Updated: March 26th, 2013

It’s not uncommon for runners to complain of tightness or soreness in the calf complex of the lower leg. The repetitive loading nature of running gait puts these muscles under a great deal of stress as the foot and ankle loads and unloads. Any weaknesses or dysfunctions are quickly found out as we increase running milage or intensity.

Equally, as we change running footwear options, we ask different questions of these muscles. Particularly when making a change to a significantly more minimalist shoe, the calf and achilles complex is loaded through a greater range of motion into closed chain (weight baring) dorsiflexion. It’s like taking a heel wedge away from a foot which has grown up being used to such a wedge. There are a number of key exercises which will enable your body to better manage the calf loading through range needed for running.

Warm-Up Your Calves Before Running

From personal experience, I can definitely say that my calves have been saved by adding this dynamic calf warm-up to my pre-run routine. This simple exercise works the calf muscles dynamically through a range of motion into dorsiflexion, warming them up nicely. Pointing the toes inwards and outwards as you perform the drill will importantly bias different parts of the many muscles of the calf complex.

I tend to also perform this exercise post-run to help my recovery. Pre-run I do it with a fairly fast tempo. Post-run, however, I slow it down and sustain each individual stretch for a few seconds.

Exercises To Build Calf Strength

Strength is of course a factor in building more resilient calf muscles. There are a number of exercises you can regularly employ to build run-specific calf and lower leg strength.

Single Leg Calf Raise

3 x 20 Each Leg

Ankling Drill

3 x 2min

Heel Walking

4 x 30 yards

Exercises To Build Calf Strength

Don’t forget your hips! Restriction at the hip can cause increased loading of the calf muscles due to the increased loaded ranges of motion required at the ankle required to compensate for poor hip biomechanics as you run. Here’s a brilliant post from The Gait Guys to delve into the science behind this further.

Active Hip Flexor Stretch

3 x Each Leg As Per Video

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