These 7 Plantar Fasciitis Exercises Can Help Ease Your Foot Pain—Fast

By dassf Feb9,2024

Quicker healing and less discomfort? Yes, please.

If you have tight calves, you know lower-leg pain and movement restriction can make everything from doing a squat to  descending a flight of stairs seemingly impossible. You may have tried stretching and foam rolling with limited success, or taken a massage gun to your calves only to find that, within a day or so, you’re right back to where you started: walking like Frankenstein.

Don’t worry: You’re not destined to hobble around in discomfort forever, and you don’t have to settle for squats that never break parallel. There’s a right way to stretch tight calves that leads to longer-lasting relief and improved movement patterns.

For expert advice and guidance, we called upon physical therapists Grayson Wickham, PT, DPT, founder of Movement Vault and Hilary Granat, PT, DPT, owner of C.O.R.E. Physical Therapy. They shared their thoughts on why your calves may be seizing up and the best calf stretch exercises you can do for that long-awaited relief.

Which muscles make up your calves?

The two primary muscles that make up the calf are the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius originates at two different points of the femur (thigh bone) behind your knee. It travels down the back side of your lower leg where, along with the soleus, it attaches to the Achilles tendon, which inserts into the back of the heel. Originating at the top of the tibia (shin bone), the soleus runs beneath the gastrocnemius.

The gastrocnemius is the bulkier muscle of the two and gives your calf its distinctive shape. Together, the gastrocnemius and the soleus drive plantar flexion, the ankle movement that points your toes down and away from your shin (think about your foot pressing down on a gas pedal). On its own, the gastrocnemius also acts as a knee flexor.

What causes tight calves, anyway?

Inactivity can contribute to tight or immobile calves, according to Dr. Wickham.

“We sit way too much and have a lack of varied movement,” he says, explaining that your body will adapt to anything you do (and don’t do). “If your ankle seldom uses its full range of motion, your body is going to adapt to that and eventually get tight.”

And even if you do exercise regularly, you may still lack mobility.

“Running only uses a limited range of motion. Doing a lunge only uses a limited range of motion,” he says. “Unfortunately, I see people that have been working out for decades, and they do plenty of leg exercises and calf raises, but they still have tight ankles.”

Dr. Wickham notes that

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