|I am often prescribing calf stretches for people with tight
calf muscles. I see them in the clinic with problems such as
plantar fasciitis, peroneal tendinitis, achilles tendinitis and
tendinosis, hallux valgus, tibialis posterior tendonitis, and the list
just goes on.
A person requires about 15 degrees of dorsiflexion to walk, more to walk quickly, and even more to run.
Calf muscle tightness is such a common problem that a lot of people don't realize how tight they are until I measure them. Posture or movement problems, high heels, and hereditary factors can all contribute to having tight calves. Like all joints, unless you move the ankle through it's full range of motion on a regular basis, you will start to lose mobility at the ankle.
The feet are the bottom of the kinetic chain. As the foot moves, it influences movement at the knee, hip, and lower back. If the foot is moving abnormally in order to compensate for tight calf muscles it can cause a slew of aches and pains from your feet to your spine.
ContentsWhat is the calf muscle?
Why should I stretch my calf?
If I don't stretch my calves, what type of injuries may I sustain?
Why is the calf muscle often tight?
List of stretches for the calf
Stretching exercises using The Stick
Stretching exercises using a foam roller
Stretching exercises using a towel
For any sport that requires prolonged walking, running, or jumping, flexibility in the calves is imperative.
1. Standing calf stretch (gastrocnemius)Stand about three feet from a a wall and put your right foot behind you ensuring your toes are facing forward. Keep your heel on the ground and lean forward with your right knee straight. Rotating the toes in and out slightly will target the medial and lateral parts of this muscle separately. Hold this for 30 to 60 seconds.
Click here for more information on how long to hold a stretch.
2. Standing calf stretch (soleus)Stand away from a wall and put your fight foot behind you and be sure your toes are facing forward. Lean forward at the ankle while bending the right knee and keeping your heel on the ground. Because the knee is flexed, tension is taken off the gastrocnemius and placed on the soleus. Hold this for 30 to 60 seconds.
4. Wall calf stretchStand about two feet away from a wall. Place the ball of your right foot against the wall while your heel remains on the ground. Slowly and gently lean into the wall while keeping your knee straight. Hold this for the appropriate time.
5. Downward dog yoga stretchGet down on all fours with your hands under your shoulders on the floor. Walk your hands forward slightly on the floor. Spread your fingers apart to allow for a broad base of support. Push your hips up toward the ceiling and tighten your abdominal muscles. Keep your heels on the ground and gently try and straighten your knees. Hold this for the appropriate time.
Stretching Exercises using The StickSit on the floor with your forefoot butted up against the wall. Using The Stick, quickly roll over a 3 or 4 inch area of the calf muscles for about 10 seconds. Repeat this over other areas of the calf until you have covered the entire calf. You may feel discomfort with this but not pain. If you complain of pain then see your physical therapist or family doctor for investigation.
Sit in a chair upright with straight back and head centred over your shoulders. Loop a strap or towel around the ball of your right foot. Straighten your right knee and pull the strap tight to target gastrocnemius. Hold this. To target the soleus, perform the same stretch, only with the right knee bent. This calf stretch can also be performed sitting on the floor or on your bed.