Does Running Make Your Calves Bigger?

Running is an excellent workout. It has a number of surprising benefits and is one of the few exercises that can be done just about anywhere, regardless of what equipment you might have. But no matter the benefits, there are some people who just don't like to run. It is, as Women's Running explains, all too common for runners to share their love of the hobby and be met with a chorus of people who only run when absolutely necessary.

There are many reasons people might avoid running. Some are personal and others are likely rooted in misconceptions around the exercise. Misconceptions like the idea that running will make your calves bigger. Admittedly it is hard to nail down a specific yes or no on the topic, but a look at the importance of calves in running — and the calf training advice runners receive — makes a pretty solid case for a strong no, running will not make your calves bigger. At least, not noticeably.

The evidence

In their article detailing the importance of the calf in running, Runner's World cited a Finnish study that found a runner's calf contributed 25% more energy to the upward motion of a step than larger muscles, specifically the quads, do. The quadriceps are the muscles on the front of the thigh and comprise most of the upper leg (via Healthline). Although larger than the calf, the quads actually contribute less to a runner's stride, which is why so many runners are encouraged to train their calves and ankles. Not only does this training increase speed, as Runner's World explains, but it helps reduce the risk of injury.

In their suggestions on how to train the calf, Runner's World actually specifies that running more or running faster is not ideal and may actually lead to injury. Muscle & Fitness also skips running as a training method in their recommendations on ways to grow the size of your calves. Even Insider adds evidence to the idea that running doesn't grow your calves, with their assertion that building muscle while running requires the runner to continuously challenge themselves. Of course this information won't get everyone out on the track, but it can at least put this misconception to rest.