As runners, we think of our feet, back, hamstrings, knees and plenty of other body parts before we get around to thinking about our calves. But many don’t realize how stretching calf muscles could help runners in several ways, including giving them better health and faster times!
Understanding that stretching is incredibly important isn’t news to an experienced runner. While some stretch before running, others choose to stretch after, and many play it safe and stretch both before and after running.
Stretching calf muscles, however, may be the most important thing a runner can do other than putting one foot in front of the other. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Prasad Gourineni believes that calf tightness “is the most important muscle tightness in the entire body.”
The calf acts as a plantar flexor for the ankle joint, which means it controls the movement of pointing the ball of your foot downward, which is especially important in running. The calf uses the foot as a lever as it raises the heel. If you are going uphill, you need more power from your calf muscles. If you are going downhill, you need more control from your calf muscles.
What’s interesting is that traditional calf stretches don’t preserve the integrity of the arches in our feet. A product like The Healthy Stretch, which runners stand on barefooted before and after running, affects the arch and calf muscles differently than any other stretches.
5 Reasons Why Stretching Calf Muscles is So Important For Runners
There are plenty of benefits to stretching calf muscles, but we picked out a handful runners should consider the most.
- Decreases Acute Muscle Strains
Sitting in a chair at a desk is not what a human was meant to do 8-10 hours per day, which means our feet are plantar-flexed in a forward position. If your calves are tight, the other muscles in your legs and back will have to compensate, which means you’ll get more aches and pains.
- Decreases Risk of Plantar Fasciitis
The calf muscles are made up of two separate major muscles on the back of the leg. The gastrocnemius muscle lies on top of the soleus muscle, and by stretching both, you keep the inflammation down on the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your feet, connecting your heel bone to your toes. That inflammation is plantar fasciitis, which can feel like a stabbing pain in the foot.
- Improves Balance and Running Form
Running and exercising tightens and shortens muscles, whereas stretching them can help increase mobility over time. The more flexible you are, the easier it is to keep proper running form. Your calf muscles communicate with your other muscles neurologically to keep you upright and not swaying.
- Prevents Chronic Foot Injuries
While plantar fasciitis is one of the most debilitating injuries calf stretching prevents, it also wards off arthritis of the foot and ankle, flat feet, diabetic foot ulcers and even stress fractures!
- Keeps Arch Integrity
The tarsal and metatarsal bones in your foot help form the arch, which allows your body to support its weight, and enables you to walk with correct posture without pain. Stretching the calf helps your arch, which is also strengthened by ligaments and tendons, helping the rest of your body, too.
Stretching calf muscles is very important for runners, so consider doing it both before and after your runs, and use a product like The Healthy Stretch to strengthen your calves and protect your arch.