How to Stretch Tight Calves for Flexibility and Pain Relief

Your calves are one of the most used muscles in your body. They work any time you walk.

Your calf muscles allow you to move your feet in different directions. They also let you run, jump and push off the ground.

Unfortunately, our lifestyle can make them less flexible. This reduces their range of motion which affects how you move.

Wearing heels often leads to tight calves. That’s because the elevated position of your ankles shortens your calf muscles.

Sitting on your desk all day also leads to tightness.

Over time, the lack of flexibility and tightness can lead to gait issues, soreness and pain in different parts of your body.

Why?

Your calves connect up to your knee and down your heel. So, any issues in this area can affect your knees, hips, ankles, and feet.

This is why calf stretches are essential for lower body health. It prevents ankle and foot problems. And, allows you to avoid knee, hip, and lower back pain.

How to Stretch Your Calves: Best Calf Stretches

1. Heel Drop

This is a passive stretch that targets your gastrocnemius. It requires some balancing. If you’re just starting out you may want to have a chair or wall close by to hold on to.

This movement provides a nice stretch on your calf muscle by allowing your weight to do the pushing.

How to Do the Heel Drop

  • Find a low step. This could be a box, elevated platform or your stairs.
  • Get on the step.
  • Place the ball of your right foot (the front) on the step. And, allow your heel (back of the foot) to sink down.
  • Make sure to keep your right knee straight. This will keep the focus on the gastrocnemius muscle.
  • Keep your left foot on the step, positioning it slightly in front of the right foot. This will help you maintain balance.
  • Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.
  • Do the same for the other foot.

2. Bent-Knee Heel Drop

This is the same stretch as above. But, with a slight change. This time, you’ll be bending the right leg.

By slightly bending the right knee, you’re switching the focus of the stretch from the gastrocnemius to the soleus. Additionally, you’re also stretching your Achilles tendon.

Hold the lowered position for 10 to 30 seconds.

Make sure to stretch both calves.

3. Heel Press

The heel press is one of the more popular calf stretches around. It doesn’t require any equipment or objects, just your bodyweight.

In this movement, you’ll be using the position of your legs and the angle of your body to extend your calf muscles. This is another passive stretch that targets the gastrocnemius.

How to Do the Heel Press

  • Stand with a staggered stance. That is one foot in front of you. And, the other foot behind you. Keep your feet positioned hip weight apart.
  • Bend your front leg slightly and place both hands on that thigh. Moving the body forward stretches the calf of your back leg.
  • Make sure to keep your back straight. Don’t arch your back or round it.
  • Hold the pose for 10 to 30 seconds.
  • Repeat with the other side.

4. Bent Knee Heel Press

This is the bent knee version of the exercise above. As with the heel drop, by bending your knees, you’re shifting the focus from the gastrocnemius to the soleus muscles. This allows you to stretch all the muscles of your calves.

Because you’ll be bending both front and back knees, you won’t have as big a distance between front and back feet.

Another modification in this movement is the angle of your body. This time, you’ll be putting your weight on the back foot instead of the front. To help with balance, you can hold on to a wall, table or chair.

5. Toe Up

If you’re looking for a gentler way to stretch your calves, the toe up is an excellent way to do it. Here, you’ll be able to control how much (or little) the pressure is. This gives you the ability to adjust as you go along.

How to Do the Toe Up Calf Stretch

  • Find a low step or object that’s about 4 to 6 inches high. The goal is to use something that’s just high enough to rest the top of your foot on.
  • Place the ball of your right foot on the object, while keeping your left foot on the ground.
  • Use a chair or table to help with balance.
  • Keeping your right knee straight, push your hips forward. This will press the bottom of your right foot down to stretch your gastrocnemius muscle.
  • Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.
  • Repeat the same steps with the other food.

6. Seated Foot Pull Stretch

In this stretch, you’ll be using a rope, towel or resistance band. The band will serve to pull the balls of your feet towards you. Thus, stretching your calf muscles in the process.

To note, you’ll be seated for this exercise. You can sit on the floor or a chair. It’s worth indicating that changing the angle of your leg alters the area of the calf being stretched.

As such, while both sitting on the floor and chair work, the elevated angle of the chair gives you a different feel.

How to Do the Seated Foot Pull Stretch

  • Sit on the floor. Keep both legs extended straight in front of you.
  • Hold the towel on both ends with your hands.
  • Loop the other end of the towel around the ball of your right foot (top part).
  • Pull the towel towards your body. Make sure to keep your back straight. Don’t round your back.
  • Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.
  • Do the same for the other leg.

7. Achilles Stretch

This stretch works both the soleus and Achilles tendon. It focuses on the lower part of the calf giving you better flexibility close to your ankles.

How to Do the Achilles Stretch

  • Kneel on the floor.
  • Keep your right foot on the ground and bring your knee towards the side of your body.
  • Use your hands to support yourself.
  • In a controlled fashion, slowly relax your arms to let your right heel hold your weight. Don’t completely let go so your foot doesn’t take too much weight.
  • Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the opposite foot.