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> Exercises for calves and feet – strengthen your runner’s legs

Exercises for calves and feet – strengthen your runner’s legs

Publish date 03.08.2023

You can read it in 7 minut

Exercises for calves and feet – strengthen your runner’s legs

When you start running your legs are not strong enough to run for a long time. What’s more, I am certain that you feel soreness in them after a long workout. Every runner, no matter how long they have been running, should add calf and foot exercises to their training plan. Weak muscles are the cause of many of the injuries you want to avoid. 

With these exercises, you will not only strengthen foot muscles that are dormant through the cushioning in running shoes but also improve your running technique. You will be able to run faster, longer, more economically, and comfortably. 

All this won’t do itself. Add foot and calf training to your plan and strengthen them. I’m about to introduce you to some interesting exercises that will help you achieve this. Ready? Let’s go! 

Calf and leg exercises – how will they help? 

  • faster running, 
  • lighter and more pleasant running, better stabilization of the whole body – especially when running in the mountains or off-road, 
  • nice and shapely calves, which many people (especially female runners) dream of,
  • greater strength in the legs,
  • better rebound during running, 
  • prevention of Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis of the foot, 
  • safe transition to proper running from the midfoot,
  • easier overcoming mountain trails with many uphill runs.

Exercises for calves vs. their muscularity 

Many female runners avoid calf strengthening exercises because they are afraid of muscular and large calves. I am here to tell you that you have nothing to fear. Believe me. 

The strengthening exercises you will be doing are characterized by low loads. This means that they do not contribute to the growth of calf muscles. 

“I started exercising her calves and they are…different.”

Nothing surprising about that, you are exercising them, so there must be some changes. The calves will be more defined. Add leg stretching to your exercises as well. This will make your calves more slender. 

Remember, that fat is by far the most common culprit for the massiveness of calves – if you reduce it, your calves will be slim despite the strong muscle outline.

As you can see, these types of exercises are extremely important for any runner regardless of gender, age, or ability. Add them to your training routine.

Strengthen your calves and feet with exercises – which ones should you add to your running training? 

How many repetitions to do the following exercises? 

Ideally, about 20-30 repetitions. It also all depends on your training. Sometimes so many repetitions can be tiring, so start with a smaller amount and slowly increase them.

Climbs on squares 

The first exercise is very simple and you will do it anywhere. By performing toe climbs you strengthen your feet and calves. 

How to perform this simple exercise? 

  • Legs at shoulder width. 
  • The silhouette should be upright, head straight, and look ahead. 
  • Raise your heel slowly and climb up on your toes. 
  • Do it as high as you can. 
  • Hold in this position for a few seconds. 
  • Then slowly lower your feet and touch your heels to the ground. 

This exercise is worth adding to your warm-up as well, not just a “supplemental” exercise for foot and calf memory. Do about 20 repetitions for the workout to have the desired effect.

Walk on heels

Another very simple exercise that you should add to your training for strengthening your feet and calves. 

Here’s how to perform them.

  • Stand upright, head straight, and look ahead. 
  • Legs at hip width. 
  • Stand on your whole feet, then lift the toes of both legs. (Your body weight shifts to the back and you will be resting on your heels alone).
  • Walk around like this. Take 6 steps forward and backward. 

Repeat the exercise about 10 times to ensure stronger feet and calves. 

Standing on one leg 

Standing on one leg will help with your balance.

This exercise will strengthen your feet but also provide better stability. 

  • Stand up straight. 
  • Then raise one leg and bend it at the knee – it must form a right angle with your hip. 
  • Stay in this position for about 30 seconds.

Is this exercise easy for you? If so, when the leg is lifted, start changing its position. This will make the exercise more challenging.

Lifting various objects with your foot

You can do this exercise sitting or standing. It all depends on how comfortable you are. 

How to perform this exercise? 

  • On a flat surface, place various objects such as crayons, pens, and blocks. 
  • You can prepare yourself a bowl into which you will throw these items. 
  • Then, using your foot (it should be bare), pick up the objects on the floor with your toes. 
  • Do this exercise with both your right and left foot.

Sand walking 

Feel sand under your bare feet.

This is an ideal exercise for people who live close to the beach. You will strengthen not only your feet but also your calves. The sand has a soft but rough texture. What’s more, walking when walking on the sand you sink slightly therefore walking is more physically demanding.

How to perform this exercise correctly? 

  • Choose a place with sand. It doesn’t have to be the beach – a sandpit, a beach volleyball court will also be a good choice. 
  • Put your bare feet on the sand and start walking. 

If you want to do this task well then head to the beach. A wide and long surface with sand will make you do a long walk. In addition, the interesting scenery and the presence of the ocean will make the walk much more enjoyable and you won’t even notice how quickly the time will pass.

Walking and running barefoot 

Not everyone has a beach close by and can afford to walk on the sand. Therefore, you can also strengthen your feet by walking and running barefoot. 

Shoes weaken your feet and their muscles, so it’s a good idea to sometimes take off your shoes and feel the earth, grass, leaves, and other natural elements under your feet. You can walk in the yard or along various paths. However, you must be careful not to step on sharp elements that may be hiding in the grass. For complete safety, it is worth getting barefoot shoes – you can walk in them even on rough asphalt.

Lifting on the toes of one leg 

How to perform this exercise so that it is done effectively and brings results?

  • Stand in front of a wall or front of a closet – so that you can rest your hands on it. 
  • Bend one leg at the knee.
  • Hook your foot on the calf of the other leg. 
  • Begin to slowly rise on your toes – as high as you can. 
  • Hold in this position for a few seconds and return to the starting position.

Body weight transfer using a plank 

This exercise will not only strengthen your feet but also give them better mobility. Isn’t that enough? The exercise will also strengthen your body. 

  • Do a plank (yes, it’s that scary exercise grr). 
  • Lean back on your forearms. 
  • Using your feet, shift your body weight forward to backward.
  • Hold in this position for up to 30 seconds. 

At first, if you can’t hold for 30 seconds don’t worry. Start with 10 seconds, and then you will be able to last longer and longer in this position. 

Stretching the foot and calves with tape 

Feet:

  • Prepare a Pilates tape and hook it around one foot. 
  • The end of the tape should be in your hands. (The tape should be stretched over the straight leg). 
  • Start slowly lowering your leg – away from you with the foot draped down.
  • Then lift it toward you. 

Calves: 

  • Hook the tape over the back of your foot. Tie the other end to a piece of furniture that is stable. If you have your gym or one you can attach it to ladders. 
  • Start stretching the tape by pulling your leg toward you until your toes are pointing upward. 
  • Lower your leg and repeat the exercise.

Sensorimotor pillow 

For this exercise, you will need one exercise device, specifically a sensorimotor cushion. With it, you will be able to improve your motor skills and stability, as well as strengthen your feet and calves. 

How to perform this task?

  • If you are a beginner, stand on the cushion with both feet.
  • Then start shifting your body weight to different parts of your foot.
  • Is it easy for you? I have something for more advanced people. Try doing this exercise while standing on one foot. 
  • Remember to perform it on both the right and left leg.

After exercise and training… remember about recovery! 

This is a very important element in the life of every athlete. Your body also has its limits and simply needs to rest and relax. Your muscles will need recovery after running and additional exercises that strengthen your legs. 

Therefore, to speed up recovery, perform auto massage. You can simply use your hands for it and properly massage the sore muscles. However, there is more to it than that. Choose a massage gun, roller or balls with soft spikes, which you will move slowly around the tense areas. In this way, you will relax your muscles and be able to feel relief in them and get back to training faster without sore muscles.

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