Are My Running Shoes Causing Calf Pain? (A Physio Steps In)

After changing my running shoes, I noticed I frequently get calf pains when I run. I couldn’t figure out why so I consulted with my friend who’s a physio specializing in runners if it had anything to do with my shoes. Here’s what I found out:

Running shoes can potentially contribute to calf pain if they have low heel-to-toe drops or if they do not provide adequate support or cushioning. If you’re regularly getting calf pain, changing to high-drop shoes may decrease the load on your calves and reduce the pain.  

Ahead, we’ll take a closer look at why your running shoes cause calf pain and how to choose a running shoe that will lessen it. We’ll also talk about how to relieve calf pain. 


  • Low-drop and zero-drop running shoes put more load on the calf muscles which can lead to overuse and pain
  • Choosing a running shoe with at least an 8mm heel drop, adequate cushioning, good arch support, and fits perfectly can help prevent calf pain.
  • 1-2 minutes of calf stretching and light massage can help alleviate calf pain.

Why Your Running Shoes are Causing Calf Pain

A photo of a running shoes

The calf muscle is made up of two main muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius muscle is the larger of the two and is responsible for producing the majority of the force during running. The soleus muscle lies beneath the gastrocnemius and is responsible for maintaining posture and stability during running.

When running, the calf muscles are used to push off the ground and propel the body forward. Running shoes with a low heel-to-toe drop place the foot in a position that encourages a forefoot strike, which increases the amount of load placed on the calf muscles during push-off. This is because the calf muscles are responsible for lifting the heel off the ground during a forefoot strike.

As a result, running in shoes with a low heel-to-toe drop can significantly increase the load placed on the calf muscles, leading to overuse and potential injury, including calf pain. 

I made a quick guide to understanding heel-to-toe drop in another article. If you want to understand the topic better, feel free to read through this article. 

How to Choose Running Shoes to Lessen Calf Pain

Choosing the right running shoe can make a significant difference in preventing calf pain. Here are a few tips on how to choose running shoes to lessen calf pain:

Use Running Shoes With at Least 8mm Heel-to-Toe Drop

The heel-to-toe drop refers to the difference in the shoe’s height between the heel and the toe. As discussed in the earlier section, shoes with a low heel-to-toe drop can cause calf pain by placing more strain on your calf muscles. If you experience calf pain, consider choosing running shoes with a higher heel-to-toe drop to reduce the strain on your calves.

Ideally, 8mm to 12mm is the sweet spot in heel drop. Most running shoes have a 10mm heel drop. If you frequently have problems with your calves, a 12mm heel drop like the Brooks Ghost 14 is a great option and can significantly reduce the occurrence of calf pain. 

Wear a Shoe with Adequate Arch Support 

If you’re flat-footed or if your ankle overly pronates (rolls inward) when running, consider selecting a shoe that provides adequate arch support to prevent overpronation.

Stability shoes are running shoes designed with medial support that will prevent your ankles from rolling inwards. Examples of these types of shoes are the Brooks Adrenaline GTS, which also has a 12mm drop, and Asics Gel-Kayano which has a 10mm drop. 

If you want to better understand shoe support, I made an article that explains what neutral and stability running shoes are

Go for Running Shoes With Good Cushioning

Running shoes with insufficient cushioning can cause excessive impact forces on the calf muscles, leading to calf pain. Choose shoes that provide adequate cushioning, particularly if you run on hard surfaces like concrete or pavement.

Ensure the Perfect Fit

Wearing the right shoe size and finding a comfortable fit can prevent gait compensation, which often leads to calf pain from overuse. When purchasing running shoes, it’s crucial to try them on first. If you’re shopping online, measure your feet accurately before placing an order.

I made a simple guide on the best practices when buying running shoes online. If you’re buying a shoe online, make sure to check it out. 

Relieving Calf Pain

If you’re experiencing calf pain after running, here are some ways to relieve it:

  • Rest and Ice: Resting and icing the affected calf muscles can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Stretching: Stretching the calf muscles after running can help loosen tight calves and prevent calf pain. Try doing calf stretches like the downward dog or classic calf stretch. 
  • Massage: Massage can help increase blood flow and promote healing. Use a foam roller (link to the roller I use) or a tennis ball to massage the calf muscles gently.
  • Seek Professional Help: If your calf pain persists, consider seeking professional help from a physiotherapist or a sports medicine specialist. They can assess the underlying cause of your calf pain and recommend the appropriate treatment.

By the way, I made an article on how to loosen tight calves in detail. If you’re having trouble with your calves, the information found in that article might be a good start. 


Calf pain is a common complaint among runners, and it can be caused by a variety of factors, including your running shoes. Choosing the right running shoes can help lessen calf pain and prevent future injuries. If you’re experiencing calf pain, try incorporating the tips mentioned above, and if it persists, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Remember, taking care of your body is essential for injury-free running.

Nicho Mauricio

Running wasn't always my favorite sport. I was a CrossFit athlete and I loved every bit of it. But since the pandemic began, I was forced to stay away from the gym and train at home instead. Things got boring. That's when I decided to trail run with my friends. I instantly got hooked. So I started training and researching all things running. As a beginner, I want to buy only the best running gear and do only the best practices. This blog is where I share what I've learned in my journey and my experiences as a runner.

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