7 effective and powerful ways to stretch calf muscles - Be My Healer
  • Home  / 
  • Knee & Ankle
  •  /  7 effective and powerful ways to stretch calf muscles
By Sophie Xie / July 15, 2016

7 ways to stretch calf muscles more effectively than the way you are doing it

stiff calf muscles for stretching

I wish that everyone would know how to stretch their calf muscles properly, even if you don't do it very often. Stretching calf muscles is easy with lots of benefits.

Calf flexibility can improve sport and athletic performance. That's why calf stretch has always been an essential part of training warm up.

Calf muscle can prevent injuries. Healthy calf muscle length encourages ankle and intrinsic foot muscles to actively stabilize your own ankles while you run and jump. You are less likely to sprain your ankles or strain your Achilles' tendons.

Stretching calf muscles is also the most important step in relieving any feet or heel pain. If you suffer from painful conditions such as

  • plantar fasciitis
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • overpronated feet
  • reoccurring bunions
  • Shin splint

You should consistently stretch your calf muscles daily to achieve fast recovery and pain relief.

For those with stiff and shortened calves, you are less likely to benefit from any shoe supports such as orthotics or inserts. Recommended reading [Heel pain? Do this test before you buy any orthotics or inserts]

Most people are taught the standing calf stretch. You are to press against a wall or a tree while putting your stretching feet behind your and lunge forward. Sounds familiar?

standing calf stretch

This standing calf stretch is an excellent and convenient way to stretch the calf muscles at any time. It's just that there are many other ways one can stretch the same muscles with better leverage, force, and ease.

More than one muscle?

When we talk about calf muscles, you are referring to two distinct and massive  and powerful muscles, the gastrocnemius muscle and the soleus muscle.

gastrocnemius muscles and soleus muscle

The difference between these two muscles is this: the gastrocnemius muscle is responsible for lifting your heel while standing (knee straight), while the soleus muscle lifts your heel while your knee is bent. 

Thus, you need to stretch these two muscles individually. To stretch the gastrocnemius muscles, remember to lock your knees straight. And bent your knees to allow further bending of your ankles in order to target the soleus muscles.

1. Calf stretches on the stairs - Easy

My favorite way to stretch my calf muscles is on the stairs. This stretch allows you to maintain upright posture, making the stretch easy to maintain over several minutes. 

Benefit: This stretch allows you to easily stretch both calf at this same times.

You need: a stair or step with close by railing or support to maintain balance​

calf stretch on step or stair

Image from hep2go.com

  • Stand with both feet on the same step
  • Keep the front half of your feet on the step and the heels off the steps
  • Drop your body weight on your heels so that your heels drop down from the step
  • Control the intensity of the stretch by moving your feet closer or further away from the edge of the step
  • Keep your knees straight to stretch  the gastroc muscles and knees bent to straight the soleus muscles
  • Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds

2. Downward dog yoga stretch​

This stretch is endorsed by many yoga lovers. 

Benefit: you will get a good stretch in calves, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles. you will also get a workout in all the core muscles during this stretch. Promotes overall body flexibility and relaxation.

downward dog calf stretch yoga pose

Image from hep2go.com

  • Get down on all fours with your hands under your shoulders on the floor
  • Walk your hands forward slightly on the floor
  • Push your hips up toward the ceiling.
  • Keep your heels on the ground and gently try and straighten your knees.​
  • Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds

3. ​Wall feet stretch - easy

This stretch is excellent for athlets and runners. You get a good stretch in both calf muscles and feet soft tissues.

Benefit: easy to stretch and relieve foot and calf soreness.

wall calf stretch

Image from hep2go.com

  • Stand about two feet away from a form structure such as a wall, a tree or a rock.
  • Place the ball of your right foot against the wall while your heel remains on the ground.
  • Slowly and gently lean forward 
  • Keep your knee straight to stretch the gastroc muscle and knee bent to stretch the soleus muscle.
  • Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds

4. Foot rocker - easy

Here comes the most powerful way to stretch calf muscles. The feet rocker is a remarkable invention for those people suffering from severe calf muscle stiffness.

Benefit: ​easy and powerful stretch for those active individuals with strong but stiff calf muscles. 

You need: a foot rocker​

  • Place the foot rock on a non-slip floor surface next to something you can hold on to keep balance
  • Step into the foot rocker and roll your feet back (you can let the other leg hang or place it onto a higher platform
  • Keep your knee straight to stretch the gastroc muscle and knee bent to stretch the soleus muscle
  • Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds

5. Slant board - easy

A slant board is an easy-to-use device to allow maximum stretch to both calf muscles at the same times. Some handy people can make one with simple materials and tools.

Benefit: powerful and comfortable stretch for the calf muscles. Allow both feet to stretch at the same time.

You need: a slant board

  • Place the slant board on a non-slip surface next to something you can hol on to keep balance
  • Step on to the slant board with both feet
  • Keep your body upright, straighten knees to stretch the gastroc muscles and bent knees to stretch the soleus muscles
  • Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds

6. Strap leg stretch - advanced

Some people might have been introduced to stretching with a strap allowing gentle and controlled stretches. However, the strap stretching I am talking about here is highly advanced and performed by serious body builder and athletes.

Stretchaflex® Stretching Aid is only one of many brands of straps that offer tutorials on strap stretching.

Benefit: Powerful stretching for multiple body parts and promote overall flexibility for those with strong yet stiff muscles.

strap stretching for calf and hamstring

Image from stretchaflex.com

7. Foam roller - intermediate

Honestly, this is not a stretch. The foam roller is often used to self-release stiffness in tight and sore muscles. Calf muscles are among the most frequently worked on muscles due to the high volume of usage.

Sometimes, when stretching fails to fix severe muscle tightness and soreness, deep tissue massage is needed to facilitate healing and blood flow. Foam roller provides quick and easy self-massage to achieve the same result as a professional healing touch.

Benefit: deep tissue pressure to release muscle tension and facilitate flood flow.

You need: a dense foam roller

foam roller for calf release

Image from hep2go.com

  • Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you
  • Place the foam roller under the lower half of your leg and cross the other ankle on top
  • Push up with your arms and roll back and forth on the foam roll working your way up the muscle toward the knee
  • Perform this with your toes pointing inward and outward.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you find this post helpful.

Recommended readings: 

Like what you just read? Share this post via our social media buttons! They are everywhere on this page!

Want to know more about treating your own pain with techniques from a physical therapist? Please subscribe to our newsletter!

Leave a comment: