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5 Tips to Help You Overcome Tight Calves When Walking

5 Tips to Help You Overcome Tight Calves When Walking

Written by Isabel Mayfield | Fact checked by Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Last update: March 4, 2023
5 min

Not sure why your calf muscles ache when you walk? The causes of your calf pain might surprise you.

tight calves when walking

If you’re dealing with pain in your calves, you’re likely well aware of how much it can affect your day-to-day activities. 

Whether you experience a dull aching sensation or general fatigue in the lower part of your legs, calf pain can make you not want to do much other than kick your feet up.

If you’re ready to make painful calf muscles a thing of the past, keep reading to learn more about three possible causes of your calf pain and remedies you can use to instantly relieve the pain in your calves.

Why Does My Calf Hurt When I Walk?

There is no single explanation when it comes to painful calf muscles. The cause of your leg pain could be a simple muscle strain or something more serious, like an underlying medical condition.

In this next section, we’ll delve into common causes of calf pain to help you diagnose what might be causing the pain.

#1 Muscle cramps and strains

Muscle cramps and strains are common calf injuries that usually occur when you suddenly move or overstretch your muscle. However, they can also be the result of repetitive straining movements.

They’re not to be confused with a muscle contusion, another common calf muscle injury resulting from sudden impact that damages the muscle, often leaving behind bruising and swelling.

Cramps, which can be identified by sharp pain similar to that of a contusion, are sometimes accompanied by a lump of hard muscle under the skin. The main difference is that cramps often resolve after a few minutes of inaction, whereas contusions may take weeks to heal.

A calf strain, on the other hand, can affect both the muscles and tendons in the lower part of your leg. Tendon strains can result in a condition called tendonitis, while more serious cases of muscle strains can cause calf muscle tears. 

Unlike muscle cramps, a calf strain can take months to rehabilitate and could require surgery.

#2 Peripheral artery disease

Peripheral artery disease (PAD), a term used interchangeably with peripheral venous disease, is caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels, limiting the blood flow from the heart to the legs.

This narrowing of the blood vessels is generally caused by a buildup of fatty deposits, also known as cholesterol. If left untreated, PAD can lead to high blood pressure and a higher risk of blood clots that, if dislodged, can cause deep vein thrombosis or heart attacks. 

The symptoms of peripheral artery disease include pain or a dull ache, burning, and general discomfort in the muscles of your lower legs that generally resolve after a few minutes of rest.

Eating foods to lower cholesterol and exercising can help you limit this buildup and reverse the effects of PAD.

#3 Chronic venous insufficiency

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a condition that results as a byproduct of damaged veins in the leg muscles. When the vein walls or valves are damaged, it can affect blood flow, causing blood to pool in the lower legs.

When not enough blood can leave the calf muscles, it can cause a dull ache and varicose veins, and up to 70% of people with CVI experience heaviness in the legs. 

Just as with peripheral artery disease, the pain caused by CVI will worsen when you stand or walk and improve when you rest, especially if you put your feet up.

Are you sick and tired of dealing with calf pain and ready to make it a thing of the past? Walking.Diet can help. Walking.Diet is a personalized walking program created by healthcare professionals that can be used to treat the conditions causing the pain in your calves.

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5 Ways to Reduce Tight Calves While Walking

If you’re dealing with calf pain, you’re probably ready to get rid of it. Now that you’re sure what’s been causing your leg pain, you can arm yourself with some effective treatment methods.

#1 Stretching

Moving with cold muscles can put you at a higher risk of muscle-related injuries. So stretching first thing in the morning and before physical activity can effectively prevent injuries that could lead to pain in the calf muscles.

If you’re already dealing with a strain in your calf muscle or general pain in your lower leg, stretching can still help. Stretching is effective for reducing muscle tightness and alleviating lower leg pain.

Stretching also improves blood flow to the muscle. Since blood carries oxygen and other important nutrients to the muscles, finding ways to get more of it is essential for repairing any damaged tissue that may be causing your calf pain.

#2 Massages

Massaging provides many of the same benefits as stretching and is a common method in physical therapy for treating painful calves. 

Getting a massage offers many psychological benefits, like decreasing anxiety while also allowing you to treat muscle strains effectively.

Massage can increase circulation in the calf muscle, helping reverse the effects of chronic venous insufficiency. Unfortunately, massage isn’t an effective treatment for deep vein thrombosis, another common cause of heaviness in the legs that is a byproduct of PAD.

#3 Resting

When trying to heal a calf injury, the best treatment is often kicking your feet up and giving your muscles a break. 

Persistent calf pain is your body trying to tell you something is wrong. Continuing to push through the pain, especially if a muscle strain is causing your calf pain, could leave you with an injury that takes a turn for the worst, requiring months of rehab. 

Spend as much time as possible off your feet, using an ice pack on the affected areas to reduce swelling. When you walk, you might consider taping your muscle injuries to enhance circulation in your legs.

#4 Elevating

Elevating your legs will be especially helpful for anyone dealing with CVI and PAD and is a quick and easy way for you to relieve pressure in your legs caused by ineffective circulation.

Habitually elevating your legs while relaxing at home can have benefits, regardless of whether you’re suffering from leg or foot pain. Your veins work hard to keep your blood circulating throughout the day, and raising your legs can lower your blood pressure, giving your veins a much-needed break.

#5 Medications and supplements

If home remedies such as stretching and massages aren’t helping, talking to a healthcare provider should be your next step. To effectively treat more serious cases of calf pain, prescription medication could be required.

Your doctor may provide over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce the discomfort caused by muscle injuries. Treatment of PAD and CVI might require blood thinners. 

A Word From Our Coach

Using the methods listed in this article should help alleviate minor causes of calf pain. But in more severe cases, home remedies won’t be enough to help.

If you’re experiencing leg pain on a daily basis, or pain so severe that it affects your ability to walk, know that this isn’t normal. In these cases, talking to a healthcare professional is the best course of action.

They can run tests to get to the bottom of what’s causing your calf pain and recommend treatment options that will help you get rid of your calf pain once and for all.


There are a variety of conditions that can cause pain in the calves. Some of them, like cramping in your calf muscles and small strains, are easily treated with rest and gentle stretching. 

Conditions like PAD and CVI, which are related to the cardiovascular system, are more serious. Anyone experiencing pain while walking or standing that subsides while seated should visit their doctor for a proper diagnosis.

The easiest walking program for emotional healing and weight loss
  • Offers walking training plan
  • Provides warm-up and cool-down workouts before and after walking workout
  • Includes keto desserts cookbook
  • Offers the articles about food and nutrition, walking gear
Our rating:
Get Your Personalized Walking Plan
Written by
Isabel Mayfield is a certified yoga instructor with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is passionate about self-improvement and loves to help people improve their sense of self-worth through education and support in meeting their fitness goals.
The article was checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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