Calf tightness after hiking? Try this!

by | Jul 13, 2020 | 0 comments

Calf tightness after hiking? Try this!

Have you ever had calf tightness after hiking? I recently had someone reach out who was having some issues with calf pain. Also, they felt a ropey band of tightness along the calf. This is something we definitely want to work out; tight muscles can cause all sorts of pain. The quickest solution is foam rolling, which is pretty straightforward and accessible. If you’re out on a hike and this happens, you can use a rock for the “rolling” technique, an exposed tree root, log/branch, or a Nalgene water bottle. There’s a video with a demo if you have any questions.

Foam roll rescue!

Traditionally, people will foam roll straight up and down the muscle. I think we can improve upon that a little bit. First, place your opposite leg over top to add a bit more resistance. The second thing you want to do is rock your leg right to left instead of rolling up and down.  When you find those really tight, ropey, tender, or painful spots, move your foot up and down. This motion mimics pushing the gas pedal and pulling your foot off the gas pedal.

Work that for a few reps until the pain begins to decrease. If that spot is just too painful, try just above or below that area for relief. After that, roll up or down the calf looking for the next spot.

One other thing you can do is place that foam roller on an angle. Muscle fibers don’t just run straight up and down, the fibers run at different angles. With the foam roller on an angle, you’re still going to roll up and down. However,  keep rocking right to left as you did before. Continue to move your foot up and down as you’re moving through the calf muscle for a more beneficial session.

Bolster the calf with strength


Moving on, the next thing to do is work on some strength. Exercise will bring in blood flow and help to maintain healthy muscle tissue. It can also help with sore muscles, you can read more in this study. I like a traditional heel raise for this. Standing near a wall, raise up onto the ball of your foot. What I’m doing [in the video] is shifting my weight to my left leg and then lowering down. Slowly lowering down on one leg this is a great way to rebuild strength. This exercise can also be great for building and maintaining a healthy Achilles tendon. Perform this, perform 3 sets of 15-20 reps.
Once that feels pretty easy you can add a step to the heel raise. With the step, there’s a little bit more range of motion as you lower down. Same thing here as the regular heel raise; raise up with both feet and shift the weight to one leg and then lower down. Once this feels comfortable with 3 sets of 15-20 reps, you can add the concentric (raising) phase. So now, the movement is all on one leg, fully up, and down. Work on the full range of motion for the best results.
Give these few things to try and see if that helps knock out some of the tight issues you’re having.
Happy Trails!

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Lee Welton