Arnold Schwarzenegger was intrigued with his calves, at one point even calling them supernatural.
“The calves are like no other muscle,” he once said. “And every day they seem to have a different mood.”
Arnold – one of the most prominent figures in the history of bodybuilding – recognized the burden that our calves take on. “When you walk you are using your calves. You are pushing at least your body weight, every time you take a step.”
He was right: no matter if you are sedentary or an elite athlete, our calves incur a lot of stress from our daily activity. And they do get tighter as we age.
When calves become too tight, it creates abnormal, leveraged forces on various areas of the foot and ankle. In turn, there is increased strain on the bones, joints, tendons, and ligaments in our foot. The result? Many of us end up having clinical damage to our feet, especially as we age.
Arnold was likely unaware that plantar fasciitis, midfoot arthritis, diabetic charcot foot prevention,
Sever’s disease, and other foot and heel problems, actually all stem from our calves simply being too tight.
To fix the calf and Achilles contracture, it takes diligent stretching.
Arnold said that it was almost as if the calves “have a mind of their own — a brain that the other muscles don’t have.”
It would have been more accurate for Arnold to say that our calves bear a burden that no other muscle has – but the damage we may do to our feet and ankles as a result of our tight calves is preventable and reversible.
Ultimately, when the calf is tightened, it produces damaging mechanical effects on the foot. As we stand, as we walk or run, or even when we use the Elliptical or Stairmaster, this gets reinforced. What this means is that if we don’t want our calves to seem moody – which is how Arnold described his own – then we must stretch them: consistently, and with the right intensity, over time.