I have run off and on with Vibrams for 2 years, but over the last 3 months have switched to Vibram full time. I know that some initial soreness/stiffness is normal as the calf and ankle get stronger, but it has been over 9 weeks now and there seems to be no relief. I LOVE running in them - they significantly improve my speed and comfort - but for about 48 hours after I hobble around on the stiffest, sorest ankles and calves I've had in a long time. I'm only clocking about 10 - 15 miles/week.
I run primarily on pavement. Does this sound like a problem with my form? Or are my Vibrams just not protecting my body enough for such urban terrain? Would love anyone's advice!
Well, I'm not sure I'm the best resource, but I have been running on and off with varying success in vibrams for the approximately the same 2 years (closer to 2.5). Here's the big caveat, I've suffered various injuries (pulled calf muscles, achilles tendonopathy, knee problems) and haven't been able to train the whole time. Did a fairly major injury to right achilles last July that took 6 months to recover from. Currently trying to recover from left achilles problem, although not nearly as severe as the right.
So, a bit of calf tightness seems normal for me in my right calf. Although, it seems to lessen over time. The more I'm able to run the less tight the right calf seems. My left calf has rarerly exhibited the tightness. When I'm increasing my workouts (length of runs and/or speed) I expect that my right calf will initially be a bit sore. One thing that seems to help is the foam rollers. If you haven't gotten one yet I would recommend you invest in one. There about 8' in diameter (mines plastic with a layer of foam rubber on the outside) and are used to help loosen up the muscles (break up adhesions?). It's pretty painful at the start, but you really feel the difference afterwards.
In conculsion, if you calves are extremely tight after running for 9 weeks I would say that is unusual, unless you're increasing your workload. Note we all have different tolerances for pain and tightness and it is very hard to guage over the internet what is what.
First let me say that long term pain is never normal.
Perhaps you transitioned too quickly to running full-time in Vibrams. Most recommendations I've seen suggest starting with minimal mileage - maybe 1/2 mile at a time - and taking weeks to build distance. And now you have an injury that's not getting better because it's not getting time to recover. Maybe give your legs a few days off, then start over in the Vibrams with short distance and build up over several weeks.