Fixing & Avoiding
Ankle & Calf Pain
Cyclists are generally safer than runners and people who participate in sports like volleyball or basketball when it comes to leg injuries. However, there are still things that can go wrong. This article will go over some of the common health issues that can arise with the calf, lower leg and ankle area, and how to deal with these issues.
Ankling: Don't do it
Achilles tendon pain is usually related to problems with pedaling -- some sort of imbalance or improper technique that is creating unnecessary stress within the lower leg and ankle area. One common cause is "ankling," the pedaling style defined by a constantly-changing ankle angle (toes pointed upwards at the top of the stroke and downwards at the bottom).
This style of riding was recommended in the past, but is now discredited as an out-of-date and potentially dangerous way to ride a bike. Instead, make sure your foot angle remains just about the same through the whole of your pedal stroke. This reduces stress on the sensitive tissues of the ankle area and will keep you riding better, for longer.
Another cause of pain in the ankle and lower leg could be an excessively high saddle, which causes the rider to have to point her toes in order to maintain contact with the pedal through the full range of motion. If you think this is the case, try adjusting your saddle slightly lower, or try out a smaller bike at your local shop. If it feels a lot better, this could be the solution to your problem.
Ankle pain could also be caused by damage to the pedal or crank itself, which could cause side-to-side motion or vibration in the foot -- not good for the health of your leg. If this is the case, a close inspection should be able to determine the location of the damage. Repairing or replacing the part could make a huge difference to the comfort level of your rides.
Cramps and strains
The other major discomforts that can arise in the lower leg are cramps and strains. These are most often triggered by strenuous sprints or climbs but can be brought on by normal riding, or even by (seemingly) nothing. Cramps are most often associated with dehydration or a lack of vital electrolytes and can usually be remedied by rest, light stretching, rehydration (especially with sports drinks) and a good snack or meal.
Muscle strains should be treated like any other overuse injury: stop your ride and rest the affected area until the pain has subsided. Icing, compression (with something like an ACE bandage) and very light stretching can also be helpful. Some people chose to take anti-inflammatory drugs to help reduce swelling.