Two muscles make up each of your calves -- the gastrocnemius muscle, which is the big muscle at the back of your lower leg, and the soleus muscle, which is a smaller muscle located farther down your leg beneath your gastrocnemius muscle. Tearing either or both of these muscles can result in soreness and sometimes even more severe pain. Stretching, before a workout to warm up your muscles and after, in the event you're sore, will open up these muscles and should help ease your pain. While some post-workout muscle soreness is normal, if you're in a lot of pain or if the pain lasts longer than a couple of days, call your doctor.
A flight of stairs and five minutes is all you need to safely stretch your calves and Achilles tendons. Place your strong leg fully on a step and place the ball of your other foot on a lower step. Then slowly drop that heel while keeping this leg straight, which will stretch the back of your leg, your calf and the sole of your foot. This stretch can target both of your calf muscles. If the flight of stairs has a railing, hold on for support.
Sports Injury Clinic recommends runner's stretch, or runner's pose, to stretch and open your gastrocnemius muscle. Bending one leg at a 90-degree angle, step back as far as you can with your sore leg, pressing into the ground with the heel of your foot. You will feel this stretch more on the back of your leg instead of along the sides of your leg. Lower your chest until it comes close, or touches, your bent leg and extend your hands toward the ground, touching it lightly with your fingertips. You can also base your hands on a wall if you want.
A deceptively easy-looking stretch, chair pose, known as mock sit in some circles, will stretch your soleus muscles. Stand straight with your feet about a hip's width apart, then bend your knees and sit as if you're about to sit in a chair. Your knees should not extend beyond your toes. The more parallel your butt is to the ground, the more intense the stretch. Lifting your arms above your head may give you stability and will work your shoulders and arm muscles.
When calves are too sore to bear weight, leg lifts may work. Sit on the ground and extend your legs in front of you. Sit back on your sit bones and slowly lean back while lifting your sore leg. The calf extension should help with the soreness, plus it works your abs and helps strengthen your core. You can also help lift your leg with one hand, or you can use a towel. To use a towel, wrap it around your foot, hold both ends in one hand and pull back.
Keep In Mind
Rushing through stretches won't help sore calves. Hold stretches for at least 20 seconds and longer if you can, says FitDay, though you should stop if your calf hurts even more. Holding a stretch helps increase blood flow to the area, which can help relieve symptoms of soreness. In terms of reps and sets, consider one stretch to be a full rep and plan for three to five sets for each leg, even if you're only sore in one leg. Stretching may help prevent you from straining or injuring your other calf.