How To Treat Sore Calves After Hiking, This article will tell you what are the causes of sore calves and how to treat them.
Have you just completed a long hike and returned home feeling soreness in your calves? Or maybe you’re longing to go backpacking but have a hiking injury that is holding you back. Well here’s how to treat sore calves after hiking.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, so the advice I give here is strictly from personal experience.
I’ve been a hiker for years, and I’ve discovered a few tricks to increase my recovery time after a strenuous hike.
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Calf muscles can become sore after a strenuous hike, especially if you push yourself hard. Sometimes, pain might even persist long after the hike even if you are not going anywhere else.
Many hikers have experienced this and when it happens, it can be hard to treat these sore calves and know what the best way to do so is.
Treating calf soreness after hiking or walking can be tricky. Many hikers experience sore calves after a long hike, but don’t always want to use medication or other remedies that may not be suitable for them.
If you suffer from a sore calf muscle, here are some options to help you after exercising or working out.
In This Article
What Causes Sore Calves After A Hike?
Your legs will get sore if you hike longer than usual. Calves will feel extra tired after walking. You might even experience calf cramps. To avoid this, try drinking plenty of water or take some salt pills before going out on a long hike.
If you’re hiking for long periods of time over rough terrain, your calves will naturally exert more effort than they’re used to. You’ll enjoy increased blood flow and leg oxygenation during the hike itself, but once you stop and rest, there could be a side effect that results in super sore muscles.
Lactic Acid Buildup
Sore calves after hiking can be caused by a build up in lactic acid, a type of chemical that is produced when your body breaks down glucose for energy and creates a byproduct called pyruvic acid and when the Pyruvic acid reacts with water to create lactic acid.
If you don’t give your body a chance to remove the chemicals, they can build up in different parts of your body.
Lactate builds up when there isn’t enough oxygen available to fuel the muscles and produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which provides energy for movement. This build-up can lead to cramping, pain, and discomfort during exercise.
Know The Difference In Pain and Soreness
Hikers who hike regularly usually get sore muscles. Beginners should start out slowly and gradually increase their hiking time and intensity. People who do long multi-day hikes often get sore muscles. Endurance hikers will get sore muscles from the length of the hike and the physical challenges involved.
Muscles tighten when you exercise. You can tell if a muscle is tight because it feels hard and painful. A muscle that hurts when you stretch it out is probably strained. A muscle that is tender and swollen is bruised. When your body gets tired, muscles get stiffer and tighter. This is called neuromuscular soreness. Neuromuscular soreness usually goes away in a few days.
Preexisting Conditions Can Affect Your Body After A Hike
If you’re hiking and have a preexisting condition, you need to be as careful as possible so you don’t injure yourself. You can still go hiking; it just might mean taking some special precautions.
Treating Your Preexisting Conditions
If your doctor has advised you to avoid strenuous exercise, then you should follow that advice when hiking. You might be tempted to push yourself in order to get a good workout, but overdoing it could cause damage to your body or aggravate your preexisting condition even more.
If you find that hiking is too hard on your body, consider different types of exercise. Swimming is an ideal gentle form of exercise for people with preexisting conditions, but there are also other options if you’re looking for something a little more challenging.
Preparing for Your Hike
Once you’ve decided to go ahead with your hike, make sure you’re prepared for the challenges of hiking with a preexisting condition.
This includes taking the right kinds of medications and packing the appropriate supplies. If necessary, ask someone else along who can help support you if something goes wrong.
This leads me to next thing to consider:
Tips for Preventing Muscle Soreness and Tightness
Sore muscles and tightness are part of the game when it comes to hiking. But there are measures you can take to minimize soreness.
Here are 5 few tips that will help:
1) Stretch and Warm Up Before You Hit The Trail
A warmup routine is essential. Warming up is a good idea because it elevates your heart rate and gets your blood flowing. It increases your core temperature and prepares your muscles for physical activity.
When you walk without warming up, it’s like taking a cold shower or jumping into the pool without gradually getting acclimated to the temperature change.
Begin your warmup routine with the same exercises you do before running or playing sports — leg swings, high kicks, knee lifts.
Aim for an extra 5 to 15 minutes of easy exercise.
Start by walking around for 5 minutes. When you start your hike, begin with a slow pace and gradually speed up. Stretch your muscles. Once your body is warmed up, stretch for about 10 minutes.
Here are three stretches that will help you warn up and minimize soreness:
Calf Stretch: Standing on a flat surface, bring one foot forward so that the heel is off the ground. Bend over at the waist until you feel a stretch in the back of your lower leg. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and switch legs.
Hamstring Stretch: Lying on one side with both legs straight out in front of you, bend one knee and pull it toward your chest. You should feel a stretch in your thigh muscle.
Switch legs and repeat for 30 seconds each side.
Groin Stretch: Standing with one foot on the ground and the other foot raised behind you, bend over at the waist and grab your foot with both hands as far down as possible.
Bupa Health has a video to show you how to do these important stretches:
2) Wear The Right Shoes (and Backpack)
By choosing the right gear and paying attention to a few details, you’ll find the experience far less painful than you might imagine.
Hiking With the Right Shoes
Many popular brands were designed for walking but also work well on trails. The keys are comfort, support, and good traction.
Make sure your shoes fit properly. There should be no gap between your heel and the back of the shoe, but your heel shouldn’t touch the shoe either.
And don’t forget socks — hiking socks designed for the activity will help keep your feet dry and blister-free.
No matter what the activity, proper support for your feet is important. Proper support for your feet means having the right shoes for the activity you’ll be doing.
Those shoes should fit properly and be appropriate for the terrain you’ll be walking on. Having a comfortable pair of hiking boots can help minimize pain and soreness in your feet, legs, knees and back when hiking.
Try on different pairs of shoes in varying sizes until you find a pair that fits both comfortably and securely, without pinching or rubbing any part of your foot.
Besides being comfortable, hiking shoes should provide good traction on uneven surfaces like rocks and roots — especially if you’re going off-trail — as well as adequate ankle support for rocky terrain like talus slopes or creek crossings. Hiking shoes typically have rubber soles with sticky lugs that have been designed specifically for hiking.
Hiking shoes with aggressive tread patterns and sticky rubber soles will help keep you from slipping on wet rocks and mud. You’ll also want to make sure your shoes have plenty of ankle support, as well as cushioning throughout the sole, so that your arches won’t get beat up by uneven terrain.
3) Drink Plenty of Water
We already know that you need to hydrate while exercising to avoid dehydration and heatstroke. But did you know that dehydration can also cause soreness?
As the body loses water, it draws on its stores of electrolytes to compensate. This can cause cramping and stiffness, especially in older people or athletes who are performing strenuous workouts.
A study published in the journal “Exercise and Sport Science Reviews” found that drinking water before exercising helped cyclists ride longer distances and feel less tired afterward.
Another study found that runners who drank water during a marathon hadlower body temperatures at the end of the race than runners who didn’t drink water.
A third study showed that drinking water before a long run could help prevent muscle soreness.
Bottom line: If we do not replenish our water supply by drinking water, then dehydration sets in which leads to fatigue and exhaustion. By drinking plenty of water before and during a hike, it will help reduce pain and soreness after hiking.
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4) Give Your Body The Right Fuel For The Hike
Let’s face it, there is nothing worse than not being able to enjoy a hike because your body hurts so much. One of the best things you can do to make sure your body can handle whatever hike you’re on is to make sure that it is nourished properly before you set off.
This means getting plenty of rest and eating right before going on the hike, but it also means giving your body the right fuel once you start hiking.
What are the best foods to eat while on a long hike?
If you’re going on a long hike, it’s important to make sure you eat properly beforehand. Carbs, protein, and healthy fats will all help keep your energy up and eliminate pain from sore feet and tired legs.
To keep your body’s energy level high, it’s important to consume energy-dense foods that give you sustained energy. These foods will also help reduce muscle soreness and cramping. Before you head out on the trail, make sure to eat breakfast some two to three hours before starting your hike.
It is important to eat the right foods while hiking so that you can continue enjoying your trip and have an enjoyable time with friends and family. Below are some tips to follow: Look for foods packed full of carbohydrates and proteins that can be easily digested. These include fruits, dried fruits, nuts, granola bars and trail mixes.
When you’re exhausted, simple sugars are more likely to give you a boost than complex carbs will, but they’re also more likely to cause you digestive trouble later on.
Use healthy fats like olive oil and avocado as snacks on the trail instead of chips or sweets.
The healthy fats will help keep your energy levels up while giving you extra nutrients at the same time.
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5) Use The Right Techiniques When You Hike
Yes, there is a proper way to hike. Sounds silly, but how you walk (especially over rough terrain) can make the difference.
Here are a few tips:
Use Good Posture
Stay tall, breathe deeply and don’t lock your knees! Hiking uphill can be hard on your body, so take frequent rests and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
According toHarvard University, you should step heel to toe in daily walking rather than landing flat on the balls of your feet.
You should also step lightly, making sure you take pressure off your back and hips.
When you hike, try to keep your legs straight by not reaching your leg far out in front of you. This will help you maintain a smooth, quiet stride that reduces your risk of injury.
Stay Aware Of Your Surroundings
Hiking trails and mountains can be hard to navigate. Being aware of your surroundings is important for your safety and the safety of others. Most injuries occur from misteps that can be avoided by simply paying attention and being alert to your surroundings.
Keep your head up and take in your surroundings. Stay alert for clues about your surroundings.
These five tips will help you prevent accidents and minimize soreness after a long hike.
Treating the Cause of Sore Muscles after a Long Hike
After a strenuous hike, your muscles can feel as if they have been through a battle. If you have just completed a long hike, it is important to treat your sore muscles properly.
Not only is stretching good prior to strenuous activity, it is also good for muscle recovery.
You should hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.
Feed Your Body The Right Foods
We’ve already discussed what to eat during a long hike; let’s now discuss a few foods that will help your body recover.
Best foods to eat after a hike:
After a long hike, your body needs to be restored. To get you going again, you need good nutrition, not just junk food.
Good nutrition is key in reducing and eliminating the pain and soreness you feel after a long hike.
Here are some of the best foods to eat after a long hike:
Oatmeal is one of the most popular breakfast meals that you could have. It is very nutritious and rich in fiber, which will fill you up for hours. You may want to top it with honey or syrup if you want a sweet taste.
Yogurt is very beneficial to your body because of its probiotics content and its live active cultures. These cultures are going to help improve your digestive system, as well as strengthen your bones and teeth. You can mix yogurt with granola or fruits for a more flavorful meal.
Beans are great for hikers because they are packed with proteins and iron, two nutrients that your body
Eggs are one of nature’s most perfect foods. They contain proteins (including all nine essential amino acids), vitamins B12 and B2, vitamin D, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus and zinc. They also contain choline, which is important for proper cell function.
Eggs are also high in lecithin (a compound important for brain function) and antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin (which protect against heart disease by keeping the arteries clear).
Ice Your Sore Muscles
My coach in high school beat this mantra into my head: Ice is your friend.
We often think of using ice on injuries, but it is also a good way to treat soreness in your calves.
According to Wexner Medical, using ice immediately helps reduce pain and swelling.
However, ice and heat should be alternated if pain continues.
Ice, elevation and active muscle contraction combined can help with swelling. If you’re going to use ice at all, do so in the first few days of your injury. After that, heat is better for pain relief and circulatory benefits. – quote
Another study by Wexner indicates ice is a useful tool in helping to relieve acute muscle soreness.
They have suggested that the remediation of symptoms, such as lactic acid buildup and excess fluid accumulation, are compounds for which ice has proven efficacy.
With the cold temperature, there’s a reduction of the metabolism and this can cause a slowing down of the physiological processes. The cold temperature will also reduce swelling and tissue breakdown. Ice water immersion is also said to be able to shift lactic acid. –Wexner Medical
Use A Foam Roller To Work Out Pain
Erin Krey (clinical specialist with Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital) says using a foam roller can help reduce pain and keep muscles loose and healthy.
Many therapist indicate foam rolling helps break down scar tissues, relieves muscle tightness, improves circulation, and promotes healing. It has been shown to improve athletic performance by reducing injury risk and increasing range of motion.
This video from the Mayo Clinic demonstrates how to use a foam roller to work out sore calf muscles.
Let Your Body Rest
The body heals when resting. So give your body the rest it needs to recover.
Get Plenty of Sleep
After a long hike, your body is in need of proper rest so it can recover and heal. Sleep is one way to get this rest.
When you’re hiking for long distances, there are times when your body can do without food or water for several days. However, your body won’t be able to go without sleep indefinitely and still function properly.
Things like sleep deprivation, dehydration and being malnourished will all negatively impact your physical performance.
In fact, if you begin a hike without giving yourself enough rest beforehand, your performance might actually decrease over time as the lack of sleep takes its toll on your system.
Take A Day Off From Exercise
Take a day completely off from exercise each week so that your muscles can recover. This not only improves recovery but also prevents overtraining, which can cause injury or illness. Another option is to take one day off every other week.
A good rule of thumb is to wait until your muscles are fully recovered before increasing the duration or frequency of your workouts.
If you are a hiker who experiences leg pain after long hikes, you are likely aware of calf muscles soreness and tightness.
This can be quite debilitating, especially if you hike often, or plan to hike long distances.
Luckily, there are ways to make sure that your leg pain does not cripple your hiking plans.
If you follow the tips above for prevention and treatment, you should be able to hike with minimal risk of experiencing any problems with your legs and recover from calve soreness quickly.