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


Medium Density Foam Roller

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.


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.
  • Guest says:

    Is this therapeutic for chronic compartment syndrome?

  • Melissa says:

    This is fantastic! I have had severe Achilles pain from injury-related adhesions. I went to physical therapy a few years ago for months to try to resolve it. I was in so much pain that it was sometimes excruciating to just walk. At PT, I got 90% better, they released me, and the pain has slowly crept back up, becoming worse than before. This weekend, in desperation, I searched for stretches I could do on my own to help and saw The ONE video, and was also glad to see the modified version.

    Saturday, I went and bought a roller. Sunday, I did the stretches in the morning. I tried The ONE first, but couldn’t pin just right. But I can find the ultra tight spots so easily with this modification, especially when I go searching with hip rotation. I used my own leg weight, also adding in the weight of my opposite leg from time to time. I even had my 5 year old gently sit directly over the roller on my leg and, wowza, did THAT help!

    After I was finished, I went about my day, spending the majority of it on my feet in the kitchen. Usually, that leaves me hobbling and I’m ridiculous pain. When I was done in the kitchen, I did a few more minutes of stretching per leg, and when I got in bed, I didn’t have any shooting Achilles pain. Not ONE BIT! Today is Monday, and I noticed that I had no soreness from my active day yesterday. I will keep this going because I have had tremendous relief in just one day! I also sent the video to my mom who works in a PT office. Anyone who has tight calves NEEDS this in their life! I am so extremely grateful!

  • Bonnie says:

    Hi Elisha,
    I’ve done “the ONE stretch” a couple of times and awesomely it has enabled my calf/ankle to feel almost normal for the first time in six months of dealing with peroneal/ant tib/pos tib tendonitis. But… both times I did feel afterwards that nerves were irritated. The first time I felt it in my foot and the second time, a mild nerve burn in the upper calf area. So I’m afraid to do it again because don’t want to irritate nerves, but of course desperate to do it again to get that release. Do you have any suggestions on how to avoid irritating nerves?
    Thanks so much and infinite thanks for all your amazing work in this area.

  • Jamie lee Shand says:

    Hi Elisha,
    Has this calf release using the roller been superseded by the yoga block technique?
    Which is more effective?
    Thank you 🙂

  • Jen W says:

    What about using a tool like The Stick on calves??? Is this effective???

  • Suzie says:

    I was just informed by my registered massage therapist to never roll out your calves from the knee to the foot but rather from the foot to the knee. By rolling from the knee to the foot you can push blood backwards in your veins and thus cause varicose veins.

    Just a thought….

    • Hey Suzie – I don’t recommend ROLLING on a roller ever, so I would partially agree with her. Releasing fascia is a bit different because it’s a full range of motion around the bone and not smoothing everything flat between the roller and your bone.

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