There’s more to the calf than the calf! – Lower leg stretching

Lower leg stretching

When I’m faced with a patient struggling with hip and leg issues one of the first things I check is the lower leg. It is very important to have a good balance or strength and mobility of the two main ankle joints. The Talocrural and Sub-Talar joint allow a large portion of movement in order to be able to walk, run, jump etc…

Essentially the Talocrural joint allows you to point and flex your foot while the Subtalar allows you to roll it inwards and outwards.

Martial Arts place a huge demand on the body and especially the lower leg and foot. Being able to revisit the forces of kicking and allowing fast, effective movement is essential to reduce the risk of injury.

Many patients mention about pain or stiffness in the lower leg and are always keen to highlight their diligence in stretching the calf. After a brief chat and some handy App use, I show my patients the need to consider the other muscles associated with the lower leg and how to stretch them.

Here they are:
1/ Tibilialis Posterior
2/ Soleus
3/ Flexor Halicuius Longus
4/ Flexor Digitorum Longus

Without getting too deep in the anatomy and function essentially the first two move the foot and the last two mainly move the toes. As you can see though, they all are capable of reducing movement at the ankle if they become tight.

Lower leg stretching
Tibilialis Posterior / Soleus / Flexor Halicuius Longus / Flexor Digitorum Longus

How to stretch them I hear you ask…?

The answer is simple; little and often!

Stretching isn’t focusing on pre/post exercise. You need to consistently stimulate the muscle 3-4 times a day by stretching for 30-60 secs per stretch. This is not a lot of time out of your day and it’s best to involve this in your daily routine. Calf stretch while at the coffee machine?

Lower leg stretching

Here’s a typical calf stretch. With the knee straight the calf muscle takes most of the strain and the other muscles are not stimulated to lengthen. This is not a bad stretch at all, I thoroughly recommend using this for a range of sports and activities.

This stretch adds in a bent knee, placing the calf into a more relaxed position as it crosses the knee joint onto the bottom of the femur. Focus on pushing the knee forwards over the foot, rather than allowing the knee to roll inwards. There is a risk of having pain at the front of the ankle. Reduce the depth of the stretch to accommodate this.

Each stretch should be held for 15 secs, moved a little further and held for 15 secs.

Videos are available at to give extra support with these stretches. There is also a range of other stretches you can explore.

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Written by Kieran Lowe M.Ost, BSc H SRIP
Principle Osteopath and Sports Rehabilitator at Just one body

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