Minimalist footwear can reduce your soreness after a workout.
Sore calves are a normal part of workouts like cycling, running and playing sports. Understanding where your soreness stems from can help you decide whether to push it for another workout, or whether your body needs a break. Most soreness in calves is from micro-tears in the muscle that are a normal part of muscle strengthening -- but prolonged or severe soreness could be an indication of a more serious issue. Work rest days into your routine to make sure your muscles can recover and rebuild.
Sourcing the Pain
Your calf muscles are mostly comprised of two distinct muscles. The gastrocnemius, the larger of the two muscles, is the rounded bulge at the top of your calves, just under the backs of your knees. This muscle does most of the work when you propel yourself off of your forefoot during a jump, lunge, or stride. The smaller muscle that runs behind the gastrocnemius to your ankle is the soleus, which works with your achilles tendon.
Soreness Can be a Good Thing
Some soreness in your muscles after a workout is perfectly normal, and is a good indication that you've worked out those muscles extensively. As your muscles pull taut during a strenuous exercise, some individual muscle fibers called myofibrils are torn. When your workout ends, your muscles have already begun rebuilding these tears using protein from your diet. Once the myofibrils are healed, they'll be stronger than they were before, eventually making your muscle bigger and more powerful over a period of several months. It's a good idea to stretch your sore muscles on your off-days; this will help you build toned muscle and maintain flexibility.
Soreness Can Be a Bad Thing, Too
If your soreness doesn't go away after you take a day or two off from exercising, there could be another source of your pain. Injuries common with runners can include a strained muscle, a serious muscle tear, a microfracture, or even achilles tendinosis. These injuries often require medical treatment, so any unusually painful soreness in your calf muscles should be taken seriously, as they will only get worse with use. Consult your physician or a sports clinic for diagnosis and treatment for your calves in the event of a serious injury.
Stop Soreness In Its Tracks
If you're getting a good workout from your exercise routine, you'll want to be a little sore afterwards. You can work to prevent a serious calf injury through strengthening and proper footwear. Minimalist shoes work to build muscle in your feet and calves that helps you maintain balance and good form, which can reduce injury in athletes and runners. These shoes have an inherent adjustment period as you strengthen your feet to cope with less support and padding -- but the tradeoff of reducing your recovery time and preventing the worst calf injuries entirely could be well worth the effort.