Foot Issues Related to Tight Calves

Foot Issues Related to Tight Calves

Tight Calf Muscles

Tight calves are one of the most common soft tissue issues I see. As a population, the majority of our movement is forward-based, so the muscles on the backside of our bodies get tight; this includes both the hamstrings and calf-achilles complex.

Most people, including athletes, should stretch these posterior-chain muscles on a regular basis, but neglect to do so.

When your calf-achilles complex is tight, it will pull at its attachment point on the back of your heel. This will pull the heel up and off the ground earlier than normal.

Your body weight will shift forwards and you can overload the forefoot, knees, hips and low back.  While tight calves are not the root cause of most issues, they can exacerbate pain due to increased loading.

Some of the common issues correlated to tight calves are:

Forefoot Pain

An early heel lift will mean you spend more time on your forefoot. If you have a collapsed metatarsal, or forefoot, arch, this can aggravate pressure on the toe joints and reduce the space for nerves to run in-between the toes. This interdigital nerve entrapment can lead to numbness, tingling or neuromas.

Posterior Heel/Achilles Pain

Chronic tension on the back of the heel from calf-Achilles tightness can lead to localized inflammation. Some people can develop a bony prominence on the back of the heel called a Haglund’s bump. This can make shoe fitting a bit more challenging than otherwise. Bone spurs can also develop as a result of that chronic tension. Lastly, the Achilles’ tendon itself can become inflamed and turn into a full-blown Achilles’ tendinopathy.

Ankle Discomfort

Because tight calves cause an early heel lift, you will spend more time on the forefoot with the heel and ankle elevated. This elevated position means that the musculature spanning the ankle joint has to do a lot more work to keep the ankle stable. Some patients will complain of pain or discomfort that runs down either side of the ankle bone.

Knee Discomfort

As your body weight shifts forwards from an early heel lift, you load the anterior – or frontal – compartment of the knee more than is typical. Anyone with a history of knee injury or osteoarthritis in the joint should make sure to stretch their calves so as to limit the aforementioned increase in load.

READ MORE: Treatment Options for Common Knee Injuries

Stretches

Below are some calf stretches you can add into your daily, or post-workout, routine. Make sure you hold each stretch for 45-60 seconds to get the full benefit of the stretch!

You can also use a foam roller or a stick roller to roll out the calves. This has the added effect of ensuring the muscles don’t adhere to one another and can allow a physiotherapist or massage therapist to get deeper through the tissue.

Standing Calf Stretches – Gastrocnemius and Soleus

calf stretches

Gastrocnemius Stretch

(image a)
Stand about three feet from a wall and step your right foot behind with your toes are facing forward. Keep your heel on the ground and lean forward with your right knee straight. Hold this for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch to the other side.

Soleus Stretch

(image b)
Stand away from a wall and step your right foot behind with your toes are facing forward.  Lean forward at the ankle while bending the right knee and keeping your heel on the ground. Hold this for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch to the other side.

heel raises

READ MORE: 4 Injury-Reducing Stretches for Runners

Heel Raises

Stand with your toes and the balls of your feet on a step with your weight forward. Hold onto a support for balance if needed. Lift your heels as high as you can. Then, slowly lower your heels below the step line until you feel a good stretch in your lower calves. Hold for 45 seconds to a minute.

Talk To An Expert!

If you have any questions or concerns about tight calves or other conditions, talk to a pedorthist at a Kintec location near you!

Kristin Ohm-Pedersen, B.HKin, C. Ped (C)
Kintec Pedorthist

12 Comments
  • Aimee Wallbrink

    January 19, 2019 at 8:38 pm Reply

    Yes, I have tight calves and have had them for a long time, also.. plantar fasciitis, but that is getting better. Anyways, I do stretch and do foot/toe raises. Any other suggestions?

  • Mel Rowe

    March 3, 2019 at 2:26 am Reply

    I have been getting really tired sore calves after a run it comes on 2or so hours after a run. I don’t feel tired whilst running at all. The soreness in claves also flares up my plantar fasciitis really bad. What can I do to prevent this occurring.

  • Sam

    March 30, 2019 at 2:49 am Reply

    Hi, I believe I have quite tight calves and when I’m running, after around 2 miles I get a tingling feeling in my foot and it just seems to go numb! I have no idea how to get rid of this pain. Any ideas on what I can do?

  • Shane

    April 2, 2019 at 12:30 am Reply

    Can tight calves create tightness through the FHL, and create a pseudo hullux limitus/rigidis, perhaps even cause some irritation in the 1st metaphalangeal joint?

  • Nazish Nabi

    April 28, 2019 at 6:48 pm Reply

    I have tight gastrocnemius and soleus.I have constant pain in my Achilles tendon.What kind of footwear is recommended for me?I am an anaesthetist so have to stand in the operation theatre for long hours.My pain is increasing day by day.

    • Kintec Footwear + Orthotics

      June 17, 2019 at 4:31 pm Reply

      Hi Nazish, thank you for your question. We would suggest trying custom orthotics to relieve the pain you are feeling when standing for long hours. Proper footwear that provides lost of cushioning and is stretchy is very important as well. New Balance, Hoka, and Brooks all offer comfortable, breathable shoes that will help with your achilles tendon pain.

  • Michael Basso

    May 14, 2019 at 2:50 pm Reply

    I have been wearing orthotics for 30 years and still have problems with sore feet and calves. Is there someone you could recommend in the US. I live in Milwaukee,
    Wisconsin.

    Thanks

    • Kintec Footwear + Orthotics

      June 17, 2019 at 4:18 pm Reply

      Hi Michael, thank you for your question. We would recommend custom orthotics to help alleviate your sore feet. For sore calves we would suggest trying compression socks. They are great for calf circulation and the reduction in calf pain. Certified pedorthists are the people you will want to see for custom orthotics. There are two places in Milwaukee that we would recommend;”Happy Feet Shoes & Pedorthics” or “NPS Footwear & Orthotics”.

  • Tyler

    May 24, 2019 at 8:00 pm Reply

    I was suffering with tight calf pain for almost a year, and terrible feet for a decade or more. Three weeks ago I did a 35k bike ride at slightly faster than leisurely. I’m not an athlete and I almost never ride that far. To my surprise, my calf pain and even my foot pain were almost entirely gone for about two weeks after. It was so nice! Almost entirely pain free for two weeks! But now it’s all back. With a vengeance. As bad as it’s ever been. Any ideas?

    • Kintec Footwear + Orthotics

      June 17, 2019 at 3:36 pm Reply

      Hi Tyler, thank you for your question. We would suggest booking an appointment with a doctor or certified pedorthists to take a look and properly assess your feet. If we can properly align your feet with the right footwear and/or custom orthotics than that should alleviate your calf pain. You should also try medical compression socks.These help greatly in reducing calf pain and help with proper circulation in the calf and foot. Medical compression socks will require a doctors note, however; you can purchase regular compression socks on your own but they will not be as strong as the medical ones.

  • CKD care plan

    June 28, 2019 at 6:14 am Reply

    Good article on Issues Related to Tight Calves. Thank you so much for this fruitful article.

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