Hiking can provide anyone with a relaxing outdoor experience, but if it is overly done, it can lead to soreness, especially a sore calf. It is important to note that a sore calf due to hiking can occur if it is done too much. The soreness is an indication that the body is acclimatizing to the new activity. Nevertheless, the individual might have a pulled calf muscle or injured the Achilles tendon. If the pain persists, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible.
Sprains, strains and soreness
When hiking, the individual will surely know when the calves are up to the task. Walking uphill or on uneven ground can trigger an ache in the calves that resting can easily help. Additionally, the build-up of lactic acid and micro-tears from the overworked muscles can lead to a sore calf.
In most cases, a sore calf can also indicate a strain or sprain. The sprains typically occur from a fall or accident and caused by pulled or torn ligaments. The strains develop when a muscle or tendon is injured by overstretching or overuse. The indications of both strains and sprains include swelling, pain and bruising at the affected region. It is also possible to end up with a strain and a sprain simultaneously. This can occur once an ankle sprain triggers strain on the Achilles tendon.
Overexertion while hiking can lead to shin splint which causes mild to harsh aches in the front part of the inferior leg. Stretching prior to hiking and using supports for the arch in the hiking boots can help avoid or relieve shin splints.
Place an ice pack for 15 minutes after exercise if the pain persists. If it persists when walking, it can indicate a minor fracture on the tibia. The individual should take a break from exercising for 2 weeks and consult a doctor if the pain persists.
For those who are starting to hike or only hike occasionally, he/she can start with easy treks and steadily work on the challenging ones. Make sure to perform proper warm up and stretch the back of the legs before the hike.
Use hiking boots that properly fit and replace them once they are worn out. If pain is felt during the hike, it is best to slow down the pace or take a break. After the hike, stretch the muscle to cool them down.
Treatment for a sore calf
When it comes to a sprain or strain, you have to use the RICE method (rest, ice, compression and elevation). The individual must rest for 1-2 days after the hike while applying ice on the affected area for 10 minutes every 2 hours. If you want to learn more the RICE method, read here.
Apply a comfortable elastic bandage on the affected area and remove it 15-20 minutes every 3-4 hours. Elevate the affected area higher than the level of the heart. Balms, liniments and over-the-counter medications can help relieve the pain. As for a mild sore calf, the individual should stop all activities that can worsen the pain.