To get the best shoe for your calf, you ideally need to know what’s causing your calf pain.
Until then, have a read of this great article that can help you find the cause of your calf soreness.
Choosing the best running shoe for calf pain
- Heel-toe offset
- Level of support
- Stack height
Feature #1 – Heel-toe offset
The first is heel toe offset, also known as heel to toe drop. This describes the height of the heel relative to the height of the toe.
It tells you how much the foot is angled downwards when you’re standing. This downwards angle reduces the amount of stretch on the calf. So a high heel toe offset, typically around 10mm or greater, will reduce the amount of stretch of the calf.
If your calf symptoms are linked to shorter calf muscles, a higher heel toe offset is helpful.
A high heel toe offset is also useful for very painful, irritated conditions as it provides some pain relief. It allows you to run faster with less pressure on the calf compared to low drop shoes.
Feature #2 – Level of support
The level of support is rated from neutral (no direct support), then minimum/moderate/maximum support levels and finally, motion control.
Neutral shoes make the calf work harder by increasing the amount of muscle work required to stabilise the ankle.
The min/mod/max support options provide more structure and support (obviously) which reduces the stability work required. But it can inadvertently make it harder for the calf to propel you forwards.
Motion control options are rarely required and make normal biomechanics almost impossible.
The best advice for support levels is to go with the lowest level required to maintain a consistent running technique for the duration of your runs. If you start well but lose form in the last few miles, you might benefit from an upgraded support level.
Feature #3 – Stack height
Stack height refers to the overall height off the ground – basically it’s the amount of foam under your foot.
Higher stack heights, as seen with Hoka running shoes and other brands, reduce the calf muscle work with landing. As you impact, the cushioning help with shock absorption. That means your calf muscles won’t be as active, which should reduce calf muscle fatigue.
Feature #4 – Outsole or grip
Last on our list is the outsole or grip on the shoe. And this one might surprise you!
Better grip – either from new shoes or more aggressive grip patterns – actually increases the load on the calf.
As you push off, the improved grip ensures that you don’t slip. So all that force generated in the calf is matched by a firm attachment to the ground, maximising calf muscle loading.
Compare that to an old shoe, smooth grip patterns or road shoes worn on trail, and the opposite occurs. The calf force is allows to slip a little as it pushes off, reducing the forces pushing back against it. that will reduce your performance slightly but it’ll also reduce your calf pain in each running session.