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Runners who’ve never had tight calves are probably rarer than hen’s teeth. Anyone who’s ever run past their limit has probably experienced tight calves at some point or another. Those tight calves need treatment and a preventative measure to limit their reoccurrence in the future. Enter the standing calf stretch.

man doing standing calf stretch against a bridge

What are the calves?

The calf is a relatively large muscle located on the back part of the lower leg. The muscle connects to your body at the back of the knee and to the heel via the Achilles tendon.

What are calf muscles used for?

The calve muscle is basically responsible for pulling your heel upwards.

Heavily involved to push you forward when you run or walk. Directly involved when pushing up unto your toes.

runners calf muscle picture

What makes calves tight?

As with any muscle the calves will tighten over time with age and physical activity.

Calves are used a lot in running and to varying degrees based on running style. Because of this, they’re very susceptible to tightening for runners of all levels.

This is especially true for those who ramp their run milage up too quickly.

From my own personal experience, I have found that my calves will tighten following sessions that are a lot harder than I’m used to. This goes for distance or intensity level. Pushing harder than normal, for longer than normal, will almost guarantee tight calves the following day.

When to do the standing calf stretch

The standing calf stretch should be done pre or post-exercise. It can be done at other times too though with a sufficient warm-up.

Post-exercise is my preferred time for two reasons. Firstly, my muscles are well warmed up. Secondly, stretching after exercise reverses any tightness because of that session.

If doing the stretch pre-exercise or any other time you’ll need to warm up the muscles first. Any kind of gentle warm-up routine will be sufficient.

Standing calf stretch benefits

  • Can be done almost anywhere, just need a wall or something similar to place hands against.
  • No requirement to sit, kneel, or lie on the ground.
  • Easy to do.
  • Targets the calves in isolation.
  • No special equipment is needed.
  • Limits calf stiffness post-exercise and keeps them supple.

Standing calf stretch common mistakes

  • Not warming up sufficiently beforehand.
  • Not maintaining a straight body line.
  • Bouncing the stretch.
  • Going too far into the stretch.

Stretching cold muscles is never a good idea. The standing calf stretch is no different. Either warm up first or do the stretch post-exercise.

Try to maintain a straight body line as you lean into and hold the stretch. Avoid bending too much in the back.

It’s very easy to push too far into this stretch. Ease into it VERY CAREFULLY. Never go past what feels uncomfortable. High risk of Achilles or calf injury which is an injury you definitely don’t want!

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How to do the standing calf stretch

How to do a standing calf stretch correctly.

  1. Start by facing a wall and standing approximately 2 feet away from it.
  2. Place both hands on the wall at around shoulder height.
  3. Move your right foot forward about a foot or so.
  4. Begin the stretch by slowly leaning your body over towards the wall.
  5. Maintain a straight body line from the heel through to the shoulders.
  6. Stop once you feel a stretch in your calf you’re comfortable with.
  7. Hold the stretch for approximately 30 – 60 secs.
  8. Repeat for the other side.


Whether you’re into running, triathlon or any kind of sport that involves running this stretch should serve you well. Running places a huge load on the legs with every step forward.

The muscles that falter and tighten first from running will almost always be the calves. Therefore, it’s really important to look after them with regular stretching. Particularly after your runs if at all possible.

Just remember to avoid the common mistakes, go carefully, and ease gently into the stretch.

As always, feel free to leave a comment if you have any thoughts, advice, questions, or opinions related to this article.

Thanks for reading this far and supporting my work. And remember, keep working hard toward your goals because a healthier, and happier life is the least you deserve.


Always consult your GP before undertaking any form of weight loss, fitness, or exercise.

Michael Duffy
Michael Duffy

Fitness, health, and outdoor enthusiast! 2 decade of experience training for, and competing in different sports. Boxer, runner, road cyclist, triathlete, and XC mountain biker. More about me here.

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