How to relieve tight calf muscles

Often feel like you get tight calf muscles but just can’t find the right way to release them?

Do you suffer with foot, Achilles or calf pain, or cramping?

Tension in the calf muscles is a common reason for pain in the feet and lower legs – and as they’re a major muscle group, vital in running, that are often overlooked and a victim of high heels and poor posture.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you do have at least some tightness, if not a lot, here!

The calves are super strong and a major force in jumping and the forward propulsion we want when running.

Overly tight calves can stem from:

  • Running on your toes
  • Wearing high-heels, or running shoes with a high heel drop
  • Bad posture, particularly locking out knees
  • Weak glutes, stemming from poor posture
  • Poor big toe strength/ control
  • Jumping a lot ie. skipping
  • Cycling

Tension can show up as trigger points – severe muscular knots – which can cause pain in the calves themselves, or elsewhere in the feet and ankles (including plantar fasciitis!).

They’re big muscles, and can be pretty tricky to stretch sufficiently – so first of all get your tennis ball out for some myofascial release! In the video I show a quick demo of how to do this but my mini programme Ultimate Recovery goes through it in much more detail.

Some of the best ways to stretch the calves out, are:

  • Downdog
  • High lunge
  • Squat…

… But check out the video for the specific ways to go about each of these, to target the calves really nicely.

Longterm solution to tight calves

Doing a handful of specific poses designed to treat a complaint will help in most situations. But it won’t fix the problem.

To prevent an issue returning, we have to optimise the whole body and correct its imbalances. This we can do with a well constructed yoga practice.

For example, if you have tight calves that are strained due to poor posture, and you have bad posture because your core and glutes are weak and your shoulders are too tight – those are the real places to work on to stop the calf/ foot pain!

So the calf stretches are needed, but they are short-term treatment.

Run pain free for life!

The Core:Connect Challenge is returning next month! This challenge helps you to identify your weak zones that may be contributing to pain, or preventing running progress. It leads into Core:Connect Live for those who want to enrol in the programme that will transform your posture, alignment, technique and progress – long-term.

Sign up to the challenge here, or dive into Core:Connect itself, now. Right now the programme is available without the live coaching element but you can upgrade to join the live round when it comes around.

Tell me about your own calves in the comments! How does it feel when you do the myofascial release work? How do the poses feel for you?

All my best, Helen

Useful Resources

How to strengthen glutes for running

Core:Connect Challenge – sign up to challenge your running body!

Core:Connect – The program. Build your running body with my amazing 6 week program for runners!

#runbetterwithyoga, calf stretches, helen clare, natural running form, stretching for runners


Helen Clare

Helen Clare, founder of Helen Clare Yoga and Run Better with Yoga, is a trail runner, senior yoga teacher and yoga for athletes coach, living in Cornwall, UK.

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