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Calf pain

Calf pain describes any pain or discomfort that is felt at the back of the lower leg in the area known as the calf.

What is calf pain?

Calf pain is an umbrella term for pain that is felt in either one or all of the muscles that form the calf. The calf is comprised of two muscles, these include:


The gastrocnemius is the larger of the two muscles; it is the muscle that gives the calf its shape. The gastrocnemius has two bellies, in those who participate in sports that involve the calf muscle it is possible to see the two bellies through the skin. The gastrocnemius has many functions, these include:

  • Bending the ankle downwards (plantarflexion)
  • Knee flexion (during the swing phase of gait, when the foot is off the ground)
  • Decelerating ankle dorsiflexion (moving the ankle so that the toes point upwards)
  • Decelerating internal rotation of the thigh bone
  • Decelerating pronation
  • Stabilising the foot and ankle


The soleus sits underneath the gastrocnemius; because of this the soleus is not visible. The functions of the soleus are:

  • Plantarflexion (standing on tiptoes)
  • Maintaining standing posture (stabilisation)
Together the two bellies of the gastrocnemius and the soleus form the triceps surae, which means three headed muscle. If any of this structure becomes painful it is classified as calf pain.

What causes calf pain?

There are a number of conditions that can produce pain in the calf. It is important to distinguish one from the other as some may require urgent medical treatment. Conditions that can produce calf pain include:

  • Calf muscle strain
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Poor biomechanics (e.g. Flat feet) which may lead to:
    • Posterior shin splints
    • Tight calf muscles
  • Inappropriate footwear

What are the signs and symptoms of calf pain?

The signs and symptoms of calf pain are dependent upon the cause, for example:

Calf muscle strain
  • Pain when the calf muscle is stretched
  • Sharp pain in the calf muscle
  • Pain in the calf when standing on tip toes
Deep vein thrombosis
  • Pain and tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Heat and redness
Posterior shin splints
  • Pain is felt inside the leg where the calf muscle meets the tibia (shin bone).
Pain in the Mid-Calf (Soleus muscle pain)
  • Pain that is described as achy and dull. The pain is felt in the middle of the calf.

How is calf pain diagnosed?

A podiatrist here at will diagnose calf pain based on the signs and symptoms, a thorough history, and an examination.

Benefits of podiatry for calf pain

If you have calf pain podiatry will benefit you. The benefits of podiatry assessment and treatment for calf pain include:

  • Reduction in pain
  • Reduction in muscle tightness
  • Increase in muscle strength
  • Improvement in foot and lower leg function
  • Reduced injury risk
  • Increased range of movement
If you have calf pain it is important that the cause of the pain is established. At we treat the cause, not just the symptoms.

What would podiatry for calf pain involve?

Podiatry for calf pain would begin with an assessment. An assessment is very important as it will provide your podiatrist with clues as to the cause of your calf pain. An assessment at would consist of the following:

  • A medical history
  • A history of the problem
  • Your activity regime
  • Footwear assessment
  • Testing the calf muscles ' assessing for tightness
At your assessment the podiatrist may prescribe some stretching exercises or perform some soft tissue work on the calf muscle. If problems persist, or if the podiatrist believes it will be beneficial, you may be referred for a Biomechanical assessments.

There are a variety of treatments for calf pain, the treatment option most suitable for you will depend on the cause. Treatment for calf pain may include:


Calf pain describes pain or discomfort that is felt at the back of the lower leg in the calf muscle. The calf is two muscles; the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius has two heads, which together with the soleus form the Triceps Surae, which means 'three headed muscle'.

Calf pain has a number of causes, the most common cause being muscle strain, and issues relating to poor lower limb and foot mechanics, for example, flat feet.

There are a variety of treatment options for calf pain, however, the treatment most suitable for you will depend on the cause. If your calf pain is related to poor lower limb and foot mechanics can help you.

To arrange an assessment with one our podiatrists please email, alternatively call us on 0330 088 4222.

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