A lot of my posts recently have been really orthopedic because of my job. I’m seeing all these words that I didn’t use for 3 years and it’s triggering ideas for blog posts.
Your calf muscle. Your calf muscle is actually 2 muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is the muscle that everyone thinks of when they say ‘calf muscle’ and is the muscle that’s really defined when someone says ‘look at her calves.’
Underneath the gastroc lay the other calf muscle, the soleus. Ok, here’s the difference in those muscles. The gastrocnemius crosses two joints, both the knee and the ankle. The gastroc when contracted both points the toe and bends the knee. The soleus on the other hand only crosses and affects the ankle joint, so its only action is to point the toe. Because of that, when you stretch these muscles, you have to bend the knee in order to stretch out the soleus to take the gastroc out of the equation.
These muscles are very important in your gait cycle and are responsible for ‘toe-off’ which means that when one leg is about to lift off of the ground at the end of the stance phase of the gait cycle, your gastroc/soleus complex is engaged and as a result of these muscles causing your toe to point – since your foot is stabilized on the ground the only way that your toe can be pointed is if your body is lifted.
So, you have toe-off because after that you’ll swing that leg forward. If you think you need to stretch out your calf, stretch both muscles. Here are what the stretches look like: