Discomfort is common during exercise, but it is important to determine what is causing your discomfort. Some issues have a simple remedy, while others may indicate the need for physical therapy or other medical intervention. Learning to understand why you have burning in your calves with exercise will guide you in making decisions about your workout routine. Protecting your muscles and joints will help you to continue to participate in exercise and reach toward your fitness goals.
Check Your Shoes
The athletic shoes that you use to work out may be the cause of the burning sensation in your calves. Generally speaking, regularly used exercise shoes should be replaced at least every six months. However, you may need to replace yours more often depending upon the quality of the shoe, your body weight and the intensity and joint impact of your workouts. A shoe that works well for one person may not work well for another, as your foot arch size, the width of your foot and other factors such as bunions affect the fit of each shoe. Consult a shoe orthotist to help you find the best fitting shoe for your foot.
Stretching after a brief warm-up prior to your workout and stretching again after your workout can help reduce muscle burning during your workout. Stand about 2 feet from a wall and lean forward, placing your hands about shoulder height on the wall. Leave one foot in place, step forward with the other foot and lean closer to the wall, feeling your calf stretch. Hold for at least 10 seconds and repeat 10 times on each leg. Avoid stretching in the middle of your workout as your muscle fibers are warmer and you are more likely to overstretch.
Evaluate Your Workout
Overexercise can also cause burning in your calves. While you exercise, your body tries to exchange the oxygen you need with the carbon dioxide you produce at the same rate. However, when you push yourself and you breathe faster, your body is unable to remove enough carbon dioxide. This is the main cause for lactic acid buildup in your muscles, which leads to a burning feeling during the workout and soreness afterward. Reduce the intensity of your workout, include rest breaks, and gradually increase the intensity as you are able. Use a pursed-lip breathing technique to help you exchange the carbon dioxide during the most intense part of your workout.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If you have made alterations to your workout and you continue to experience pain and burning, you may have a condition that requires medical attention. Severe pain that limits your daily function or pain that lasts more than a week are indications that you should see a medical professional. Physical therapists can also help you by improving your form and creating an exercise regimen that suits your current fitness level.
Melissa Sabo is an occupational therapist who started writing professional guidebooks for all Flagship Rehabilitation employees in 2009. Specializing in applied therapy and exercise for non-medical readers, she also coauthored a manual on wheelchair positioning. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science in occupational therapy.