Calf Stretches

By Chloe Wilson, BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy

Top 3 calf stretches to improve flexibility with top tips on how to get the best results

Calf stretches can really help reduce knee pain and improve flexibility.

The calf is made up of two muscles at the back of your lower leg.

The larger muscle, gastrocnemius, starts just above the knee, and soleus, which sits underneath, starts just below the knee.

These two muscles join together part way down your calf to form the achilles tendon which attaches to the back of the heel.

The main function of the calf muscles is to pull the foot down, like when you point your toes or push up onto tiptoes.  You have to stretch each of the calf muscles in a slightly different way, with a straight knee to bias gastrocnemius and with a bent knee to bias soleus. 

Here you will find a selection of calf stretches to stretch both the muscles on the back of your lower leg which can help relieve knee pain and prevent injuries.

If you haven't already visited the introduction to knee stretches page, make sure you check it out to find out how to get the best results from stretches.

My Top 3 Calf Stretches

With all stretches, in order to get the most benefit for the least effort you need to hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat it 3 times.

1) Gastrocnemius Stretch

Purpose: This is one of the best calf stretches for gastrocnemius. Simple but effective.

Standing calf stretch for gastrocnemius. Approved use by www.hep2go.com

Starting Position: Stand holding onto a wall / stable surface with your toes pointing straight forwards (not out to the side). Place the leg to be stretched behind you

Action: Lean forwards keeping your back and the stretching leg straight until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf. Make sure you keep your heel on the floor. Hold for 30 secs

Repetition: Repeat 3 times, 2x daily, and before and after sport/exercise

Progression: Stretch further by taking your leg further back behind you.

2) Soleus Stretch

Purpose: This is one of the best ways to stretch soleus. Because the muscle come from below the knee, it is important to bend the knee when doing this exercise, else you will just stretch gastrocnemius.

Calf stretch for soleus muscle. Approved use by www.hep2go.com

Starting Position: Stand holding onto a wall / stable surface with your toes pointing straight forwards (not out to the side). Place the leg to be stretched behind you

Action: Lean forwards bending your knee until you feel a stretch in your calf. Make sure you keep your heel on the floor. Hold for 30 secs

Repetition: Repeat 3 times, 2x daily, and before and after sport/exercise

Progression: Stretch further by taking your leg further back behind you and bending down more.

3) Seated Calf Stretch

Purpose: If you find it difficult to stretch standing up, try this exercise.

Calf stretches can also be done sitting down.  Approved use by www.hep2go.com

Starting Position: Sit on the floor or your bed with your leg straight out in front of you and put a towel around your foot

Action: Pull your toes towards you and gently pull on the towel until you feel a stretch in your calf. Hold for 30 secs

Repetition: Repeat 3 times, 2x daily, and before and after sport/exercise

Notes: This stretches the gastrocnemius muscle. To stretch soleus, repeat the exercise but with a slightly bent knee.

What Else Can Help?

These are three of the simplest, yet most effective ways to stretch the calf muscles. There are lots of different ways to stretch the calf muscles - if you want to try some different stretches, check the full range of calf stretches on our sister site.

To get the maximum benefit from these calf stretches, see the knee stretches guide for top tips on getting the maximum benefit from the minimum effort.

If you want to find out how to stretch your other leg muscles check out the quads stretches, hamstring stretches, glutes stretches and ITB stretches pages.

It is also important to have good strength in your calf muscles to help avoid knee pain – visit the knee strengthening exercises section for simple exercises that will help get rid of your pain.

  1. Knee Pain Guide
  2.  ›
  3. Knee Exercises
  4.  ›
  5. Stretches
  6.  ›
  7. Calf Stretches

Page Last Updated: 27/9/18
Next Review Due: 27/9/20


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