Calf Stretching

Who cares about stretching?!  I hate stretching!  Why do we need to stretch?

These are common sentiments heard by physical therapists

Why is it important to stretch?  Well, one big reason is to maintain full joint mobility

If a joint, such as your ankle, cannot move through its full normal range of motion because the muscles around it are tight, your body will compensate for that lack of motion.   You may continue running, increase miles, or ramp up intensity with speed workouts, and your body will, of course, find a way to keep moving


However, it may be at the cost of:

  • stress/strain to that joint

  • stress/strain to muscles and tendons surrounding the joint

  • decreased strength/performance of muscles

  • reduced efficiency of movement (this may be important to a runner who wants to be faster)

So now that you are thoroughly convinced that stretching is really important, let’s take the example of the ankle joint a bit further.  The usual suspects for tight muscles around the ankle joint are the Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscles, 2 muscles in the back of the calf…we’ll refer to them as your calf muscles. They point your foot down, like when you pump your car’s gas pedal, and help you push-off and propel forward with jumping, running, walking.  They also help you come down softly when landing a stride and control your ankle movement when going down stairs



Common injuries related to these 2 muscles are Achilles Tendonitis, Plantar Fasciitis, and a good old calf strain.  Here are 2 basic stretches (with some details to consider) to keep moving and maintain good ankle motion


Hold these stretches 20-30 seconds, repeat 3 times, keeping heel down on the ground, and avoid letting your toes point out to the side.  Keep them pointing straight ahead

The most benefit will be felt when stretching after some light activity for a warm-up

These suggestions are very basic and generalized.  As always, please consult your medical professional if there is any complication, pain, or question about completing your stretches

Keep moving!


Laura Comtois, PT, DPT

Physical Therapist, Fit For Life Physical Therapy