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I've been adjusting to forefoot/barefoot running for a couple months now. I keep extending my distance or increasing my speed or improving my form. Consequently, my calves have been staying sore for most of the last couple months. A week ago I decided to take a break and let my calves get completely recovered.

During this week of rest I did light activity. For example, yesterday I went for a 4 mile walk and during the walk I practised a few running drills (what Ryan Hall calls "dribbles") and I ran a few blocks focusing on technique a few different times during my walk.

But light activity can helped recovery, so I think I've done a pretty good job of backing off my training intensity for a week. I have also done some icing, compression and had two calf massages this week, etc.

Even after all that, my calves (soleus) are still slightly sore today, one omre than the other. I can only notice this soreness if I flex them a certain way, so it is very slight soreness.

My question is this: should I take another day (or two) off and let the soreness go away 100%? Or can I go ahead and resume training before the soreness is completely gone?

What are the pros and cons of either approach?

I think this is a generic question that could apply to resuming training of many different types. My past experience is that people generally recommend training again even if there is a small amount of soreness from a prior workout in a case where the rest period for the muscle has been appropriate and most of the soreness is gone. This may be the general answer to my question: Is it healthy to exercise a muscle when it's still sore?

I'm excited to get out and run. I feel ready to go. That psychological state means something too.

What does Physical Fitness Stack Exchange think about this topic in the context of transitioning to a new running technique? Does the generic answer apply?

BTW, this running has done more for the appearance of my calf muscles than weight lifting ever did. I could never get my calves to grow before. Now I don't even care about that, but they do look better than I recall them ever looking in the past, no matter how much I worked them.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

First, kudos to you for cutting back your training enough that soreness was all you encountered. I see far too many people who say they cut back, but still overdo it and injure themselves.

Here are three points and a personal anecdote to consider:

  1. You say yourself that your calves are looking better. What you have been doing, with somewhat constant, slight-to-moderate soreness, hasn't hurt you. However, our bodies dislike stress, and pain (even soreness) increases our stress, reducing our bodies ability to perform.

  2. Taking it easy for a week to allow the soreness to subside also hasn't hurt you. The soreness has apparently gone down and you feel good and ready to run some more.

  3. You've (had to?) rely on icing and massage, in part at least, to get the soreness to go away.

When I switched to barefoot and minimalist shoe running, I also cut back drastically on miles and time spent running, and also had a near-constant slight-to-moderate soreness. I actually would have cut back even more, but was preparing for the Ragnar Wasatch Back relay and felt I really needed to keep up my mileage.

After the race I took almost 2 weeks "off" with no training, just moderately more than normal-life activity and some stretching every night. The soreness went completely away, and when I returned to "training" (mostly just running for fun) I felt much better than before the race, and was able to add more distance more quickly without incurring the same amount of semi-permanent soreness.

I'm obviously a very small sample size, but my experience, combined with that of others I know, would lead me to recommend a few more (2-3) days of light activity to allow the soreness to completely go away, then a slow ramp up back to your previous levels of training. Don't worry about time frame. Once your lower legs and feet are accustomed to their new roles, and you can run without soreness, there will be plenty of time to increase mileage, speed, or duration--just do it intelligently and stay healthy.

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Thanks. That sounds like good advice. –  MountainX Jun 12 '12 at 20:56
    
You said, "... recommend a few more (2-3) days of light activity to allow the soreness to completely go away..." In hindsight that was the right advice. I actually went ahead and ran the day I posted this (before reading the reply) and it turned out to be too soon. –  MountainX Jun 13 '12 at 20:56
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