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Learn when & how to foam roll your calves

Updated: 3 days ago

Foam rolling can be great to loosen off your calves when they’re tight from training. In this video I’ll show you how to use a foam roller as well as a massage ball to get the job done. I also discuss when it’s best not to foam roll your calves and some reasons why you may not find it beneficial.

How to foam roll your calves

In this article:

  • Video: How to foam roll your calves

  • When to foam roller your calves

  • When NOT to use a foam roller on your calves

  • When foam rolling your calves won’t work

Video: How to foam roll your calves

When to foam roller your calves

  • Before training: There is some evidence to suggest that you can “wake muscles up” through foam rolling and that it may improved performance, but the research is not quite clear on it yet. It may also help to improve your flexibility. The most important thing is that none of the studies have reported any negative effects from foam rolling so it is perfectly safe to do as part of your warm-up. I’ve previously discussed the benefits of foam rolling here.

  • After training: It may be useful to foam roll your calves after training as it has been shown to improve flexibility and there is some evidence to suggest that it can reduce the amount of soreness that you feel after exercise.

When not to foam roll your calves

Do not use a foam roller on your calves if you suspect that you may have torn or strained it – especially if you have bruising or swelling. The muscle fibres need time to recover and you can worsen your injury if you do strong massage. Foam rolling does not make injuries heal faster. Muscle strains require a combination of rest and strengthening exercises to heal. You can consult one of the team via video call if you want a bespoke training programme to help you recover from a calf injury.

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When foam rolling your calves will not work

  • Overuse: If you’ve worked your calves very hard and haven’t given them enough time to recover, they may remain tight and sore even after using a foam roller. In this case you need to give them relative rest through doing low impact activities e.g. gentle cycling or swimming.

  • Neural tension: Your sciatic nerve originates from your back, passes through your gluteal muscles and runs down the back of your leg. If your lower back or gluteal muscles are tight, they will prevent your sciatic nerve from sliding freely when you use your legs to run, walk, cycle etc. I often find this to be the case in patients who complain of chronically tight calves. Including mobility exercises for your lower back and hips into your routine can make a massive difference if your calf tightness is due to neural tension.  A physiotherapist can help you with this and it is something that our team can diagnose and treat via an online physio consultation via video call.

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About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Masters Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn or ReasearchGate