I’ve been a runner for 39 years and for approximately 20 of those years I’ve been a trail runner. I have been extremely fortunate not to have suffered any injuries (aside from an occasional fall) until October 19 of this year.
It was a routine run until I experienced a sudden, sharp pain in my left calf. It felt like a severe muscle cramp but worse. When I got home I began a regimen of ice, ibuprofen and rest. After 9 days I tried a short run but didn’t get far before the pain recurred. Matters only got worse when I began limping which led to knee and hip soreness. It was time to contact a doctor.
I ended up seeing a Sports Medicine physician from the Mayo Clinic. The day before my appointment they x-rayed my leg from knee to ankle. During the examination the doctor reviewed my x-rays (normal) and examined my leg for pain and range of motion. He observed how I stood and walked. Then he asked about my shoes and I told him that I had switched to a different shoe a couple of months ago because I wanted a wider shoe. His diagnosis was Gastrocnemius strain and that my “new” shoes were the cause. He prescribed a strong anti-inflammatory (Meloxicam) and physical therapy (PT).
I started PT the very next day. My regimen includes stretching and strengthening exercises, massage, and cold pressure treatments. My PT therapist said that soft muscle injuries require 6 weeks to completely heal. I am about to start my third week of treatment and so far I am pleased with my progress. I no longer limp and am able to take short walks around our neighborhood. My goal is to start bike riding followed by some light running in early December.
I learned a little more about this injury from my wife. She told me that it is common in women when changing from wearing high heels to flatter shoes. That’s because over time wearing high heels shortens the calf muscle. Changing to flatter shoes can lead to calf muscle strain.
And that’s what I think happened to me. Over many years of running (in shoes with good heel support), my calf muscles became shorter. So when I switched to flatter shoes (with a lower heel relative to the toe box), they began to strain my calf muscles. Plus, running up hill exacerbated the strain. Over the course of several months, strain grew into injury.
I’ve now reached a point in my life and running when I sometimes wonder what is finally going to force me to stop. I never imagined my shoes possibly being the cause. Hopefully I will make a complete recovery and resume running with shoes that I select more carefully, e.g. more heel support and a heel-to-toe drop that is not too flat.