Health & Lifestyle

Top 5 Exercises for Calf Pain

The gastrocnemius and soleus muscle are part of a powerful group of muscles located at the back of the lower leg. Both muscles insert into the calcaneus (heel bone) via the powerful Achilles tendon. The Gastrocnemius (commonly known as the calf) muscle is the largest of the 2 muscles and is located on top of the Soleus, it has 2 heads, which originate above the knee. This muscle is responsible for flexing the knee and plantar flexion (pointing the toe) of the ankle. The Soleus muscle which is located under the Gastrocnemius, originating below the knee joint. The Soleus is responsible for plantar flexion of the ankle and inversion of the foot.

Pain within this area can be due to a number of reasons, including muscle tightness through training, pain following a tear or Achilles soreness. General muscle soreness through exercise can be alleviated through stretching, strengthening and adequate recovery. Injury to any structure should be evaluated by a sports medicine professional.


3 Point Calf Raise (on or off a step)

The above exercises ensures you will target the entire gastrocnemius/soleus complex, as well as hitting the medial and lateral portions.

In the early stages this exercise should be performed on two feet and on the floor as you strengthen you can progress to doing this off a step and then move onto single leg adding weight as you improve.

Calf Raise 1Calf raise 2Calf raise 3

Alphabet mobilization

While the typical action of the ankle is plantarflexion (point the toe), dorsiflexion (toe toward knee), inversion (sole of foot inward) and eversion (sole of foot outwards) the foot/ankle performs a highly complex series of movements to enable locomotion. Stiffness in the ankle joint can cause pain not only at the joint but also within the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, which may limit performance. Performing mobility exercises such as the alphabets will ensure the ankle is put through a wide range of motion including combination movements, which is more true to real life.

Sitting on a stable surface, isolate the ankle as shown and trace the alphabet with your foot/ankle joint. using small letters first progressing to large letters as this gets easier. ensure each letter is done individually.

Seated Alphabets 2

Gastrocnemius Stretch

Standing against the wall, put the leg you wish to stretch behind you, keeping both feet pointing forwards, bend your front knee and shift your body weight forwards, till you feel the stretch in your calf.

Try to maintain a straight line from your shoulder to your heel.

Gastrocnemius Stretch

Soleus Stretch

Half Kneeling, place hands on the floor. Bring the ankle to be stretched close to your bottom keeping the sole of your foot on the floor.

Bring your chest forwards, and shift your weight over the sole of your foot. Keep your heel on the floor.

Soleus stretch option 1Soleus Stretch option 2

Tibialis Anterior Stretch

Kneeling, sitting on your calves, ensure your feet are flat and lean backwards. if you do not feel this stretch you can put a rolled up towel under your toes. You should feel the stretch along the front of your shin.

Some of the most effective exercises can be added easily into your normal training regime, it is also important to note that preventing the injury from occurring in the first place will ensure you continue your training with minimal disruption. Below is some common exercises to stretch and strengthen this often injured area. Stretches should be held for 30-45 seconds and repeated on both sides. position should be taken to a point of stretch and not pain.

Tibialis Anterior Stretch


Pamela Andrews

Pamela Andrews MSc ST MSST NASM CPT, is the owner and founder of Sports Injury Scotland. She has extensive research and hands-on experience in sport, and is currently working on her PhD. Her whole ethos focuses on the importance of implementing the most up-to-date scientific research into each individual assessment, treatment and rehabilitation. This ensures that the treatment they receive is tailored to suit the individual and the best possible for them. She also feels that it is vital as a therapist to continually develop not only practical skills but the knowledge to become a successful therapist. She enjoys taking part in regular exercise, so understands the implications pain has on the ability to perform your sport to your full potential, and also the psychological impact of not being able to undertake your particular sport. She recently completed her first marathon in Berlin, so is able to fully appreciate the impact marathon training can have on the body.

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