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)
And if you’re looking for the right foam roller to do the job, I recommend this Medium Density Foam Roller. Or if you’re feeling a little more daring, try out this High Density Foam Roller. Full disclosure, these are affiliate links. If you’re looking for our comprehensive solution to plantar fasciitis specifically then check out our Break Up With Your PF Course.
This is not my technique, I didn’t invent it. I originally saw Kelly Starret use this to address a tight achilles and low calf, and I’ve been using it to stretch my own calves from top to bottom ever since.
What’s REALLY cool about this stretch is you can actually grab a portion of the soleus (usually very difficult to stretch) when you pin the belly of your calf right where the two heads of the gastroc meet the achilles tendon (as pictured). When you get it just right you’re not just releasing your “calf” muscles (aka your gastrocnemius), you’re releasing the soleus and Achilles tendon at the same time too. You’re even going to affect the perroneals with this, if you do it right.
COACH (that would be me) SAYS:
This is going to be TOUGH. You might not want to make yourself do it. But YOU CAN DO IT! You have to coach yourself through this. And it’s totally worth it.
- Use as much body-weight as you can stand (but make sure you’re not directly on your shin BONE, that will hurt and not in a good way).
- Focus on MOVEMENT of your foot more than anything else.
- When you point your toes (plantar flexion), REALLY point…like a ballerina! This is where the GOLD is. When you rotate, rotate ALL the way. Don’t half-ass your movements or you’ll be robbing yourself of results!
- I don’t want you massaging the calf with your body weight (that won’t do much of anything, except hurt).
- Go after MULTIPLE spots. Don’t be afraid to HUNT for the best ones by moving up and down on the calf, by rotating your hips or placing your bottom leg in slightly different positions on the roller. BUT, once you find a good spot, STAY there and move your foot (stop moving your hips or rolling on the roller).
- Your top leg should always be PARALLEL-ish to the roller with your body weight coming down onto it.
- Remember…you’re addressing FASCIA not muscle, and fascia needs to be pinned and THEN stretched. The best result happens when you get the fascia to change itself, rather than trying to manipulate it from the outside with force.
- Everyone will be a bit different in regards to how long to perform this and how often, but a good general beginner recommendation would be about 30 SECONDS on each spot (that’s plenty if you’re doing it correctly!) and you may find 3-4 spots per calf. I recommend doing this once a day for a week, and then adjust as necessary based on your results.
If you have HEEL PAIN:
Heel pain can be relieved with the above technique, but to eliminate it I recommend you go after your hamstrings. In my private practice I have discovered that most of the time heel pain responds more to hamstring release than the calf release, while plantar fasciitis, Achilles issues, shin splints etc all respond the most to calf work. By all means combine the two for the best result! Click here for my hamstring release technique.
Let me know what you think of “the ONE stretch” and/or the hamstring release, and don’t hesitate to comment or write me if you have questions!