Running Away From Calf Claudication Due To Progressive Vascular Disease

Running Treatment for Calf Claudication

calf claudication

Running clearly improved my calf pain!

A condition in which cramping pain in the leg is induced by exercise, typically caused by obstruction of the arteries.

You might think an average run pace of 13:09 is glacial, but I’m delighted that my running is finally coming back. I still had to stop for 10-20 paces each half-mile. This was to allow the muscles to recover from an insufficient blood supply. I have severe narrowing (stenosis) of popliteal artery branches below the knee in my right leg – isn’t aging fun?

running improved claudicationI’d be cruising along, picking up the pace, carefully. Then, that pesky right gastrocnemius starts to ache and tense up. This is followed by foot tingles, it starts to go numb, and real pain occurs. Walking for a few paces allows these symptoms to fade, and running begins again. This process becomes easier as time goes by. Presumably due to activation of collateral circulation.

The goal: To build collateral circulatory supply.

My vascular surgeon, Mark, recommended three walks per week as treatment, rather than a dangerous angioplasty. He also said, “Walk until you have to stop, wait until the pain fades, but start walking again before the pain fades completely.” I liked that advice! I always trust surgeons when they recommend against surgery.

So I signed up for a marathon, with Deb, on September 30th. It’s nice to have a race in mind.

calf claudication improved with runningWe have the training plan on the fridge, but it does break the 10% rule quite a bit.

Two months ago, I couldn’t run 100 yards without that calf locking up. This is serious progress, due to appropriate exercise.

The progressive improvement as the run goes by is demonstrated by the last sub-12 minute split, shown in the adjacent image. Furthermore, I managed to run for a bus, pain-free, the other day, for the first time in ages.

Conclusion: Exercise can improve calf claudication, but it still hurts like crap as you do it.

Answer: Suck it up, and have a life.

Wishing you happy trails,

kev aka FitOldDog

PS To protect my AAA stent graft, I use a low-impact running style.



  1. Benjamin says

    You are amazing fit old dog! Glad to see you are still kicking ass!

  2. Lynne Kerr says

    Just had a thrombectomy in iliac artery caused by narrowing of the iliac artery. I previously suffered with Claudication due to the narrowing but was still managing to run longish distances. They are going to stent the artery today. Recommendations for the future are to take a big step backwards and lead a more sedentary lifestyle. Cannot believe this advice. Your advice is heartening and encouraging as I lie here in recovery and look forward to more years of running

    • Hi Lynne, that’s what they said to me.
      Guess I should be in a rocking chair on the porch with a shawl and a glass of whisky? No way! For a while I thought the claudication would ruin my run, but it turned out that running has been the best thing for it. It’s not comfortable, but then, Ironman isn’t exactly comfortable. My blood flow is limited by the iliac portions of my stent, which seems harder on running than cycling. But your legs will build collaterals, which mine are clearly doing. My surgeon (good guy, not an athlete) said to walk 30 min 3x/wk, and when my calf hurts wait until the pain has ALMOST gone away, then start walking again. So, I signed up for the Maine Marathon and Cozumel Ironman, while applying the same principal. It’s working, that’s for sure. You’ll be fine with an iliac stent, you just need to understand it. Take care with hip flexion. I minimize mine on the bike. Here’s my story, fyi:
      PS You might find this site interesting, and you should chat with Pauline:

  3. Lynne Kerr says

    Thank you Kevin. It’s good to get feedback from someone who has experience of the condition.

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.