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Calf Stretching – Advice from our Physiotherapists

Two calf stretches to prevent injury

Why should you stretch your calves?

Stretching your calves is important because it has a domino effect on your body. Tight calves can lead to decreased arches in your feet which may cause plantar fascia pain (on the sole of the foot), tendinopathies or stress fractures from muscle imbalances and overuse. Tight calves can also be implicated in muscle tears, Achilles pain, knee pain and even hip and back issues. Ideally calves need to be longer and stronger to do their job in shock absorption and generating power.

 

 

 

There are two main muscles in the calf: the gastrocnemius (aka “gastroc”) and soleus muscles. The gastroc is a two joint muscle meaning it crosses the knee and ankle joints. The purpose of the gastroc is to bend the knee and push the foot off the ground during walking or running. The gastroc attaches to the heel via the Achilles tendon.

The soleus muscle is a single joint muscle as it only crosses the ankle joint. It is responsible for pushing the foot off the ground while walking/running and it is effective in pumping blood back to the heart because of it’s position and design. It also joins with the Achilles tendon.

 

How to tell if you have tight calves and how to stretch them:

When you dorsiflex your ankle (bring your toes to your nose) the normal range of movement is between 0 to 20 degrees. Running and jumping requires flexibility in the higher end of this range.

 

Gastroc Stretch

  1. Standing in front of a wall, step forward and place your hands on the wall
  2. Keep the back leg STRAIGHT, heal on floor and toes pointed forward
  3. Lean forward slightly until you feel a gentlepull/stretch on the back of the leg
  4. Hold 30 seconds minimum and repeat 2-3x

 

Soleus stretch

 

  1. Stand in front of a wall, step forward and place your hands on the wall
  2. Keep the back leg BENT, heal on floor and toes pointed forward
  3. Lean forward slightly until you feel a gentlepull/stretch on the back of the leg
  4. Hold 30 seconds minimum and repeat 2-3x

 

 

When is the best time to stretch?

Generally, the best time to stretch is after you have warmed up your body or after activity. 

When not to stretch your calves

If you have recently sustained a calf tear or Achilles strain, do not stretch your calf without advice from your physiotherapist or doctor first. Do not stretch your calves if there is pain or an increase in pain after stretching.