How to Release Your Calf and Achilles Fascia – Breaks Up Adhesions, Helps Knee Pain, Plantar Fasciitis, Leg Cramps & More

Who wants to release their calves?!

If you live in a human body, I hope you raised your hand. No matter who you are, what you do for work or sports or even if you sit on the couch all day playing video games – I guarantee your calf fascia needs some love!

If you haven’t heard of or already tried “the ONE Stretch”, then definitely check that out too by clicking here. It’s by far the most effective and fastest way to stretch your ENTIRE lower leg compartment all at once, not just your calf or gastrocnemius tissue.

I’m giving you this technique today because I’ve received a ton of emails requesting alternatives to The ONE Stretch, since some of you have had a hard time getting into the right position and/or figuring out how to do it properly. This is a fine alternative, just keep in mind it will take a little more effort over a sustained period of time to get the same results as someone else using The ONE Stretch.

Having said that, this technique is actually BETTER for releasing adhesions in the calf. The ONE Stretch is better at stretching all that tissue and create space, but it’s more difficult to break adhesions up this way.

So today’s technique would actually be better for those of you who have knee pain, recently rolled an ankle or have a history of rolled ankles (which is due to balled up fascia in the lower calf compartment within the Achilles area) or if you just know there are adhesions in there and you want them gone (like me! I always have some good ones going on).

Why release your calf fascia?

Releasing your calf fascia can help with ALL kinds of issues, including but not limited to:

  • Plantar fasciitis (click here for more info on PF)
  • Achilles tendonitis and other Achilles issues
  • Heel pain
  • Ankle issues
  • Knee pain (click here for more info on knee pain)
  • Soleus strains
  • Leg cramps
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Hamstring tightness
  • Tight calf/plantar fascia due to same side gluteus medius not firing
  • and more

How to release your calf fascia using a foam roller:

While I love foam rollers, for the record (in case you’re new around here) I am NOT a fan of using them to ROLL over soft tissue – EVER. The most common areas I see people still rolling are their IT Bands and calves. The reason I’m not a fan of rolling is it essentially tries to elongate tissue in only one (well, two opposing) directions (in a straight line). You’re essentially smashing your connective and muscle tissue towards the bone and then compressing it to that bone while trying to roll it out like pizza dough.

This is incredibly ineffective (it takes a LOT more force to release fascia than rolling will ever provide) and I don’t want you wasting your time!

I want you to get the absolute most out of your self care routine, and that means targeting your fascia directly for release through compression (pinning) and movement (stretching and releasing adhesions).

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s how to release your calf fascia using a foam roller:

Choose your weapon of choice (aka foam roller). You could use a soft one like me in the video, or a much harder one. It doesn’t really matter, just remember that the harder the roller the more intense it will be.

PLEASE DON’T USE A KNOBBY ROLLER FOR THIS!

The goal here is to use the weight of your leg, and if possible some additional compression by lifting up off the ground, to compress your calf fascia to the roller. Then, you’re going to use foot movement to release the fascia.

Your gastrocnemius muscles are responsible for the action of plantar flexion (pointing your toes), so even just pointing and flexing will allow the tissues to expand and contract while compressed, which creates an all around awesome stretch for the entire connective tissue system within your lower leg compartment, and – if done correctly, it can release the adhesions stuck there.

How to get the most out of this technique:

  • Use as much body weight as you can – by lifting up off the ground and/or placing your other foot on the leg you’re releasing
  • Start HIGH just below the knee and work your way down into the Achilles.
  • If this is your FIRST time trying this, go verrrrrry slowly! Your job is to hunt out those fascial adhesions, and fast movement hides them. Slow movement reveals them.
  • Try not to rock your hips or legs side to side. Remember, you’re NOT trying to roll on the roller you’re trying to PIN or compress a piece of fascia and use your foot movement to release it.
  • Speaking of, move your foot in pointing and flexing movements first. Then try circles. S L O W L Y.
  • Spend about 30 seconds on each spot. If you’re doing it correctly that’s ALL you need! If you’re still figuring this out, going a little longer is ok.
  • You might find 4-6 spots moving from high to low.
  • Definitely get into your low calf and Achilles region! You’re likely to find a nice ball of knotted up fascia there and this technique is a great way to break it up.
  • If you get SORE the next day, back off how long you’re on the roller.
  • After you’re done with one leg, get up and WALK AROUND! Notice the difference. Then go after the second leg.
  • Do this as often as you think you need to. This will be different for everyone.

 

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How to RUN Without Knee Pain – Try This Experiment If Running Pain-Free is Your Goal

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First of all – I am NOT a running coach and this is NOT meant to be advice for how to be faster or a “better” runner; this is my opinion (based on personal experience with knee pain as well as my work with countless knee pain clients) on how to run without knee pain. That’s it.

If you love running and your goal is simply to enjoy running again without knee pain…this post is for YOU.

Running this way might make you slower (or faster), it might feel awkward or fantastic…I leave it entirely up to you to try this as an experiment – and then run this way or not.

Changing how I run (and taking care of my fascia in general) helped me run again after 8 YEARS of not being able to. Personally, I don’t care how fast I run as long as I’m out there bouncing on a trail again without knee pain!

One more quick disclaimer: this post is NOT meant to address knee pain in general. I’m specifically addressing knee pain that only seems to show up while you are running. If you get knee pain while running and it stops as soon as you stop running, then this post applies to you. If you have knee pain 24/7, there are likely other things going on and this post may not apply to you.

What causes knee pain while running?

While there are certainly many causes and types of knee pain, the vast majority of the time knee pain while running has a basic pattern.

Most of the time knee pain while running shows up on the lateral (out)side of the joint, and feels like a knife stabbing you under the kneecap. That sharp excruciating pain can bring you to the ground as the knee gives out.

A lot of people like to blame the IT Band. Understandable, given the IT Band’s size and the fact that it attaches laterally at the distal (far) end of the kneecap.

However, it has been my experience that the IT Band is 3rd in line as the cause, behind two other major players that contribute far more to both the cause and the reversal of this pattern.

Meaning…addressing these two other things often makes the IT Band issue obsolete. Not always, but very often.

The first major cause is fascial restriction (often in the form of huge knots the size of golf balls) in the lateral upper calf or gastrocnemius muscle.

The second major cause (both of these should be considered together), is the fascial restriction within the hamstrings, particularly the biceps femoris where the long and short head meet and where the long head meets the IT Band.

Often there are GRAPEFRUIT sized lumps of inflamed irritated fascia stuck between the IT Band and the hamstring. Please note that these adhesions are NOT within the IT Band OR hamstring muscles themselves, but rather…it is the fascia that wraps both muscle groups that is stuck BETWEEN these muscles (essentially the ITB and hamstring muscles are adhesed together via giant knots of dehydrated or inflamed fascia and all of that tissue is no longer able to GLIDE through movement).

(DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ROLL YOUR ITB TO SOLVE THIS ISSUE!)

It’s also a distinct possibility that your hamstrings are weak, if you sit at a desk all day and don’t intentionally work on strengthening that posterior chain.

All of this creates a powerful force that pulls the ITB and lateral knee ligaments even more laterally, which can cause the patella to slip off the bursa and create a bone on bone feeling (which I believe is that sharp knife-like pain in the knee).

What does this have to do with running?

Many runners use a short quick gait that emphasizes extensive use of the quads and quad hip flexors as well as the calves to create forward movement. This is especially true of trail runners, even more so distance trail runners. The other common stride I see (mostly in marathoners or road runners who run for time on mostly flat surfaces) is to have a long thrusting forward stride that uses extreme hip flexion followed by knee extension that happens in FRONT of them, causing a hard heel strike that forces the knee joints to stabilize their body through the entire run.

The first scenario I described above is certainly the most common, and if you are a barefoot runner or toe striker and your heel barely or doesn’t even touch the ground while running then you are especially likely to create fascial restrictions in your calves.

What all this does while running is put your hip and knee joints into a near-constant state of flexion, and all that overuse of the already restricted fascia within the upper lateral gastrocs combined with fascially restricted WEAK hamstrings (which probably aren’t tight from overuse but actually under-use, especially if you sit at a desk all day with bent knees and contracted/weak hamstrings and run with your quads and calves) means near constant tension on the lateral fascia of the knee joint, including all the tendons, ligaments and bursa.

The IT Band is supposed to stabilize us through sports like running, but its job becomes increasingly difficult with these fascial restrictions constantly pulling it off track (laterally and posterior), combined (possibly, if your foot strikes in front of you) with a gait that doesn’t allow for hip stabilization and instead relies on the knees for that, and to top it all off…so many people are now foam rolling the bejeezus out of their IT Bands in an attempt to change all of this, but the IT Band actually NEEDS to be extremely tight from hip to knee since it is made up mostly of dense fascia (it’s basically a giant tendon) whose job it is TO STAY TIGHT AND KEEP US STABLE. While the fascial adhesions between the ITB and hamstring DO need releasing (strategically), I’m not a fan WHATSOEVER of rolling out the IT Band from knee to hip.

Take a closer look at the knee joint and surrounding muscles.

Now imagine someone tugging on the lateral upper calf tissue while also tugging at the hamstring and ITB tendons that attach to the knee and patellar tendon (the “balls” or knots of fascia are doing the “tugging”); these two things pull everything laterally and posterior, possibly taking the patella with it, creating a nice set-up for bone on bone action unless released from this pattern.

What reverses all of the above as far as running is concerned is reversing the muscle patterns that lead to these restrictions while running, and changing where our foot strikes the ground.

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Learn the ONE Stretch That Relieves Plantar Fasciitis, Shin Splints, Achilles Pain, Heel Pain and Compartment Syndrome

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If you have tight calves (and if you’re active you probably have tight calves) then your body will thank you for doing this stretch.

First let me say that while this is a SUPER powerful stretch, it’s not a FULL solution for any of the following. With that said, it’s the best possible one-off solution I can give you right now, and if you do this daily for a week I would be shocked if you don’t feel significantly better for any or all of these:

This ONE technique can address ALL kinds of issues:

  • Plantar fasciitis, or pain on the bottoms of the feet
  • Shin splints
  • Compartment Syndrome
  • Heel Pain
  • Achilles tendinitis, pain or tightness
  • Scar tissue build-up from past sprained or broken ankles (which can lead to ankle immobility and compensation patterns up your entire chain)
  • Limited range of motion in the ankles
  • Knee Pain
  • Tendonitis on the tops of the feet (usually originating in the shins, so if this is you then focus on pinning your tibialis anterior or shin muscle more than calf)
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