I decided to get back into running two years ago. I trained for a mini and experience problems with my lower back on the right side...groin pain on my right side....soleus pull in my right calf that kept me out of running for two weeks. I was able to run the first 7 miles of the mini at my goal pace before doing a run walk for the remainder of the race and finished in 1:56. My goal was 1:45. I have now decided to sign up for another mini this November. I was running around 16 miles a week. I went out for a slow 5 mile run a week ago and felt fine. Two days later I do a slow 2 mile run and my right calf is now causing me problems. I had noticed some tenderness on the side of leg about an inch down from knee prior to the run and know my calf is flaring up again. I went to a chiropractor that also does massage. She treated it and it did feel better. She has now recommended that I try some orthotics because she feels my pain is coming from my calf muscle compensating for other issues. Any advice would be appreciated.
I would avoid orthotics as long as possible. I think they're way over-prescribed.
Did the chiro do any sort of test of your hip function? I'm thinking things like your ability to balance on one leg. Or your ability to ensure your glutes are firing and working as they should.
Many issues are rooted in the hips. If your chiro didn't do this I would look for another chiro or a PT. There can be all sorts of things that don't have pain can actually be the root cause of where the pain is.
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I agree with Jim that this probably stems from hip dysfunction, and that unless there is a serious structural problem with your foot, an orthotic is only a quick fix.
You describe running at pace for 7 miles of a "mini" (which I will assume is a half-marathon), and run/walking the rest only 11 minutes down from goal, which means you probably pushed those first 7 miles. You mention "slow" runs after your symptoms were problematic, which makes me think your prior runs were not that slow.
A lot of goal-oriented runners train out their race in the belief that a relaxed pace leading up will slow them down in competition. Of course, running at less than potential won't get you to peak performance, but running so the rate of wear-and-tear exceeds the rate of recovery will slow you down even more.
It is evident to me that things have not been healing as fast as you have been tearing them down, so relaxed training is all you should do at this point. To direct your recovery, focus on what may have gone wrong with your hip flexors, which strain much harder when the pace is pushed.
The main hip flexor Iliopsoas muscle starts on the lower spine and attaches to the femur near the groin, and is a frequent source of pain in both locations. Sitting in chairs while driving, working, eating, or relaxing, does not help this muscle which continues to shorten in the seated position.
To restore the rest of your leg to normal function, you need to "open up" the hip, starting with the Iliopsoas ("Psoas") muscle. Feel with your fingers in the groin area where this muscle can be felt flexing as you lift your thigh upward toward the chest. The muscle goes underneath the bowels to the lumbar spine, so for most of its length, it is difficult to reach. There are videos out there describing technique, but your first attempt may find painful spots. See if you can gently rub them out.
Once the hip flexors have relaxed, The thigh should swing normally to and fro with little resistance or pain. I have found it sometimes helpful to set the tone with a gentle stretch by arising from bed, leaving one leg on the bed while the other supports me on the floor. Raising my back upwards gently stretches this muscle. As with all stretches, stretching to the point of pain can be counterproductive.
An example of a similar stretch here...
One thing I forgot to ask, Jono, is where you are running. A lot of people run on roads, and they are almost never level. If your pain is typically on one side only, you might benefit from running on the other side of the road, or by running the same side in the opposite direction. One leg may be working harder than the other.
If you are going out & back on the same side of the road, it would appear that you are balancing your workout, but legs are more likely to be of different lengths left vs. right, than exactly the same. This means that even on a level road, one leg may be working harder than the other.
Just a little food for thought.. Good luck with your November Mini !
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