The Best Calf Stretches for Runners

calf stretch

A runner's calves don't get nearly enough attention. The quads, hamstring and glutes usually get all the love. But the calves?  If they are weak and tight, that's when injuries come knocking.  For some runners, it's constant battle to keep their calves in a happy place. If their calves are happy, that means the feet and ankles are equally as happy. Having tight calves can lead to many foot and ankle issues, including one of a the most hated injuries for a runner—Plantar Fasciitis.

You might be one of the lucky ones who has never felt the wrath of tight calves, but maybe you started increasing your mileage recently. Maybe you started doing more speed work. Maybe you started running hillier routes. Maybe your calves have started talking to you. Don't ignore tight calves. It will catch up to you, and you'll be wishing you paid more attention.

Regularly implementing calf stretches into your post run cool down (or even throughout the day!) will make a big difference. Here's four calf stretches that can help. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds, and you'll be done in less than 5 minutes.

Traditional Calf Stretch

An oldie but a goodie that hits the calves in just the right spot. Take it up a notch by bringing your back foot in a bit while keeping a slight bend in your knee for a nice soleus stretch.

To do: 

  1. Stand near a wall with one foot in front of the other, front knee slightly bent. 
  2. Keep your back leg straight, your heel on the ground and lean toward the wall. 
  3. Hold for 30 seconds before switching to the other side.

Double Calf Stretch

This stretch is very similar to the traditional calf stretch but with both feet back.

To do:

  1. Stand with your feet together about 2 feet from a wall.
  2. Keep your arms straight and press your palms into the wall as you lean forward from your ankles. Be sure to keep your heels on the floor. 
  3. If you don't feel a stretch, stand farther back, yet still maintain straight legs with heels on the ground. 
  4. Hold for 30 seconds before switching to the other side.

Heel Drop off a Step

A small movement with a big stretch. If you are short on time, you can always do both heels down, but you may get a better stretch doing it as a single.

To do: 

  1. Stand with the balls of your feet on the edge of a step or curb.
  2. Drop one heel toward the floor as you bend your other leg, putting the majority of your weight into the dropped heel leg.  
  3. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Single Leg Downward Facing Dog

Downward facing dog is a great calf stretch. Take it up a notch by putting weight in one leg to increase the stretch.

To do: 

  1. Start in a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders.
  2. Pressing through your palms, shift your weight back to bring your body into an inverted V shape.
  3. Press your heels toward the ground—the closer they get to the floor, the deeper the calf stretch will be.
  4. Lift one foot off the ground to deepen the stretch. 
  5. Hold for 30 seconds before switching feet down.

Of course, the ultimate way to show love to your calves is with a foam roller or a stick roller. It's tough love for sure, but rolling out your calves in addition to stretching are your best bets for staying injury free. It's easy to slack off on each, but keep it up and you'll notice a difference!

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