There was recently a question on the Runner’s World forums about a calf strain and if it could be due to the runner only wearing one pair of shoes. I thought it interesting, so wanted to share the question and my answer below.
“I’ve been dealing with an overuse calf injury for 6 months now. I don’t want to blame the problem on my shoes, but could switching shoe models help alleviate an overuse problem?”
Certainly. Different shoes, different terrains, different paces, they all spread out the mechanical stress and force locations to different parts of the body in different ways. This allows all those areas of the body to experience less overall stress and to easily recover.
Think of a runner that does the same exact speed at the same exact incline for the same exact difference on a treadmill every day in the same shoes. They’re placing the exact same stresses in the exact same locations every day, not giving those areas time to recover. It would be like doing the bench presses every time, other muscle groups would never get any stimulation to strengthen and the pecs would never get any off time to strengthen, thus weakening and likely becoming injured. New shoes could change your running form slightly, which could place the stress at a new location of the calf and give that injured area a rest. Compression sleeves could potentially do the same.
That all being said, there’s still no reason to blame the shoes, it’s not their fault. You just may have made a slight error in not giving your body enough variability.
Potentially it could not have to do with a lack of variation at all. I recently dealt with a calf issue due due to tight hamstrings as a result of a weekend of lots of climbing and descending after living in the plains for two years. I spent a few weeks with reduced volume and no intensity, and now I’m A-OK . Of course, you could look at that as a lack of variation issue as well, because I was lacking variation in the plains which meant the mountains were too big of a stimulus (classic too much too soon). But I look at it as me being unmindful and overzealous on the vertical for a weekend.
I also feel that such variation can help a runner put more distance in individual shoes before they are required to retire a pair. As I said in Men's Journal, I typically run through my shoes for 800-1500 miles until they fall apart or I wear through the bottom. I believe different shoes, speeds, terrain, etc all change up how the feel and legs are loaded so you do not overload a certain area of the body. It works for preventing running injuries and I believe it works for shoe durability.
Imagine if you only ran in a single pair of shoes. Throughout the miles the sole under the big toe will compress and wear away, so every run you may be pronating a tiny bit more each time. Over the miles that pronation may become exaggerated. Now, pronation is natural and necessary, but over-pronation beyond what is healthy for you can be an issue. Performing an exaggerated degree of pronation for weeks/months due to shoe wear may be harmful, but wearing those shoes two or three times weekly along with another pair or two increases variability and can potentially be a healthy practice!
Can the parallel use of different running shoes decrease running-related injury risk? | “the parallel use of more than one pair of running shoes was a protective factor “
Great question that I was asked about the importance of rest days for runners.
It really depends on how much you're running AND what you're doing while not running? Are you getting 8 hours of sleep nightly or 6?
Are you eating enough protein and calories or not?
How's your daily physical activity? Daily stress? Are you on your feet a lot or sitting?
All of this comes in to play when taking rest days into consideration. People running a lot but also who rest well can get away with fewer rest/off days, but people like the ER nurse I coach absolutely need a few days of no running because when she's on her feet for a 12 hour shift that's still physical activity!
"Rest days? What do you think I'm doing when I'm sleeping?!." - Click to Tweet!
I was emailed from a newsletter subscriber asking for my thoughts on cross training.
“How much should runners cross train?” Click to Tweet!
The primary consideration here is how much is the individual running? If the person is at their upper tolerable limit of weekly mileage, they should likely be running and resting. But if there is room for activity then cross training can be an excellent way to build your fitness but not fatigue the legs very much!
Self-awareness is in part, being mindful of what you’re good at and what you are not good at.
As a running coach, my primary job is to work with training modulation. When an applicant fills out the client application I tell them that I do not work with people who cannot currently run due to injury or if they are suffering from a mental issue such as an eating disorder. In such cases like injury, a running coach may not be the best person to work with, but perhaps a physical therapist or athletic trainer to help rehab and heal the damaged area, or perhaps a nutritionist to discuss dietary issues that could cause an injury.
I wanted to share with you a few links to a few of these experts whom I follow. I hope you seek them out, let them know I recommended them, and learn from them!
Diet: Matt Fitzgerald – He’s not a registered dietitian, but over the years he has studied general nutrition and more importantly the nutrition of top athletes and is a true expert in the area of sports nutrition.
Research: Alex Hutchinson – Sweat Science is one of the best resources to keep up to date on the latest research. Whether he simply tweets a new study out or shares an entire article he writes on a subject, it’s fascinating stuff.
Strength & Mobility: James Dunne – A physical therapist out of the UK, he puts out so many strength and mobility routines that it seems a bit overwhelming. I’m a big fan the courses he offers, such as a 30-day knee/leg strengthening course that guides you through a progressive day by day strength and mobility routine.
More SAM: Steve Gonsor – and the team at Run Smart Online also touch base on many aspects of running form, runner-specific strength work, etc. A great account to follow for some cutting edge information.
Running Shoes & Foot Mechanics: Craig Payne – He’s basically the anti-Huffington Post clickbait headline. Craig really dives deep into the research on mechanics and footwear.
Of course, I’m always willing to speak with the individual because in so many cases it was an error with training modulation that caused the injury! Many people make the mistake of running too hard too often, running too much, not enough easy running, jumping into workouts that are too long or too hard. These are my areas of specialty!
I was asked about shin splints, preventing and getting over them, but I dive a bit deeper and briefly discuss that an injury is so much related to what happened right before, a few weeks before, it could be nutritional, could be a dozen things.
“There are a dozen things that go into getting an injury, and you need to figure out the root cause” – Click to Tweet
I was asked on Twitter if it was normal for legs to feel like jello after a run.
My response was "yes", but there's a different between normal and good! It's normal for legs to feel like jello (very fatigued) after a long or hard run. However even in those cases it's often best to end the run before the legs get to this point of fatigue.
For long runs I think it's normal/ok for the legs to be quite tired at the end, but for most other runs they should never be so long or hard to make the legs feel like this. Reaching this level of fatigue too often will increase the amount of rest/recovery you need between hard workouts. If you go 95% instead of 99% during your tempo/track runs, you'll require less easy/recovery days between hard workouts and you'll feel better!
Hey! Coach Kyle here.
During a recent long run my left calf was starting to tighten up a bit.
I was ready to end the run and head home, halfway through the workout, when I tried something.
What I did was move from my habitual whole/midfoot landing to more of a rearward landing, which loads the calves less.
This gave my calves some relief and that left calf which had been tightening up was good to go for 10 more miles after just a half mile of me changing my footstrike!
Can purposefully changing your footstrike mid-run help delay fatigue or cramping?
To elaborate more on this topic, one could purposefully change footstrike during long/hard runs to give the legs some relief my changing how the muscles are loaded. On a micro level the muscle fibers themselves cycle out fatigued fibers and in fresh ones, but if you change your whole footstrike on purpose you’re taking it to the macro level.
Research during marathons show that as distance and fatigue set in, people move to a more rearward strike. This is a way your body changes the loading locations, but if you possibly spend a half mile or mile here and there with a more rearward strike before fatigue requires it, maybe you can run a slightly bit better for the entire distance!
Even coaches can make errors in their own training.
In my case, I did a hard race-pace session with a lighter pair of shoes than I normally had been. That along with not actually doing many workouts like this lately due to snow/ice/etc meant that my calves really took a beating.
For the last few years, I have had a quarter sized area on my left calf that has been my only real problem area. Well, the problem area is my brain not being mindful enough to know such a workout was going to overload my calves, but that is another discussion altogether.
The 10% rule dictates that you should never increase your weekly running volume more than 10% week by week. This is a good guideline for runners who are upping their volume but it’s only half of the mileage equation.
The 10% rule of increasing mileage is only half of the story – Click to Tweet
It is crucial to take unloading weeks as well! Increasing and increasing volume (stress) does not make you stronger, the periods of unloading and rest are when this occurs. Not only are rest/easy days necessary but if you’re running towards the upper end of your abilities than rest/easy weeks are also key to keeping you physically and mentally healthy.
With my own athletes and myself what I’ll often do is leave the long runs the same but reduce or cut out the midweek volume and workouts. In essence, you’re only taking an unloading work-week, but for busy working adults this is a nice relief physically, mentally, and with their work/life schedule.