Many runners might not think about their calves and assume they get enough of a workout by walking every day. The fact is, your calves are incredibly useful to your running form and strength. For this reason, they need just as much attention as some of your other body systems when exercising.
Your calves, Achilles tendon, ankles, and toes work hard to lift you off the ground and move you forward when you run. Your ability to use the elastic energy from your Achilles and the force from your hips is reduced without sufficient strength in these places, leaving you with a stride that seems, and feels, weak and labored.
Calf Exercises for Runners
Calf Raise with Two Legs
Start with balancing yourself by standing close to a wall. To preserve your joints, spread your feet hip-width apart and make sure your ankles, knees, and hips are vertical.
Step forward by applying pressure to the balls of both feet. Instead of twisting your body forward or backward, keep your abdominal muscles pulled in so that you travel straight upward.
Single Leg Calf Raise
Stand with one leg bent behind you, near a wall for balance. To protect the joints, make sure the ankle, knee, and hip of the leg you’re working on are all vertical.
To lift your body upward, press down with the ball of your foot. To prevent shifting forward or backward, keep your abdominal muscles tight.
Seated Calf Raise
Place your feet flat on the ground while sitting on a firm, sturdy chair. Maintain a straight line from your knees to your feet. Do not allow your knees to flex or extend.
Leaning forward, place your hands on your knee-proximal thighs and press down to generate resistance.
Raise your heels as high as you can by steadily pressing down onto the balls of your feet. Next, gradually tuck your heels.
Other Ways to Strengthen Your Calves
Other than doing single exercises for your calves, you can also strengthen them through physical activity that works out the whole body as well. Obviously, running is a go-to, especially if you are running uphill. You can also sign up for a step class at your local gym, jump in the pool and swim laps, or do any sport that involves running, such as basketball or soccer.
Paying attention to your calves will give you a solid foundation for running. If you frequent a gym, talk with a trainer to see what else you can do to increase your strength in this area.