Calf Strains

Calf Strain

A calf strain refers to an acute tear which may occur in either the gastrocnemius or soleus muscle which make up the calf. The gastrocnemius is the bigger calf muscle which is closer to the surface of the skin and is the more common culprit of injury. These injuries usually occur quickly when a sudden force is applied through the muscle which it is unable to withstand and the result is tearing of the fibres which make up the muscle.

Calf and all other muscle strain injuries can be divided into three different grades indicating the severity of the injury:

  • Grade I: involves tearing of a small number of muscle fibres
  • Grade II: a partial tear through the muscle involving tearing of a larger number of fibres
  • Grade III: A complete tear through the muscle belly

The grade of tear will determine expected healing time and level of rehabilitation required for the injury. A grade I tear requires the least extensive rehabilitation and will typically heal within 1-2 weeks if rested appropriately and a grade III tear may take up to 3 months to properly rehabilitate.


A strain is usually felt as a sudden sharp pain at the site of the tear, some local swelling, tenderness and bruising may come up in the area quite rapidly. The severity of symptoms is normally indicative of the grade of the tear so a grade I might feel like a pulling pain in the calf when walking and a grade III may cause a constant aching pain which inhibits gait.


These injuries normally occur suddenly due to a rapid force applied through the muscle such as accelerating quickly during speed work, hill running or running on uneven surfaces. Calf strains won’t normally occur without some predisposing factors which may include excessive calf tightness, calf weakness or past injury, sudden increase in training load or surfaces, poor footwear or biomechanical issues at the hip or foot.

Prevention and Treatment

As this is an acute injury, immediate acute management is especially important. Applying ice to the injury site, rest, compression, elevation and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication will help to settle the immediate symptoms and reduce the inflammation.

Consult a Front Runner Physiotherapist as soon as possible after the injury occurs so that it can be managed promptly and appropriately. Treatment and rehabilitation will normally include soft tissue therapy, calf strengthening exercises and correction of biomechanical weaknesses.

To best prevent this injury regularly stretch and foam roll your calves especially after training sessions, train smart to avoid acute overload and make sure you include some strength and conditioning exercises in your regular training routine.

Other Running Injury info:

  1. Plantar Fasciitis
  2. Achilles tendinopathy
  3. Patello-femoral pain syndrome
  4. Patella tendinopathy
  5. Calf Strains


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