Home The Book Dr Articles Products Message Boards Journal Articles Search Our Surveys Surgery ESWT Dr Messages Find Good Drs video

Calf stretching vs. exercising the calf muscle for PF

Posted by Douglas Padian on 4/02/98 at 18:34 (000481)

I was having an argument with my body-building brother about my chronic PF. He was saying that by doing calf raises ( standing at the edge of a step and slowly raising and lowering myself ) will help. He says that working a muscle helps make it elongate, and by elongating the calf muscle there will be less tension on the achilles tendon and therefore the Plantar Fascia. I wonder how effective this could be. I have had a physical therapist tell me to do calf raises, but how important are they? Can they, combined with the stretching, elongate the calf muscle and really help? Anyone with success stories?

Re: Calf stretching vs. exercising the calf muscle for PF

Janis, MA on 4/03/98 at 08:29 (000484)

I have done 'edge of stair' raises for years that have definitely

Re: Calf stretching vs. exercising the calf muscle for PF

ken on 4/06/98 at 17:21 (000510)

I'm not sure if I buy into the elongation explanation, except maybe on a temporary basis (hours). I heard that as a muscle is worked and is used to exertion, it sustains micro tears. During the repairing of the micro tears, the body adds more muscle cells and the muscle becomes hypertrophied (bigger). The muscle may become temporarily elongated, but my experience with weight training for muscle mass gain results in me becoming less flexible unless I actively stretch to prevent it from happening. For fun sometime, ask one of the big hulks at the gym that does leg workouts a lot to touch their toes without bending their knees. Only the ones that actively stretch will have a chance.

The stair-type calf raises are really a two-fold exercise. If you have PF you have to be extremely cautious when doing these and support a good part of your weight on the stair rails or else you could do more harm than good. As you're dropping your heels below the stair that you're standing on, you're strecthing the calf muscles (gastrocs). As your heel is raised higher than the stair you're standing on, you're working the calf muscles. Also, note that when the knees are not bent, you are mainly impacting the calf muscles. In order to effectively stretch the achilles tendon, you must have the knees bent slightly when doing the stretching part. The safest, most controlled way to do this type of exercise is to get a device called the 'stepstrech' or something similar to it. I bought one from http://www.roadrunnersports.com . It came with a very informative pamphlet with recommended exercises, which is where I got some of the above info from. It's worth the $25 in my opinion, although the double one at $50 is a bit expensive. Plus, it's set up to stretch the plantar fascia, as well as allow you to do ankle rolls and shin muscles.

A good book that covers foot types, shoes and leg stretches is 'Running Injury Free', can't remember who it is authored by and I lent the book out. It covers PF, Tarsal Tunnel, and other running related injuries.

I have definitely noticed a difference with my PF acting up more severly when my achilles and calves are tight if I don't stretch after a long bike ride.

Re: Calf stretching vs. exercising the calf muscle for PF

Doug Padian on 4/06/98 at 17:50 (000511)

Ken: I too bought a Prostretch which I think is the same as the StepStretch -- it has a curved bottom which I step on and it bends my foot back. I was getting a very good stretch for a while but after a few days my feet started feeling like they were burning -- I obviously had reinjured the fascia. I guess taping could help but to tape every time I stretch? What do you do to avoid this?

Re: Calf stretching vs. exercising the calf muscle for PF

Ric on 4/07/98 at 18:19 (000530)

I had never had PF until I began doing toe raises with weights at the local gym. I've had it now for over 2 years, and can't find any way to get rid of it. I've tried everything, but nothing works. The one thing I would be VERY careful about doing is toe raises. I tried to do them without weights, to exercise my leg, and the PF got worse than ever. They seem to put a big strain on the arch. Toe raises may help you, but be very careful!

Re: Calf stretching vs. exercising the calf muscle for PF

Steve on 4/07/98 at 20:55 (000531)

There is a new product that will fix your problem. It is called Arch*Rite. I had to quit basketball and running because my PF was so bad. You put them on in the morning and take them off at night and in 30 days or less your problem will be gone. That is what happened to me. I never workout without them on and I have been pain free since

Re: Calf stretching vs. exercising the calf muscle for PF

ken on 4/08/98 at 05:55 (000536)

I've been sitting down while doing the stretches with the StepStretch rather than standing up like the pamphlet shows. I don't think I'm at the point where I can put a decent amount of weight on my feet yet. The other option is to stand and use the back of a chair (or chairs on each side) to support most of your weight. I think it's a pretty fine line between beneficial stretching and further damage to the plantar fascia and achilles.