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. The calf, lower leg, and ankle area all play important roles in the riding motion. If you experience ankle and/or calf pain after riding, it could be a sign of poor mechanics, poor nutrition, improperly fitted equipment, or overuse.
This article will go over how to deal with some of the common health issues that can arise in cyclists' calves and ankles. With expert advice and biking equipment from L9 Sports, you'll be able to spend more time on outdoor adventures pain-free.
Ankling: Don't Do It
Achilles tendon pain is usually related to problems with pedaling — specifically, 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This style of riding was recommended in the past but is now discredited as an out-of-date and potentially dangerous way to ride a bike.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 throughout 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. This causes the rider to have to point their toes 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.
A major discomfort that can arise in the lower leg is cramping. 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.
One overlooked but important aspect of a biker's calf and ankle health is cleats placement — or misplacement, as it were. The cleats should be positioned so the center of the pedal axle and the ball of your foot are in line with each other. Putting them too far forward causes “toe down” pedaling that inflames the Achilles tendon and strains the calves. If the cleats are too far back, it overworks the upper leg muscles.
Proper biking procedures don't end when the ride does. Make sure to stretch after a ride, which includes the calves and ankles. Sometimes, the cause of calf pain after bike riding is a simple matter of tight muscles. If you've just finished a particularly strenuous ride, using massage rollers, cold packs and other recovery methods can help prevent problems from developing in the lower legs.