The 12 Best Calf Stretches For Runners

Without our calf muscles, not only wouldn’t we be able to walk, jump, and run, but we wouldn’t even be able to stand up, as the lack of our calves would make us fall flat on our faces. Our calves are a powerhouse for our running, and how strong and healthy they are, dictates just how much power we can put into our stride. 

Like every other muscle used in our daily lives, our calves need to be strengthened, warmed up, and taken care of with specific calf stretches for runners after every workout. I know stretching is never a runner’s favorite part of the day, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. 

Today, we will get into detail about our precious calves, what they do, why we need them, and how to take good care of them. More specifically, in this article, we will discuss:

  • What Are The Calf Muscles? 
  • How Do My Calf Muscles Help Me Run? 
  • How To Strengthen My Calves
  • Dynamic Calf Stretches For Runners
  • Tips For Stretching Properly 
  • The Best Calf Stretches For Runners

Ready? 

Let’s use those calves and jump in!

A woman doing calf raises, one of the best calf stretches for runners.

What Are The Calf Muscles?

Our calves are the lower/rear portion of our legs. They are made up of two different muscles, the gastrocnemius, and the soleus. 

The gastrocnemius is the larger of the two calf muscles and the one we actually see in the back of our legs. Yes, the inside and the outside head of the gastrocnemius are the two bulges you see when you do your calf raises! The top part of the muscle begins at the femur, runs down the back of the leg, and reaches the Achilles tendon. 

This part of your calf is made up primarily of fast-twitch muscle fibers, ready for the jumping, sprinting, and change of direction you need for power. 

It is responsible for the following movements: 

  • Foot Plantarflexion at the ankle 
  • Leg Flexion at the knee

The soleus muscle is a flatter muscle and the smaller of the two. It lies deeper than the gastrocnemius, so it is not visible. The soleus connects your tibia and fibula, the bones in your lower leg.  

Funny enough, the soleus is primarily made of slow-twitch muscles. So you’ve got your endurance muscle here, helping to avoid fatigue and keep you going. 

 It is responsible for the following movements: 

  • Foot Plantarflexion at the Ankle 
  • Stabilization of the Tibia 

These two muscles merge at the base, just above your heel, and link to the Achilles tendon with connective tissue.

A close-up of a trail runner's calves.

How Do My Calf Muscles Help Me Run?

As we already know, running is a high-impact sport, so we need our bodies and muscles to cooperate to help manage it. Our calves help absorb this impact and protect our bones from injuries such as shin splints

When running, your calf muscles allow you to lift your heel and propel yourself forward, putting force into each step. The pure power you produce with your calf muscles will help dictate the speed you run. The stronger your calves, the more force you can apply to your launch off the ground, propelling you forward with each step. 

Benefits of Having Strong & Healthy Calves 

So, why do we want to strengthen and take care of our calves with calf stretches for runners? Some of the benefits we can reap from healthy and strong calves are: 

  • Improved ankle strength and stability 
Calf stretches for runners: heel lifts.

How To Strengthen My Calves

Performing our calf stretches for runners after your workouts are not the only thing you need to do to keep your calves healthy and in tip-top shape. You should also include calf exercises within your strength training program.

You can include exercises such as:

  • Calf raises: bodyweight, dumbbells, on a step, single-leg, double-leg  
  • Plyometric exercises: long jumps, vertical jumps, jumping lunges, bounds
  • Box jumps
  • Wall-sit calf raises 
  • Jump rope 
  • Farmer walk on tiptoes 
  • Squat calf raises 

In addition to strengthening your calves, it’s also essential they are properly warmed up before doing any sort of running workout. Add in dynamic calf stretches for runners into your warm-up routine to ensure your legs are ready to go for whatever training is awaiting you that day. 

Here are a couple of dynamic calf stretches for you to try out before your next run. 

#1: Toe Walks

Calf stretches for runners: toe walks.
  1. Stand tall. 
  2. Push yourself up on your tiptoes, stretching your calf muscles.
  3. Walk forward on the balls of your feet.
  4. Repeat for 30 seconds

#2: Heel Walks

Calf stretches for runners: heel walks.
  1. Stand tall. 
  2. While keeping your balance, lean back onto your heels. 
  3. Walk forward, staying on your heels. 
  4. Repeat for 30 seconds.

You can also alternate between toe and heel walking during the same progression, taking two steps on your toes and then two steps on your heels, alternating as you go. 

#3 Dynamic Step Stretch

Calf stretches for runners: dynamic step stretch.
  1. Stand on a step, curb, or plyometric box. 
  2. Place your feet so the balls of your feet are on the edge of the step, and your heels are hanging off the back. 
  3. Push yourself up on the balls of your feet, so you are on your tiptoes. 
  4. Then, lower your heels down, so they stretch below the box. 
  5. Repeat this up and down movement 12 times. 

Remember, if you are using this as a dynamic stretch, be sure to hold the position for just a second or two and continue moving. We don’t want to stretch statically before a workout but after completing it. 

For a complete list of dynamic stretches before your next run to ensure all of your muscles are ready to go, look at our Dynamic Stretches For Runners compilation. 

When you are all finished with your workout, it is time for your static stretches. Before we jump into our static calf stretches for runners, take a quick look through our tips on stretching correctly.

Tips For Static Stretching

  • Hold each stretch between 45 – and 60 seconds to reap optimal benefits. 
  • Try to relax your muscles while holding the stretch.
  • Breath deeply while you stretch. With each exhale, you can try to gently stretch the muscle a tad more. 
  • Stretch your muscles gently. You should feel mild tension but not pain. If you feel pain, let up on the stretch or stop altogether. 

Now that we know how to stretch correctly, let’s look at the following calf stretches for runners that you can add to your post-run routine. 

The Best Calf Stretches For Runners

#4: Lunging Calf Stretch

Calf stretches for runners: lunging calf stretch.

Most likely, this is the most common and most straightforward of the calf stretches for runners.

  1. Stand tall. 
  2. Take a step forward with your left foot with your knee slightly bent. 
  3. Lean forward slightly, keeping your back straight.
  4. Press your right heel into the ground for a calf stretch. 
  5. Hold the position for 45-60 seconds. 
  6. Repeat on the other leg. 

#5: Standing Bent-Knee Calf Stretch

Calf stretches for runners: bent knee calf stretch.

This calf stretch is similar to the previous lunging calf stretch but with a slight bend of the knees. It tends to focus more on your soleus.

  1. Stand tall. 
  2. Take a step forward with your left foot with your knee slightly bent. 
  3. Lean forward slightly, keeping your back straight.
  4. Bend your right leg slightly and press your right heel into the ground for a calf stretch.
  5. Hold the position for 45-60 seconds. 
  6. Repeat on the other leg. 

#6: Single-Leg Heel Drop Stretch

Calf stretches for runners: single-leg heel drop stretch.
  1. Stand on a step, curb, or plyometric box. 
  2. Place your right foot so the ball of your right foot is on the edge of the step, and your right heel is hanging off the back. You can leave your left foot resting on the step. 
  3. Let your right heel drop toward the ground.
  4. Hold the position for 45-60 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the other leg.

Note: You can also perform this stretch by letting both heels drop toward the floor simultaneously, making it a double-leg heel drop stretch. 

#7: Wall Calf Stretch

Calf stretches for runners: wall calf stretch.

For this stretch, find a wall or object you can lean up against comfortably. 

  1. Stand tall with your legs at hip-width apart and face the wall.
  2. Place your hands on the wall in front of you and lean forward, keeping your heels firmly on the ground. You can either do this one leg at a time or with both legs stretching simultaneously.
  3. Lean until you feel the stretch in your calves. If you don’t feel the stretch, you need to adjust your position and place your feet further back. 
  4. Hold the position for 45-60 seconds.

Yoga poses are another great way to static stretch after a run. Here are a couple of yoga poses we can use as calf stretches for runners. 

#8: Downward Dog

Calf stretches for runners: downward dog.
  1. Start in a high plank position. 
  2. Push your hips up and shift your weight back until you have formed an inverted V position. Keep your head down between your elbows, creating a straight line with your back.
  3. Press your heels into the ground to stretch your calves. 
  4. Hold the position for 45-60 seconds. 

If you have trouble getting your heels on the floor, try the single-leg downward dog.

#9: Single-Leg Downward Dog

Calf stretches for runners: single-leg downward dog.
  1.  Start in the classic downward dog yoga pose. 
  2. Lift your right foot off the ground and place it on your left calf, helping push your left heel into the ground.
  3. Hold the position for 45-60 seconds.

#10: Calf Curb Stretch

Calf stretches for runners: calf curb stretch.

Find a short curb or step to perform this calf stretch for runners.

  1. Stand tall. 
  2. Place your right foot at a 45-degree angle against the curb, leaving your left foot slightly behind you to keep your balance. 
  3. Gently flex your knee forward. 
  4. You can come closer to the curb or hinge your body forward to deepen the stretch. 
  5. Hold the position for 45-60 seconds.
  6. Repeat on the other leg. 

#11: Double-Leg Seated Calf Stretch with Resistance Band

Calf stretches for runners: resistance band calf stretch.
  1. Sit tall on the floor and extend your legs out in front of you. 
  2. Place a resistance band around the balls of both feet, holding each end of the band in either hand.
  3. With your elbow at 90-degrees, pull the sides of the bands back toward you, flexing your feet to feel the calf stretch.
  4. Hold the position for 45-60 seconds. 

#12: Single-Leg Seated Calf Stretch with Resistance Band

Calf stretches for runners: resistance band calf stretch, single leg.

This stretch is very similar to the last; only you stretch one calf at a time. 

  1. Sit tall on the floor and extend your legs out in front of you. 
  2. Place a resistance band around the ball of your right foot, holding each end of the band in either hand.
  3. With your elbow at 90-degrees, pull the sides of the bands back toward you, flexing your right foot to feel the calf stretch.
  4. Hold the position for 45-60 seconds. 
  5. Repeat on the other leg.

There you have our very best calf stretches for runners! Add a couple of these stretches into your post-run routine, along with stretches for your other muscles used. Here we have more guides to give you ideas on how to stretch out the rest of your muscles: 

Quad Stretches For Runners

Hamstring Stretches For Runners

Glute Stretches For Runners

IT Band Stretches For Runners

Katelyn Tocci
Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community she is known for her ear to ear smile even under the toughest race conditions. She loves sharing her knowledge and experience with everyone and has a great desire to motivate others to hit the trails alongside her. Run for fun!

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