Are frustrated by knee pain when you are running? One thing you may not have thought of as important is the strength of your calf muscles.
The muscles in the lower leg absorb a lot of force when you are running.
What is a lot?
16,875,000N over the course of a 50 minute 10k!
N = Newtons, the correct measurement for force. In more nonscientific terms that equals 1,680,000kgs of force per leg. (these numbers are from a presentation by Seth O’Neill one of the tops guys in in this area)
Now, these numbers are not meant to scare you but simply to highlight the demands of running. In healthy, strong individuals these numbers present no issues.
What does it have to do with knee pain?
If these muscles, and soleus can’t do their job the force has to go elsewhere. This means further up the chain.
The calf muscles absorb the landing forces as well as helping control the knee angle and how the tibia moves over the foot.
Gastrocnemius, the big horseshoe shaped one, works with the hamstrings to help maintain the knee angle. Soleus, the deeper muscle, controls the movement of the tibia over the foot.
In both cases, a lot of this stress is transferred to the quads.
Where the knee angle isn’t maintained they have to slow down knee flexion. Similarly where soleus isn’t controlling the rate at which the tibia travels this places more stress on the quads.
What can you do?
One quick fix is to make sure that your calf muscles are strong enough.
A healthy runner will be able to use 2X their bodyweight in a calf raise for reps. It might sound like a lot but think about those numbers from earlier.
Your calf muscles are really strong or at least need to be. The idea of using heavy weights to help your running shouldn’t be something to worry about.
Our return to running program also addresses the need to maintain the knee angle. This is essential to good running.
One thing we often see where there is a pattern of re-injury or pain returning is a lack of loading in the rehab. This is both in the form of calf raise movements and plyometric drills.
To ensure a successful return you need to get exposed to all the types of loading you experience when running. Without it, you are leaving potential problems in place as they haven’t be tested properly.
Also, our return to running program helps ensure a nice gradual build up in the actual running. In this way, you have time to adapt to the demands of actually running.
If this sounds familiar to you then why not enquire about one of our FREE Discovery Visits and see how we can help you.