Calf Stretches (Revised)

Blog reader Taryn posted a great comment to my earlier post about stretching. It deserves public viewing, so I’m posting the bulk of it here.

“When you talked about your calf stretches, did you know that there are 2 calf muscles? One is typically a short distance sprinting muscle, and the other is used for long distance (the soleus). The way you speak of stretching, you’re stretching your gastroc (the sprinting one). And I’m assuming you run long distances right? To stretch your soleus, it’s the same way, but bend your knee. Gastrocnemius is a 2 joint muscle, it crosses both the ankle and the knee, that’s why you keep your knee straight when you stretch it. Soleus however is only a 1 joint muscle, and in this you need to bend your knee to hit it. You should feel it right deep at the bottom near your achilles.”

A big learning for me, Taryn, and much appreciated. Thank you!

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2 comments

  1. This is perhaps one of the most useful bits of knowledge for not only distance runners in general, but barefoot/minimalist especially! It seems that *everyone* reports extremely tight calves during their first few weeks of barefoot/minimalist running. A result no doubt of the (usually new-to-them) fore/midfoot strike – seems that it’s difficult to relax when first making the switch! Combine that with a general need to strengthen the soleus (and the other, deeper underlying muscle), and you have a recipe for legs that won’t work without a great deal of stretching and strengthening care. 😉

    I discovered the stretch that Taryn mentions here quite by accident, but when I did, it was a revelation! The stretch helps also to target all of the smaller muscle and connective tissues that underlie the two larger calf muscles as well. For instance, I’ve been having some posterior tibial tendon issues, and this stretch hits the spot every time!

    Thanks for sharing the info. I hope others that need it find the info here!

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