There are two primary muscles that make up the “calf.” These are called the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Both of these muscles insert into the heel through the achilles tendon, and when contracted, cause the toes to point. The gastroc crosses both the heel and the knee, whereas the soleus lies deep to the gastroc and crosses just the heel. Therefore, they are stretched in slightly different positions.
To stretch the gastroc, stand with your hands pressed into a wall and one leg bent with the other leg directly behind. The leg in back is the one you will stretch. Keep the toes of this leg pointed forward, and maintain a straight knee.
To stretch the soleus, assume the same position but allow the back knee to bend slightly.
As with all static stretches, hold a minimum of 30 seconds.
When the gastroc-soleus muscles become short or tight, they limit the amount of forward movement of the lower leg (this motion is called “dorsiflexion”). This can impact a number of activities including walking, running, and squatting, to name a few, and over time can cause increased stress on other parts of the body.
If you are having pain with any of these activities, you can come and have a physical therapist evaluate whether or not tightness in these muscles might be contributing to your pain. Give us a call at our Avon clinic (970)949-9966 or Eagle clinic (970)328-5230.