Best Calf Stretches

Best Calf Stretches

If you’ve ever wondered what the best calf stretches are or why you should do them, you’re in the right place!

These are three great calf stretches you can do anywhere, anytime to keep your calf muscles supple and strong.

Ready? Let’s dive into it.

Calf Muscle Anatomy – Where Is It And What Does It Do?

The calf is a relatively small muscle group located at the back of the lower leg. The group consists of two muscles – the gastrocnemius (gastroc) and soleus. (1)

The gastroc is a two-headed muscle that crosses the knee joint and inserts into the Achilles tendon. Its functions are plantar flexion of the foot (such as a calf raise) and knee flexion.

The soleus is the deeper muscle that originates just below the knee and also inserts into the Achilles tendon. Like gastroc, its primary function is plantar flexion of the foot, but because it doesn’t cross the knee joint, it doesn’t contribute to knee flexion.

The Three Best Calf Stretches

Let’s take a look at the three best calf stretches out there:

Forward Calf Stretch Using Wall

  1. Stand facing a wall approximately 3 to 4 feet from a wall, with your feet shoulder-width and your toes pointed to the wall.
  2. Lean into the wall placing your palms on the wall in front of you at shoulder height.
  3. Keep your legs mainly straight but not locked, and lean toward the wall until you feel a stretch in both calf muscles. Make sure your forward leaning is controlled and deliberate.
  4. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds.
  5. Repeat 5 times.
  6. Then stretch one leg at a time, with the other leg bent in front of you.
  7. Hold each stretch for 10 seconds.
  8. Repeat with the other leg.
NOTE: Never bounce or use any sudden movements.
 
Best Calf Stretch

Forward Calf Stretch With No Wall

  1. Stand with one leg straight and to your rear, and your other leg bent at the knee in front of you. 
  2. Keep your rear leg in a solid position with your foot flat on the ground.
  3. Lean forward into your bent leg in a slow and controlled manner, leaning forward until you feel the stretch in the calf of your rear leg.
  4. Hold each stretch for 10 seconds.
  5. Repeat with the other leg.
NOTE: Never bounce or use any sudden movements.
 
Best Calf Stretch for Flexibility

Calf Raised Stretch

  1. Position the ball of your foot on something elevated, such as stairs or a low bench, and have your other foot in the air in front of you. 
  2. Begin to drop the heel as the ball of your foot remains in contact with the elevated surface.
  3. Lower your heel until you feel a solid stretch in your calf, hold for a moment, and then raise your heel to ease out of the stretch. Do ten to twenty repetitions.
  4. Once you finish, repeat this for your other foot.

Calf Stretch on Step

  1. With one foot on the ground, place the toe of the other foot in front of you on a step or stair.
  2. Begin to drop the heel as the ball of your foot remains on the step. Make sure to lower the heel in a controlled and deliberate movement.
  3. Lower your heel while feeling the stretch in your calf. Hold for 10 seconds in the down position. Do five to ten repetitions.
  4. Repeat this for your other foot.
Calf Stretch on Step

Seated Calf Stretch

  1. Sit on the floor with both legs extended straight in front of you.
  2. Position a towel or band over the ball of the foot as shown. You can stretch one foot at a time, or both feet together.
  3. Slowly pull the towel or band toward you to stretch the calf muscle. Pull the towel until you feel a solid stretch in your calf. 
  4. Hold the stretch for 5-10 seconds. Release and then repeat the stretch three to five times.
  5. Repeat this for your other foot to stretch the other calf muscle.
Seated Calf Stretch

Note: On calf stretches 1  & 2 above, if you bend your knee slightly, this activates the achilles tendon and becomes an achilles stretch, and not as much a calf stretch.

An Important Consideration For Calf Stretches

Before doing any calf stretches, you must warm your body up well. This will help you get the most out of stretches and prevent you from pulling a muscle by accident. (2)

So, it’s a good idea to always do some light cardio before stretching. In doing so, you will warm up and loosen your muscles. Good examples include jogging or hopping in place, or taking a brisk walk. For example, you can do your stretches as soon as you get back home from work, errands, or grocery shopping.

Though many recommend it, you should never stretch cold muscles, especially if you’re new to the activity, because that increases the risk of injuries.

Benefits of Stretching Your Calves Daily

The most notable benefit of daily calf stretches is that you get to loosen up your feet, prevent future aches, and improve your ankle dorsiflexion. This can aid you in numerous activities where good ankle and foot flexibility play a role. For example, squats are heavily dependent on ankle dorsiflexion (bringing your foot toward your shin). (3)

Another significant benefit of daily calf stretches is that you reduce the risk of cramps. Our calves are notorious for their tendency to cramp up, which can be painful and even debilitating. By taking care to stretch them often, we prevent that from happening.

Another significant benefit is that stretching improves blood circulation in that area, which is vital for muscle recovery and can help speed up the healing process of various muscle, tendon, or joint-related injuries.

If you overlook your calves for too long, you may find that they will be stiff and kind of painful. This is a common occurrence for those who sit for long hours during work. While calf pain is rare, you will be very uncomfortable when it comes, and even moving your foot may be an issue. Another great reason to practice the best calf stretches.

Click to return to more stretching routines.

David Williams

David Williams

A diet and fitness enthusiast, David Williams is an ex-Army Airborne Ranger and Infantry soldier with decades of fitness and wellness experience. A West Point graduate with a degree in engineering, he focuses on technical research related to fitness, nutrition, and wellness. He loves the beach, and spending time with his wife and daughters.

References

1. Quinn, E. (2019). Get to Know the Anatomy of the Lower Leg Muscles. Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/lower-leg-anatomy-3119329.

2. How to Stretch. STRETCHING AND FLEXIBILITY – How to Stretch. (n.d.). https://web.mit.edu/tkd/stretch/stretching_5.html.

3. Cronkleton, E. (2017). Dorsiflexion: Ankle, Foot, Muscles, and More. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/dorsiflexion.

Click to see our medical disclosure.