With the closure of gyms during the COVID-19 pandemic, many have turned to running as a regular form of cardio exercise. While it is a good way to keep fit, running excessively without proper form can lead to injuries.

One possible cause of running injuries is “Tight Calves.” This is when your calves become a little rigid and sore thereby preventing fluid movement in your legs.

If you have been noticing tight calves during your runs and feeling them when you head up a hill, you are experiencing what most people go through in their initial stages of running. Most veteran runners can recall at least one time they have found themselves on the side of the trail wincing and rubbing a calf to alleviate a cramp.


Tight calves can occur due to biomechanical dysfunction such as the shape of your foot’s arch, repetitive stress, weakness, improper shoe wear or hallux rigidus [stiffness/rigidity in the big toe].

1. Terrain
Uphill running can put a lot more pressure on your calves than flat miles. To help alleviate the burden, focus on using your glutes to get up the hill. Let your heel drop occasionally to allow your calf muscles to get a bit more release as you go up the incline. Consider power-hiking, which allows you to drop your heels more naturally.

2. Dehydration
Dehydration and low water intake can  also lead to tight muscles. Aim to drink at least 64 ounces of water every day. You can have more if you sweat profusely during a workout or after playing an intense sport. Add an electrolyte tab or a pinch of salt to maintain regular levels of sodium, magnesium and potassium in your system.


1. Warm up and cool down
A slow and steady warm-up is key to avoiding instant tightness in your muscles as you start to increase the pace. Take a few minutes before each run to walk. Do activation stretches like lunges (focus on the back leg for a greater calf stretch) and gentle hops on your toes.

After each run, give your body a few minutes to cool down by walking and doing some stretches.

For those who use standing desks, consider using a foam wedge. Use it while standing to get a gentle calf stretch while putting in no effort.

2. General stretching
Stretching is the most common and easiest of all methods to relax tight calf muscles. There are 2 muscles that make up the bulk of our calves, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. These 2 muscles are attached to your bones differently.

In other words, you need to do 2 different stretches to target both muscles and stretch your calves in the best way. You can perform these stretches 3 times as part of your cooling down.

Stretching the gastrocnemius:

  • Get into a lunge position
  • Keep your back knee straightened
  • Bend your front knee and lean weight forward as far as possible while keeping the heel of your back foot flat on the floor
  • Feel a stretch on the top part of your calves

Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, repeat on the other side

Stretching the soleus

  • Get into a lunge position
  • Keep your back knee bent
  • Bend your front knee and lean weight forward as far as possible while keeping the heel of your back foot flat on the floor
  • You should feel a stretch on the bottom part of your calves
  • Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, repeat on the other side

3. Self-massage to release tight calves
If you do not have any equipment at home, use your fingers or elbows to press those sore spots. Either sit on a chair or on the floor with the leg to be massaged positioned on top of the other in a figure 4 position so that you can easily access the calves with your fingers or elbows.

If you have a massage ball or foam roller, position this under your calves and slowly lean your body weight onto it. Find the part of the muscle that feels the most sore & apply the pressure there for a while until the soreness eases off.

  • Aim for a slight soreness that is within your pain tolerance. It shouldn’t feel too uncomfortable
  • Self-massage after a warm shower or a hot pack as the calf muscles will be most relaxed then. This maximises the effects of the massage
  • Do not   use too much pressure – the key is not to elicit the maximum amount of pain as this will cause your muscles to tense up instead


If your calves are not strong enough to tolerate the demands placed on them when running, they tend to tense up more in order to force themselves to work harder and meet the requirements of the workout session. This results in tight calves.  Relaxing them by stretching and thru massage will only provide short term relief.

The moment running is resumed, the same problem will occur and the calves will tense up again. The long-term solution to fix tight calves would be to strengthen them.

A simple exercise that will help is single leg tip toeing. As mentioned, there are 2 muscles in your calves. Hence, to strengthen both of them, we need to do 2 different variations of tip toeing.


  • Lift one leg up, hold onto a support if balance is an issue
  • To strengthen the Gastrocnemius, tip toe with your knee straight
  • To strengthen the Soleus, tip toe with your knee bent
  • Repeat each exercise for 10 repetitions each and perform 3 sets in total
  • In order to see the full strengthening effects, repeat this 2-3 times a week for at least 4 to 6 weeks

Stretching, Self massage and Strengthening – 3 easy methods which you can use to fix tight calves and prevent running injuries!

To learn all the above exercises and perform them accurately you can visit by Vissco. Here you can access a library of over 1,000 commonly prescribed physiotherapy exercises to stretch, strengthen and bounce back from pain. It is also a good idea to make Vissco’s Physical Resistance Active Bands, Flexi Hot and Cold Gel Pack, Insta Cool Gel Pack for emergency Icing as part of your daily Exercise or Gym kit.


Article featured in RUN Singapore August/September 2020 issue