Best running shoes for calf or Leg pain in 2021

Our favourite running shoes for people who often experience calf pain when running is ASICS Gel-Kayano 26.

How often do you take notice of your calf when you are running? Chances are never, unless you are experiencing some type of calf pain or leg muscle soreness. Before you continue reading, I want you to understand that running shoes are not the only reason that can cause soreness in the calf. People who say “Buy my shoes and your problem solved” didn’t tell you the whole story.

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However, if you have tried other methods and are quite certain that you’ll need a new pair of running shoes to prevent calf pain, you’ve come to the right place. After intensive research, we have compiled a list of some of the best running shoes to help solve your sore calves problem from running:

The five best running shoes for calf pain

What’s making your calf pain?

Overloading your calf muscle

When we are performing any physical activities or labor, our muscle fiber breakdown. These mini tears in muscle tissue are created, and our body has the ability to adapt to these tears and recover. This is how your muscles become stronger.

Problems arise when you don’t give enough time for your muscle to rest and recover before your next workout. Maybe you’re excited to the new lifestyle you’re committed to or you’re trying to follow the pace of an experienced runner.

My advice is give your muscle some time to rest, drop volume/intensity by 30% for a few days after every heavy run/workout. This is to make sure your body has time to adapt to your new pattern on muscle that you’ve created. 

Too much Hill Run

“Why”, you asked. There are two types of muscle contraction. 

  1. Concentric contraction – Shortening of muscle 
  2. Eccentric contraction – Lengthening of muscle

Concentric contractions happen when you lift your foot off the ground or sprint off.  What you have to be careful of is the second type, Eccentric contraction. This is when your foot strikes the ground, or you lower your body after a jump to control the movement. In eccentric movement, you are extending your calves muscle. Your calf muscle will need extra energy to perform eccentric contraction when you are running down the hill.

uphill run

It’s easy to overextend your calves muscle every time your foot strikes the ground. Be careful and control your speed, slow down or take breaks when navigating a steep incline. A good running shoe will help you to reduce the impact on your calf, thus, help you decrease the chance of injury. 

Important in shoe selection in the case of calves pain or tight calves

Cushioning

It’s okay to choose a more minimalist shoe if you don’t experience any muscle soreness in your calf. But in the case of calf pain, a pair of fitted and cushioned running shoes can be helpful to reduce your soreness.  It’s recommended that you choose a shoe that has enough cushion thickness on the heel side of the shoe. 

Cushioning on the heel side will provide shock absorption feature, thus, reduce the impact on your calf muscle in each stride. While most of the running nowadays provide some form of cushioning, not all cushioning systems are created equal. 

Each manufacturer uses different materials and has different technology for their cushioning system. Some use air pockets to create shock absorption systems, others use gel to cushion their shoes. In AthleticGens, we test and pick the running shoes that have the best cushioning system for shock absorption. 

High Drop(Offset between heel & forefoot)

Drop is the difference in height (usually in mm) between your heel and ball of your foot when you wear the shoes. Check our ultimate guide if you want to know more about running shoe anatomy and lingo.

Most running shoes have a drop of 12mm. Some of the more minimalist shoes have 0 drop. If you choose to run with a shoe with 0 drop, you are asking your achilles tendon and calf muscle to lengthen lower to the ground.

In this case, you are putting much more stress on your calf and achilles. If you are looking for running shoes for calf support, try going for shoes that have a high drop. Thickness in the heel side can reduce the stretch of your calf and achilles tendon need to perform in each stride. It can reduce the stress you put onto your calf muscle. 

Arch support system

Arch support and heel support are the two most important factors when choosing running shoes, especially in the case of ankle, or calf pain. You want shoes with maximum comfort and have good shock absorption features.

A good running shoe takes the load off your foot and joints. You’ll still want running shoes that have a good built-in arch support system, even if you often use shoe inserts to support your foot and body.

We’ve chosen the shoes with the right arch support system for calf support. Which helps runners to reduce the probability of unwarranted pain and discomfort.

ASICS Gel-Kayano 26 (Our recommendation)

For Men:

For Women:

ASICS Gel-Kayano 26 features a soft heel cushioning and is known for its stability and high-mileage construction. 

Features

I.G.S (Impact Guidance System) Technology ASICS combines four different types of technology to make sure runners have a cleaner stride. There is an external heel counter built to minimize ankle movement . This shoe also supports stable movements by reinforcing the middle part of the sole and preventing the shoe from twisting. All these result in easier, instinctive movements for more natural foot flexibility. You will have better control of motion to stay upright and in control.

Rearfoot and Forefoot Gel Technology Cushioning System – Their rearfoot Gel Technology provides shock absorption, that would otherwise bear by your calf and achilles tendon.

FlyteFoam Lyte and Propel Technology – This shoe has a lighter midsole compared to other running shoes due to its formulation of using organic nano fibers. Other than that, they also use an elastomer compound in its construction to provide better bounce.

AHAR rubber sponge – High abrasion rubber is present in critical area of outsole(bottom of your shoes) to reduce wear and tear, this results in longer lifespan compared to others

Spevafoam 45 Lasting –  They came out with the foam material that retains that shock absorbing quality but increases the rebound component. It’s good for both long distance and fast runner.

Pro(s):

  • Lightweight Cushioning
  • Flexible Fit
  • Structural Support

Con(s): 

  • Above average price

ASICS Gel-Venture 7 Running shoes (Best Budget Choice)

For Men:

For Women:

Features

Ortholite X-40 Sockliner – Similar with Gel-Kayano 26(Our recommendation), this shoes has pretty good moisture management system and high level of breathability due its material.

Rearfoot Gel Technology Cushioning System – Cushioning system in heel side allows the shoes to absorb shock during heel strike. Compared to Gel-Kayano 26(Our recommendation), this shoes lack cushioning in the forefoot section.

Trail specific outsole – This running shoe has a reversed lug, which provides a great amount of traction for runners who are into trail running.

AHAR rubber sponge – High abrasion rubber is present in critical area of outsole(bottom of your shoes) to reduce wear and tear. This results in longer lifespan compared to others.

ASICS designs this shoe for athletes who love to run outdoors. It allows you to take on the tough terrain without worrying about the lifespan of the outsole. However, a reversed lug on a thicker outsole is adding weight onto the shoes, making it heavier than other normal running shoes.

This shoe is suitable for people who are into trail running, if you are constantly running on the road or treadmill, I advise you to skip this one. While it has decent cushioning, running long distances in heavier shoes will likely to affect your stamina. But if you are into trail running, this shoe is perfect for you!

Pro(s):

  • Affordable
  • Flexible Fit
  • Structural Support

Con(s): 

  • Heavier(Due to reversed lug feature on outsole)

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 (Best for speed)

For Men:

For Women:

Features

The Nike Pegasus 36 is part of their Zoom series, which is known for its performance and speed. While this shoe shines at higher speed, it’s comfortable for casual walking too.

Nike wrapped this shoe’s upper with a single piece of mesh, which allows it to have a cleaner look. Other than that, it eliminates the need of any overlay or external support, which in turn makes the running shoes a lot lighter. Some of its features include:

Perforations on upper Small hole on shoes upper enhance its breathability, your foot will stay as cool as possible when you’re on this shoes.

Zoom Air Cushioning System – Cushlon ST foam designed by nike sit on rearfoot and forefoot,which it balances soft cushioning with support. This is why we include this into the list, its cushioning system is one of the best in the world. It absorbs the shock and provides responsiveness that you can rely on.

Lightweight – Nike uses a slimmer heel collar and tongue to reduce its weight, without compromise on comfort. Thin and asymmetrical cut design on tongue helps you to avoid any irritation of tongue rubbing your foot. If you like lighter shoes that can give you speed, these shoes are what you’re looking for.

Pro(s):

  • Lightweight 
  • Comfortable Cushioning
  • Flexible Fit
  • Great rubber coverage on outsole

Con(s): 

  • Similar design with Pegasus 35
  • Some people have complained that this shoes is sized tight

Saucony Triumph 17(Max Cushioning)

For Men:

For Women:

Features

“Great long run shoes without too much weight” said one of their users. Indeed, Saucony Triumph 17 is known for its extremely comfortable ride. With its PWRRUN+ Midsole and plush inner construction. It provides a little boost on the long run with its responsible midsole.

Many runners shared that these shoes are quite pillowy, which helps them to reduce fatigue and soreness. However, extra cushioning means extra weight. This shoe is more on a heavy side, despite the company’s effort to bring it down in each newer version.

PWRRUN+ Midsole- An upgrade from its previous version “‘PWRRUN”, which is 28% lighter, claimed by the company. Its adaptive cushioning absorbs more impact than the previous version for greater responsiveness. Many runner use this shoes for marathon training.

Softness all around – Cushioning in these shoes is helpful when it comes to reducing calf pain. It’s known for absorbing hard pounding without sacrificing the integrity underfoot.

Responsive cushioning – Pwrrun+ is molded with expanded Polyurethane. Its less dense than their previous version foam. This new midsole is easier to compress than their predecessor, and bounds back quickly.

Good shoe for colder months – Polyurethane midsole has higher resistance to temperature than traditional EVA midsole. This is one of the advantages in using polyurethane as a midsole material. Lower temperature ground just won’t make your feet colder easily. If you run 4 seasons a year, this shoe is right for you.

Pro(s):

  • Soft, responsive
  • Smooth cushioning
  • Durable outsole
  • Soft tongue
  • Plush heel fit

Con(s): 

  • Limited use-case: its best for casual running

Brooks Ghost 12

For men and women:

Features

The ghost series is one of the most enduring series in Brooks company. Their shoes are known for plush uppers and interiors. The Brooks 12 is designed for runners who love soft rides in a long run. High drop and soft heel side cushioning features in this shoe makes it a great choice if you are trying to ease your calf pain during runs. 

“Great shoes, great support, cushion” is the common feedback by their buyer. However, some customers complained that the shoes upper hold more heat than Brooks 11.

DNA Loft Cushioning Heel side cushioning in this running shoe making the ride soft, but not squishy. Many customers are surprised by the shoe’s responsiveness despite the soft cushioning.

Responsive BioMoGo DNA midsole – Brooks Technology for its midsole strikes the right balance between stability and long distance comfort. You will enjoy the run if you like casual / treadmill running.

Excellent outsole grip – Durable blown rubber is covering up most areas of the outsole, allowing maximum grip. If you are constantly running on slippery/smooth surfaces, this feature can enhance your stability during runs.

High drop – High abrasion rubber is present in critical area of outsole(bottom of your shoes) to reduce wear and tear. This results in longer lifespan compared to others

Pro(s):

  • Cushioning
  • Flexible Fit
  • Structural Support

Con(s): 

  • Shoes upper hold in heat, not the best shoes in summer time
  • Above average price (But durable)

Salomon X-Mission 3 (Best for Trail Running)

For Men:

For Women:

Features

Salomon company pitch: “Accept the challenge of any surface with the X-Mission 3”.Salomon X-Mission 3 is designed for people who are into trail running. From outside, the shoes look like an aggressive trail shoes.

But it’s designed for urban trail running. Their EVA(Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foam is providing you a well-cushion base. Its 10mm drop together with soft foam cushioning can help runners to absorb footstrike impact. If you are into trail running, this shoe is right for you.

Multi-surface grip – This shoes features 3D Grip Technology, it has a lug pattern that works equally well on any surface. Surprisingly, their durable outsole doesn’t add much weight to the shoes. “Super light and also supportive with good tread for urban use” said existing buyer,

Breathable – Upper of these shoes is made of uniquely designed 3D mesh material, most buyers are happy with their breathable upper. It’s open enough for air to flow in but also blocking debris and sand from entering.

SensiFit with Quick lace design – Sensifit system in this shoes helps to ensure that runner’s foot is securely wrapped inside the shoes. The shoe features an asymmetrical quick lace system, it allows you to lace your shoes quickly and efficiently. If you don’t like lacing your shoes everytime you go out for a run, you’ll want to invest in this.

Pro(s):

  • Excellent traction in any surface
  • Easy and quick lace system
  • Comfortable cushioning
  • Snug and secure fit

Con(s): 

  • Toe box is too small
  • Some have complaint midsole isn’t soft enough

My recommendation 

When it comes to choosing running shoes to reduce calf pain, there’s such a wide range of different brands from manufacturers. You can spend a little more to get decent quality shoes or opt for value for money. When it comes down to it, it’s a case of personal preference and running terrain.

Out of all the six running shoes we studied, the final product I’ll recommend is ASICS Gel-Kayano 26. People are happy with I.G.S(Impact Guidance System) Technology ASICS provide. Which allows them to have better motion control and flexibility. I personally love their Rearfoot and Forefoot Gel technology that provide impact absorption for runners with knee and calf pain.

Aside from their slightly above average price, It’s well liked by many people who thought it did an efficient job and at excellent value for money. Some people use it for casual walking, others think It makes good shoes for long distance running.

Use Foam Roller to ease Calf Pain after running

Other than changing your shoes, you should also incorporate recovery exercise after your run. One of the easiest way to relax you calf after running is doing SMR(self-myofascial release), using foam roller is one of the best way to do it.

Most pain in your calves develops in the middle, it’s caused by micro-tears and lactate buildup in your muscles as I mentioned above. SMR should be performed after every heavy workout, suggests the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Here is the video of how to use a foam roller for recovery after a run/workout. 

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1 thought on “Best running shoes for calf or Leg pain in 2021”

  1. If you feel your calf is itching and paining while running, then there must be some serious problem with your leg and probably the calf. May be your shoes are causing such pain and you need to change your shoes. Therefore, we suggest you to consider the best shoes for tight calves to give special support to your calf.

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