By Lenae Sexton, PT, DPT, OCS
Calf tightness is a very common complaint I get from runners. The athlete will often comment that despite consistent stretching, they continue to feel tight. This begs the question, what is causing the tightness? Read on to learn how your calf tightness might be caused by an unexpected problem.
Calf Function in Running
In the context of running, our calves function as springs. When you land on your leg, the ankle bends into dorsiflexion putting the calf on stretch. Then when you push off, the ankle points into plantarflexion as the calf contracts powerfully to propel you forward. This means that you need a certain amount of flexibility to go into adequatedorsiflexion and a certain amount of strength and power to propel into plantarflexion.
Dorsiflexion on landing: calf on stretch
Plantar flexion for propulsion: calf contracting powerfully
This is an interesting symptom that offers very little information as to what the specific problem is. One will feel tightness when a muscle is short and stiff. One will ALSO feel tightness when a muscle is long and weak. This means that we need a better way to differentiate the symptom in order to resolve the problem. In other words, an assessment of flexibility AND strength is required.
An evaluation of your running mechanics iscritical because you may be using a technique that loads the calf improperly. Even whencalf flexibility and/or strength are normalized, if you’re running doesn’t support that change,then it’s possible that your symptoms will return or fail to resolve.
Getting to the point…
If you are experiencing calf “tightness” and are looking for true resolution, getting a thorough analysis of your running mechanics, flexibility and strength is needed. We can help! Our Gait Analysis provides this comprehensive evaluation and offers a solution. If you are interested in learning more or scheduling a Gait Analysis, please ask any of the +e team members!