Calf strength is an issue for Rachel who has bad knees

January 21, 2016


I have had bad knees since I was a teenager (have snapped both cruciates and had both operated on) but recently decided this shouldn’t stop me from running and have started the coach to 5k programme.

I am really struggling with pain in my calves when I run, it feels like I get lactic acid build up incredibly quickly and makes me need to stop and walk or stretch. This is a problem I’ve noticed over the years doing other sports, anything high intensity, for example I have to stop much more than other people when I snowboard as the pain grows until I rest it.

I don’t know if it’s related to my knees but thought it worth mentioning.

Do I need to see someone to figure out the root cause of this?

Thanks Rachel

The Guru asked for more information:

How many single, straight knee heel raises and bent knee heel raises can you do on your left and right leg? And how long have you been doing them for?

Rachel replied:

I’ve actually been practicing this recently because I read it was meant to help: I can do about 25 straight and 20 bent with both, although the left gets a bit more tired.

I started about a week so I maybe started being able to do 20 rather than 25.


January 21, 2016

There maybe an issue of load management – doing too much too soon, but in general terms from couch to 5km should have this aspect well covered.

Calf strength is an issue – and like any muscle if you buzz the muscle to fatigue it will produce lactic acid, as you describe. The way you get around this is by getting incrementally stronger, over a prolonged time period – which I think would be your best option.

There are a few other “maybe’s” such as it’s not your calf but it is your sciatic nerve becoming irritated due to something else happening elsewhere, and feeling like lactic acid build up.

It could also be an issue with the blood vessels that run into your calf being “strangled” and so your calf runs out of oxygen and produces lactic acid – this is a type of claudication and can have a number of causes.

Try the getting slowly getting stronger bit first – takes a few weeks to see a difference. If there’s no change do get someone to have a look at the other possibilities.

There’s something that can be done, I’m sure.

The Guru

Guru Responded

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