Whether you have a history of ankle sprains or not, it’s important to have strong ankles and calves to prevent injury. When hiking, you travel over varying terrain, which means you need good ankle flexibility but also stability. When running, the power from your stride comes from your calf muscles, known as the gastrocsolues muscle group. Strong ankles and calves are important to keep you moving quickly and over uneven terrain. Today. Let’s focus on calf strength.

Your Calf Muscle Structure and Use

The anatomical name for the calf is triceps surae because there are three major muscles that attach to your heel, making up your Achilles tendon. Your gastrocnemius muscle, the fleshy one, has two heads, and the soleus muscle, which is flatter and sits underneath the gastrocnemius, has one head. All three muscles need strength, power, and flexibility in order to walk all day, hike, and run. Below are exercises to help build strength so you can prevent injury.

3 Exercises to Build Calf Strength for Running and Hiking

Calf Raises

What can you do to keep your calves strong? The first is easy: heel lifts (commonly known as a calf raise). Stand with your feet on the ground and lift your heels up. To add a challenge, do these at the edge of a step and let your heels drop down below your toes. You’ll feel a stretch and it should feel harder to lift the heel up. A simple calf raise like this targets the gastrocnemius muscle. How do you target the other muscle?

Bent-Knee Calf Raise

To target the soleus, bend your knee slightly and then lift your heels. This one can be tricky, so make sure to keep your knee bent the whole time. You can progress it similarly by doing these at the edge of a step.

Calf Stretching

When you’re done doing calf raises, a stretch can feel good. Bring one foot behind the other and lean against a wall. You should feel this stretch higher up, close to the knee. Then, keep the same position and bend your knee slightly. You should feel this closer to the heel in the Achilles tendon.

Making Molehills Out of Mountains

Even if you have a history of ankle sprains or weak calves  and the thought of hiking up a mountain sounds impossible, these simple exercises can improve your calf and ankle stability and decrease your chance of re-injury. However, if you’re eager to hike or run but have other concerns, don’t hesitate to see us! We’re here for you all your movement goals!