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

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Posted by ken on April 06, 1998 at 17:21:08:
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 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.

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