of your knee and heavily on the heel. As Jim said, take shorter strides and plant your foot under your body, or at least no further forward than your knee.
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