Whether you live an active lifestyle that means regularly working out, hiking, walking, or hitting the gym, or you simply like to run, the chances are that you're no stranger to calf pain. Injuries to calf muscles and discomfort around the soleus and gastrocnemius are more common than you might think. In fact, they're part of the reason why you often see runners and professional athletes wearing calf compression sleeves as a method of improving stability and boosting recovery times.
Fortunately, if you know how to perform a few simple stretching exercises for painful calves, you can open up the tight network of muscles that may sometimes seize up after injury or overuse. The following stretches are ideal for beginners, but remember that if you suffer from calf injuries, you may need to speak to your doctor before you engage in any rehabilitation techniques.
Step Drop Stretch
Find a stairway step or street curb and place the ball of your feet against the edge of the ledge. Dropping your heel downwards slowly, keep the ball of your foot against the top of the step, until you feel a stretching sensation in your calves. If you're new to these stretching exercises for painful calves, you might benefit from having something sturdy nearby to hold onto, or partner who can help you keep your balance.
Make sure that you never force your heel down further than it wants to go during this exercise. Your goal should be to get your heel to touch the ground, but this can take time to accomplish.
Take a Seat
This stretch is specifically designed to target the soleus muscle - the muscle located lower in the leg, that lies underneath the gastrocnemius. Before you start running, stop next to a wall or sturdy surface, and drop your hips downwards as though you're going to sit in an imaginary chair.
Don't allow your heels to raise off the floor, but lean forward slightly to get the most out of the stretch. You might struggle for balance when trying these stretches at first - which is why the wall can come in handy.
Another great option in stretching exercises for painful calves, a runner's stretch helps to open up the gastrocnemius muscle. Extending your arms, and keeping your back straight, press your palms against a secure surface - such as a wall. Place the first leg you want to stretch behind you, being careful to situate your heel against the floor and keep the leg extended. Lunge forwards with the other leg, so that it's situated between the wall and your extended leg, and bend your elbows to lean into the stretch.
These stretching exercises for painful calves are best done barefoot, so lose the sneakers. Sit with your legs extended out in front of you, and wrap a towel or elastic band around the ball of your foot, while holding each end in either hand. Keeping your back straight, lean away from your foot, while pulling on the towel until you start to feel the muscle burn slightly. Hold the stretch for as long as possible, and remember to inhale slowly through your nose and out through your mouth at the same time.