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Tight calves

So you have tight calves.. what now?

Although having tight calves may not seem like the biggest problem, they can lead to more serious injuries over time, including shin splints, stress fractures in the feet and ankle issues.

Know your anatomy

The calf muscle is made up of 2 muscles. The gastrocnemius Is the large calf muscle which can be seen beneath the skin, and the soleus is a much smaller muscle which lies underneath the gastrocnemius. The muscles taper into the Achilles tendon which inserts in to the calcaneus (heel bone).
The calf muscles function to pull the heel upwards during activities such as running, walking and jumping to allow forward movement. The importance of the calf muscles not just in sport and performance, but everyday living means that we need to give our calves the TLC they need.

How do tight calves come about?

Tight calves can come about for a range of reasons. Simply speaking, it may be because you are doing large amounts of training (particularly in running based sports) or not stretching enough over time compared to your training load. However, there are other reasons why your calves may be tight, including poor ankle range of motion, and biomechanical problems with your feet.

Training: tight calves can often be because of too much training. Particularly in running based sports, too much training or increasing your km’s to quickly can be the culprit. Combine this with our next point and you will have yourself some very tight calves.
Not stretching enough: Not stretching your calves is going to make your calves tight, it’s as simple as that. Static stretching frequently will help.

Poor ankle range of motion: This is often due to having poor ankle dorsiflexion. When one area is lacking, another area is going to make up for it. Lack of full range of motion through the ankle is going to often lead to tight calves. A physiotherapist will be able to give you the best advice and treatment on this.
Biomechanical issues: Sometimes issues come purely from the way you walk and/or run. A biomechanical analysis is best here, where you can get your technique assessed. Our podiatrist can assess your technique and recommend changes to avoid issues.

How do you fix it?

Depending on what’s causing your tight calves, there are a number of options.
First of all, stretching. There are number of ways to stretch your calf muscles including:
Basic calf stretch
Soleus stretch
Stretch on step
Foam rolling
Foam roller stretch (ankles over roller)
Stretching frequency is key. Remember to never do these stretches before exercise, always after. If your calves are simply tight from large amounts of exercise and not stretching enough, frequent stretching over time is likely to fix the issue. However, if there is an underlying problem, such as ankle range of motion or biomechanical problems, It is best to see a professional to get the issue assessed properly.

Strengthening is also important. Calf raises are key for this. See our calf raise progressions in the video above.
Disclaimer: As all injuries are different, it Is recommended that you consult a professional as soon as possible following the injury to get tailored advice.

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