What is the Most Common Calf Injury from Running?

Alex Paul
Alex Paul
Achilles tendinitis is one of the most common calf injuries from running.
Achilles tendinitis is one of the most common calf injuries from running.

The most common calf injury from running is often thought to be Achilles tendinitis. This is a condition caused by degeneration of the tendon that attaches to both calf muscles. Symptoms of this type of calf injury include pain just above the heel, discomfort that gradually disappears during exercise, and tenderness. Treatment depends on the underlying cause, but often involves rest, cold therapy, and rehabilitation exercises. Other types of calf injury from running include strains and cramps.

A healthcare provider examining a woman's calf.
A healthcare provider examining a woman's calf.

Achilles tendinitis is probably the most common calf injury from running because it accounts for more than ten percent of all running injuries. Until recently, tendinitis was thought to be the result of inflammation in the tendon. This is now believed to be incorrect because research has shown that the pain is caused by degradation of the tendon tissue. Pain from this injury can occur just above the heel, or further up into the calf, and is slow to heal due to poor blood supply.

Achilles tendonitis, calf strain, and shin splints can all be caused by running.
Achilles tendonitis, calf strain, and shin splints can all be caused by running.

There are two forms of Achilles tendinitis: acute and chronic. Acute Achilles tendinitis usually starts over the period of a few days, while chronic tendinitis builds up over the course of several months. Initially, the pain may disappear during exercise, only to return at a later date. The tendon may also be tender to touch. If acute tendinitis is treated incorrectly, it can develop into a chronic problem.

Calf muscles can tear when stretched beyond their normal range of motion.
Calf muscles can tear when stretched beyond their normal range of motion.

Achilles tendinitis can be caused by a variety of issues. Like other types of running injury, it is often the result of an overly ambitious training schedule. It can also be caused by weak or tight calf muscles. Other issues such as poor biomechanics, incorrect footwear, and inadequate recovery time between training sessions can also contribute.

Treatment for this sort of calf injury from running usually begins with rest. Cold therapy and anti-inflammatory drugs can also help. A doctor is often required to diagnose the underlying cause of the injury, which is important for deciding which rehabilitation exercises are needed. Other forms of treatment such as ultrasound, sports massage, and taping the tendon to reduce pressure, are also useful.

Muscle strains may cause swelling above the knee.
Muscle strains may cause swelling above the knee.

Other types of calf injury from running are also possible. A simple calf strain, for example, can often occur if the runner trains too hard. Shin splints also frequently affect runners, although the pain is felt at the front of the lower leg rather than the back. Cramping in the calf is also relatively common.

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    • Achilles tendinitis is one of the most common calf injuries from running.
      Achilles tendinitis is one of the most common calf injuries from running.
    • A healthcare provider examining a woman's calf.
      A healthcare provider examining a woman's calf.
    • Achilles tendonitis, calf strain, and shin splints can all be caused by running.
      Achilles tendonitis, calf strain, and shin splints can all be caused by running.
    • Calf muscles can tear when stretched beyond their normal range of motion.
      Calf muscles can tear when stretched beyond their normal range of motion.
    • Muscle strains may cause swelling above the knee.
      Muscle strains may cause swelling above the knee.