Causes of Tight Calves, Treatment and Stretches
In this article I’m going to cover the causes of tight calves, treatment and stretches you can do to help.
Summer is just around the corner (I can’t wait!) and with it comes a change of our footwear.
Maybe you have got your summer shoes on now, as we’ve had a few lovely sunny days already.
Yiphee! I’m very much a summer person as you can probably tell lol
So going back to what I was just saying.
Wearing different footwear in the warmer weather can have a big impact in an increase of calf and feet injuries, if we are not mindful.
So, let’s go into a bit more detail about the reasons why and how we can decrease our risks of developing tight calves and injuries.
Winter footwear such as boots and trainers tend to have a lot of support for our arch, heel and upper foot so our feet (and ankles when wearing boots) benefit from the support and stability of the shoe/boot.
The weather then tends to get a bit warmer and we choose to wear flatter footwear such as pumps, flip flops and footwear that tend to give our feet very little support and shock absorbency.
Flat shoes can strain the Achilles tendon (this runs from the heel bone to the calf muscle).
If your calf muscles are tight, it will pull on the Achilles, potentially leading to Achilles tendonitis.
There is also the risk of developing Plantar Fasciitis (painful heel condition) if you wear flat shoes constantly due to little heel support and no shock absorbency.
Flip flops are worse for this, so should be kept to wearing for short periods.
Or you may be lucky enough not to develop an injury, but may experience tight calves that can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.
I’ve mentioned the risks of wearing flat, but be mindful we can also experience tight calves (and pain) through wearing high heeled shoes as they shorten the calf muscles.
So, what can we do to reduce the risk of developing these injuries or calf pain?
Things You Can Do To Reduce Your Risks Of Injuries & Calf Pain
Avoid Prolonged Periods of Wearing Flat or High Heeled Footwear
It is recommended that you ease into wearing different footwear for short periods at a time and build up the length of time slowly.
Don’t go straight into wearing flat or high heeled shoes for a full day or night if you have been used to wearing trainers or other supportive footwear constantly.
Also try not to wear the same pair day in, day out. Switch them up a bit.
Don’t Overuse Your Calf Muscles
Too much repetitive exercise such as walking, running or other high impact activities can cause the overuse of all muscles including the calves.
Especially if you are new to the exercise or increasing frequency, intensity or duration.
So ensure you also pencil in sufficient rest/recovery days and include plenty of stretching sessions to avoid tightness
Strengthen Your Calf Muscles
Weakness in the muscle can cause tightness, so strengthening exercises for the calves are also needed.
Exercises such as Calf Raises are a great way to strengthen your calves.
To perform calf raises stand up straight, then push through the balls of your feet and raise your heels until you are standing on your toes. Then lower slowly back down.
Perform between 10-25 repetitions.
Starting on one set and increasing to more sets as you get stronger.
As you get stronger you could also try standing on one leg (use support if needed for balance) and do the raises on one leg at a time.
Like all resistance/strengthening training try and perform 2-3 times a week
Our Pilates instructor Sarah Lou added a great video demonstrating this in our private Facebook Group
Click on the link below to access:
Not a member of the group, but would like access to this and other beneficial exercises to improve your strength then click on the link below to join.
Stretch Your Calves
Incorporating calf stretches as part of our daily routine is also beneficial – especially after long periods of wearing flat footwear or after exercise.
This keeps the calf muscles flexible and less vulnerable to straining.
For instructions on how to perform safe and effective calf stretches continue to read below.
Treatment & Stretches That Help Tight Calves
Stretching your calves can be done in several different ways.
Each really effective, so choose the ones that you find easy to perform and you get the deepest stretch.
Remember you need to be able to try and relax into the stretch to get the best results.
Seated Calf Stretch using a band or towel
Sit on a chair, then place the band or towel around the ball of your foot and lengthen your leg. Sit in an upright position.
Gently lift your toes towards you and pull gently on the band or towel. Hold at least 30 seconds or longer.
To stretch the Gastrocnemius (the longer muscle) keep your knee straight.
If you want to stretch your Soleus (shorter, deeper muscle) then bend the knee slightly.
Or do a combination of them both.
Calf Stretch on a Step/Stair
Stand on a step or stair with the heel of your foot (one you want to stretch) hanging off the back of the step.
The other foot stays flat on the step.
Then bend the knee of the foot that is flat on the step and drop the heel down on the leg you are stretching.
Same again hold for 30 seconds or longer
Lunge Calf Stretch
This can be done from a free standing lunge position or with your hands on the wall for support.
Standing with feet hip distance apart take a big step forward ensuring both feet face forward.
Then bend your front knee, whilst keeping the back leg straight.
Pushing the heel down towards the floor on the straight leg.
Hold for 30 seconds or longer
Ensure you stretch both legs when performing any of the calf stretches.
For video demonstrations of some of the calf stretches (and other muscles too), join our private Facebook Group where we share loads of video’s in our Guides folder with Stretches and Strengthening Exercises.
Click on the link below to join
Another way you can release tightness and tension in the muscle is through massage.
This can be done through either visiting a massage therapist or self massage techniques using equipment such as a Foam Roller or Spiky Ball.
When using a Foam Roller start with it underneath your lower legs, lean back taking the weight in your arms and lift your bottom from the floor then roll backwards and forwards on the roller applying as much pressure as you are comfortable with. The deeper the better.
This isn’t as targeted as using a Spiky Ball but the deep pressure will loosen the overall tightness in your calves.
For getting to the specific areas of the calf, try using a Spiky Ball instead. By either holding the ball in your hand and applying pressure or rolling on it like the roller but targeting the specific areas of tightness by using small circular motions.
Hope you found the article useful and you now are now prepared if you develop tight calves.
You should now be able to minimise your risks by knowing the causes of tight calves, as well as being aware of the treatment and stretches you can do to help if you need it.