Calming the Calves
Your feet and lower legs take a ton of abuse. Roll them out to treat them right.
By Jeff Alexander
We seem to want to destroy our feet and calves. Women buy shoes that look hot but ruin the function of their feet, while guys just abuse them without a second thought. It’s no wonder that all of the muscles in the calves and in the feet sometimes decide to engage in a painful revolt.
Aside from wearing different shoes and getting a foot massage every day, what can you do? Below are two quick stops along the way to making your dogs happy. Digging into the knotted-up flesh in the back of your lower legs can unlock tremendous power and unleash your progress. Better function and circulation lead to faster recovery and bigger muscles. Take five to 10 minutes a day to ensure your gym efforts result in muscle building and recovery rather than couch sitting and injury.
- Sit down with your lower legs across a foam roller (the bumpy roller is preferred). Do not hold yourself up on your hands and roll length-wise (forward and backward) on your calves. This is the most common mistake people make when treating their lower legs. When you do this you must support your weight with your lower-leg muscles. That means you are activating the muscles you are attempting to massage, which is counterproductive. Instead, simply relax and let your calves sink into the roller.
- Slowly rotate your legs left and right. Find a tight spot that doesn’t want to relax and hold on that spot.
- Make three slow clockwise and counterclockwise circles with your foot. Feel the bumpy knot in your calf rolling over the knobs on the roller as you move your foot. It should feel like thumbs working on your leg.
- Repeat steps 1, 2 and 3 for three rounds. You should notice decreased tension in your calves with each successive round.
- Afterward, get up and take a few steps on your toes and then your heels to check function and stability.
- Take off your shoes and gently place the arch of your foot on a hard and preferably knobby ball. (I like the Beastie Ball by RumbleRoller.)
- Keeping light pressure against the ball, raise your toes while you inhale deeply.
- Exhale as you slowly wrap your toes around the ball and lean as much pressure as you can tolerate onto the ball.
- Repeat for three rounds, then move the ball to another spot. Go through this process on two or more spots on the bottom of your foot.
- Walk and grab the floor with your toes to test the range of motion and stabilization for your feet and toes.
This simple routine can work wonders for your aching feet, toes and calves. Add a soak in a hot tub to the mix and you have a good self-care therapy program for functional and high-performing feet.
Jeff Alexander is an expert on self-myofascial release who teaches his style of functional therapy all over the word. He and his wife own Network Fitness in Irvine, Calif.