I know this is a funnily named question, but please bear with me.

The pain was new.

My calves were incredibly sore - it was painful to walk (Likely owing as I had to walk up stairs - I probably did more than 10 stories pacing a coworker literally half my weight among other issues. I'm heavy.)

I couldn't rotate on my heels during my stride at all.

Despite this, my cycling was just fine. I didn't feel my calves nearly as much as when I tried to stand up and walk!

How much should I be using my calves during my stroke? I do have straps on my pedals. Does the fact that they didn't hurt when I was making my normal cadence suggest I'm not using my calves as much as a cyclist should?


  • 1
    Something's missing: Is this pain new, or has it been there for some time? If new, is it a result of some specific activity you engaged in recently? With regard to your stroke the two questions would be 1) Is your seat high enough? and 2) What is your "normal cacdence"? May 27, 2014 at 18:54

2 Answers 2


Basing workload or technique on soreness is a poor indicator of what is going on. You could have bad pedaling technique and never feel it or have great technique with no fitness and feel sore right away.

It's likely that you are not using your calf muscles as much when you cycle as when you do stairs. Stair running is a great way to train most of the muscles in the leg, and the extension/flexion coming from the edge of the stair is what causes your calves to be sore later. While I don't have any professional experience to back this up, I believe that cycling doesn't quite put your foot through the same range of motion, thereby activating the calf less(I suppose you could point your foot up and down more, but that's bad form).

What you are likely seeing is a comparison between two activities that use similar muscle groups in different levels. Example: pulling up on a pedal (with cage or cleat) is different than simply lifting your leg up to the next stair since the pedal provides some resistance.

My recommendation: rest it for a bit, maybe a day or two and then do both activities moderately and see if you notice any pain. If you do, consult a physician about it.


I'm no expert in racing or anything but the calves shouldn't be activated almost at all when cycling to my knowledge. You're not extending the calves at the bottom of the stroke and the amount of pressure would be insignificant unless you're deliberately extending the calves while on a very hard gear / slope. If anything this calf extension would be less efficient.

Calves are a very difficult muscle to train and requires serious weight. If you see a cyclists with large calves its most likely from one or a combination of the following:

  • Was heavier and lost weight
  • Cross trains something that does more calf activation
  • Genetics (yes, its true genetics play a factor probably more in calves then nearly any other muscle group)

As far as the pain you may have gotten a Shin Splint.

If you're doing BMX or Off-Roading where you're frequently doing jumps and tricks then the calves will play a much larger role in your cycling.

  • There are those who claim that proper cycling form includes "toeing" -- moving the ankle up and down with the pedal stroke so that the toe points down slightly at the bottom and up slightly at the top. Others claim this is poor form. (I can't offer an opinion since polio left me with weak ankles and I'm lucky they don't do "reverse toeing".) May 28, 2014 at 23:43
  • @DanielRHicks Even with the slight toe motion you're not going to get much of a calf workout. They're one of the hardest muscles to train in the body. Without some serious resistance and full extensions you just won't get a whole lot.
    – Ryan
    May 29, 2014 at 12:44

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