Hello Again, Calves & Shins

My calves and shins like to annoy me. I've never written a blog post specifically about this, but I've mentioned my calf and shin issues many times when I look back through DailyMile or weekly training recaps. For as long as I can remember I have struggled with this off and on, many times resulting in me sitting on the side of the path desperately trying to ease the tension. You might recognize it - the calf tightness that isn't really pain, it's more like intense pressure anytime you land on the leg. It makes the legs feel like logs with no shock absorption, and it even feels that way when I try to stand on one leg to stretch the other. Anyone experience this, am I crazy? My husband says he's never felt anything like that.

While training for my first half marathon in 2009, I had consistent shin pain and calf tightness that resulted in skipped runs and extra rest. I talked to people about shoes, exercises, and stretching to help, but nothing really worked. The situation improved with additional training and time, until I again started pushing distance to train for my first marathon in 2010 when it all came back.

That time, I found a wonderful personal trainer who helped me with strength training and stretches that significantly decreased the instances of shin and calf pain. Yay, a breakthrough! I've continued to have some tightness off and on (don't we all?) but nothing like I used to, and it almost always goes away after I warm up for a mile or two. Until recently.

I've had a few concerning runs recently where I feel the pressure anytime I land or stand on the leg. Today was particularly bad, and it didn't even ease up after stretching or 3 miles with alternating running/walking. The issue is always worse the first run after a long run or speed workout too; today was following a track workout so I'm hoping that's why it was so terrible.

Even so, I'd love to know if anyone has had a similar problem and how you work with it - or have solved it. So far I've tried the following:

Ice - Only a temporary fix?
Stretching - A trainer taught me to lay with my leg at 90 degrees, using a rope to stretch my toe toward me to get the calf. Then, I do the same at each angle of the calf to hit all three of the muscles. This has been the most helpful by far.
Foam Rolling - I try to foam roll the calf muscles by stacking one leg on top of the other.
Compression - I tried running in compression socks in 2010 and didn't think it helped, but I might try again with the newer and fancier ProCompression and/or CEP socks. I've heard calf sleeves are good too, but I'm not sure if that is better or similar to socks. Right now, I use compression socks for recovery.
Massage - I have gone to Sports Massage to work on calves, and they always tell me how my calves are super tight. It definitely helps, but it is also expensive.

What have I missed? Anything you agree with, disagree with, or recommend? I'd love to hear suggestions!

  1. I've struggled too. Finally went to Physical Therapist who specializes in ART & Graston and think I'm past it!
    When I told him I sometimes felt pressure (like I'm wearing a tight sock or rubber band) he was concerned I might have compartment syndrome and tested me for it.
    Oh, and I did everything that you did before going to the PT with temporary success.

    1. That's very helpful - thanks! So it wasn't compartment syndrome then? I wondered about that during my internet diagnosis session...I booked sports massage/ART for Monday.

  2. I haven't had the calf issue, but I second Amy's recommendation for ART. I went to a chiropractor (which my insurance covered) to get ART for my IT Band and it really helped. I also got "soft tissue work" (basically incredibly painful massage) at the PT. Good luck!

  3. This was recommended to me by a running store owner for shin splints: When you are sitting at your desk, have your legs at a 90-degree and then flex your feet up/down. It strengthens the shin area. I did it for 1-day and have not have shin splints since.

    Like the other 2 commenters, I would also recommend regular ART treatments from a chiropractor. I've been seeing mine monthly for almost 2 years and it really helps a lot. Recently I've had some IT Band issues so I've been going to the UCSF RunFit program to help improve my form/mechanical issues. They've also been doing Graston's and it's also made a huge difference. I'd highly recommend checking out the UCSF Programs - RunSafe and/or RunFit. Great, great programs for runners.

    1. I'm trying that right now! I booked sports massage/ART for Monday too. Thank you!

  4. I get calf tightness fairly often but not the kind of pressure that you're describing. It may be a good idea to get checked out by a Sports doc?

  5. So sorry it's been bothering you again, Paulette :( Regular visits to a chiropractor who specializes in working with athletes have helped me through most similar problems I've had. ART, electric shock therapy, and PT guided by the chiro have all helped! If you haven't done so in the past, I'd strongly recommend going to a chiro. If you're ever in the city, I'll take you to the one I see - he's amazing! And our work insurance covers him :D Let me know!

  6. Sorry you are having these issues! The only time I have dealt with these in particular were when making the move to minimalism and different form. Now they are pretty solid and don't bug me. Anyhow--I know this is counterintuitive, but I'd stop stretching the areas. Sometimes this can make the issue worse--stretching tissue that is already strained. One other thought would be to use the "stick" and try to find trigger points to roll out. Good luck with it.

  7. How's your calves and shins? I tried to add running on my weekly activities, but I failed. My metabolism is not really good reason why I had to find a healthy way for me to lose weight and I thought running will do good to me. Unfortunately, I had my calves injured and had to go through different therapies and medications. Although most of it are good, the only treatment that helped me heal was stem cell therapy. I had 8-week therapy with my ortho surgeon, Dr Purita. I should not forget to mention that I had fever for 4 days after my last session and calves were swelling for about 2 weeks, but after that, they went back to normal. Now, I still try to run for few miles a week but it is more of a jogging now. lol


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