Your calf muscle protects the bones of your lower leg. When you run, your calf muscle pulls your heel to propel you forward. High-impact sports like running can cause strains and muscle pain. Good running shoes protect your calves by absorbing some of the shock on impact, and some provide heel support. When it comes to choosing running shoes, factor in any calf injuries you may have.
Improve Your Foot Strike
To select the right shoes to protect your calf muscles, you need to know your foot strike. Your foot strike during a run can increase or decrease the impact on your calf muscles. For instance, toe striking shortens your gait cycle, which increases the impact on your calves and shin and leads to muscle strain and tears in your calf muscle, according to Dr. Chris Feil of Team Chiropractic and Rehabilitation of Ames. Therefore, it will be beneficial for you to transition to midfoot striking to reduce the impact on your calves and shins.
Shoes for Rear-foot Strikers
The “European Journal of Applied Physiology” published a study in August 2013 that compared impact reduction of using the midfoot strike or wearing low-drop running shoes for recreational runners. Thirty rear-foot strikers were assigned into two groups: One group wore low-drop shoes and the other group adopted the midfoot strike. Over three months, both groups reported reversible pain in the calves and shins, and wearing low-drop shoes appeared more effective for long-term runners. Rear-foot strikers should combine low-drop shoes with midfoot striking.
Running Shoes for Calf Strain
Running shoes that protect your calf muscles should reduce the load on your muscles and bones when your foot contacts the ground during a run. "Runner’s World" recommends people who have recurring calf injuries choose running shoes that are thick at the back of the foot and have solidly built heel counters. Your calf muscles act as shock absorbers when you run, so you want running shoes with thick shock absorbers to take the impact from your calves.
Strengthen Calf Muscles
Strengthening your calf muscle is the best way to protect it. A lot of calf muscle injuries occur because the muscles are not developed enough to withstand the high impact of activities such as running. Exercises like the calf raise tighten your muscles. Place the balls of your feet and toes on a stepping block with your rear foot extending off. Grab hold of a support beam or the back of a sturdy piece of furniture for balance and raise your heels upward by extending your ankles. Bend your ankles to lower your heels below the stepping board until your feel the stretch in your calf muscles. Return to the starting position and perform six to 10 repetitions in two or three sets.
- Team Chiropractic and Rehabilitation of Ames: The Ideal Running Gait: Focus on Foot Strike
- European Journal of Applied Physiology: Impact Reduction Through Long-term Intervention In Recreational Runners: Midfoot Strike Pattern Versus Low-Drop/Low-Heel Height Footwear
- Runner's World: Calf Strains
- ExRx.net: Standing Calf Raise
Frank Yemi has been a professional writer since 2007, and has contributed to several health and fitness magazines. He has worked as a medical fact checker and sports nutritionist in the United Kingdom. Yemi holds a Bachelor of Science in medical physiology, as well as a Master of Science in applied sports nutrition.