How to Foam Roll Your Calf Muscles

 

In the comments section on one of my recent YouTube videos (check out my channel), one of our subscribers asked a question about how best to foam roll his calves.

I took this as a great opportunity to make another ‘how-to’ video on the topic 😀

Do you foam roll your calves regularly?

Calf pain and chronic tightness is such a common problem in runners. However this type of maintenance technique is hugely powerful in allowing runners to run without calf pain and maintain the condition of the muscles of the lower legs.

Use this video as a tutorial and learn how best to foam roll your calves!

About The Author

James has an academic background in Sport Rehabilitation and a special interest in Applied Biomechanics. He currently coaches a large number of Runners and Triathletes across all levels of ability and performance. He's grown a strong reputation for enabling athletes to improve their running performance and overcome running injuries through improving their Running Technique and developing Running Specific Strength.

 

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54 Comments

  • Really useful video James! Thanks.

    • Thanks Sam! I saw your comment on Facebook and will get the calf strengthening video done soon… :)

  • Hi, thanks for this….couple of queries though;

    > Do we roll slow or fast?
    > Do we have to to do it daily? is there minimum rep required per week?

    Thanks…..

    • Hi Murali,

      Great questions! Depending on which of the techniques you’re employing, the pace will vary. As a general rule, go slow when working deeper, and a little faster when you’re working more superficially / gently.

      I see no problem with rolling daily, or with every workout. As with most things in training, the benefit is most apparent when you achieve some consistency – so aim for little and often!

      Cheers,

      James

      • Thanks James!!

  • Hi James,
    Great video, thanks! I’ve been looking for good foam roller videos for a while. Can you extend this for the hamstrings and glutes pls?
    Tina.

    • Hi Tina!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the video. Good idea, I’ll add those areas to my to-do list for videos to film with the foam roller. I could make a whole series :)

      Cheers,

      James

  • Really helpful about the calf foam rolling. I struggle because I have arthritis in both shoulders so can’t take the weight of my body on my arms. I can kind of do foam rolling leaning up against an armchair at home, but mostly I’ve been using a stick – though this doesn’t have the intense impact of a foam roller. But it’s more gentle, so you have to do it for longer – which isn’t easy with shoulder problems! I didn’t know about the rocking sideways and flexing the ankle. THANKS!

    • Hi Sue,

      Thanks for the comment! I hope these different variations now give you more options :)

      Good luck!

      James

  • very good… we ice legs for a few minutes after workouts… when should we roll out

    • Thanks Mike :)

      I’d run, then do some mobility work and foam roll, then ice if you find it beneficial.

      There is benefit to be had in rolling pre-run too. Something to experiment with perhaps!

      Cheers,

      James

  • Thanks James, really helpful.

    • No problem Craig! I hope it helps :)

  • James, if you think that roller is painful, try out the black Rumble Roller! I graduated from the blue one last year and the black one is brutal. I also carry the Muscle trak to use at work, along with the handheld moji. I foam roll, or use one of these other devices daily, and multiple times during the day.

    • Hi Michele,

      Sounds like you have more toys / torture devices than me! I hope you found the video helpful :)

      James

  • Hi – great and useful video… however how do you do these massages if you don’t have great arm strength? I find my arms give out before I’ve finished doing the massage…

    • Hi Nicky,

      Thanks. I’m glad you find the video useful. Perhaps you could turn this into a challenge for yourself: Start with 30 seconds supported on the arms at a time. Next week make it 35/40 second efforts, then 50, 60… etc!

      You’ll find the upper body strength build in no time :)

      Cheers,

      James

  • can you show how to foam roller the hamstring?

    • Thanks for the comment Philippa! Hamstrings are on the to-do list 😉 Watch this space…

  • Great video as usual. Good to know you approve of foam rollers, I’ve been hammering mine
    recently especially for hamstrings and glutes.
    Maybe another vid on hamstrings?
    You also mentioned ‘trigger points’ I’ve been rolling on a hard ball for a touchy TFL, I thought it was a bit risky (it really hurt at first) but I think it has worked and I’m running again pain free.
    So what’s going on with trigger points and is it ok to lean on them so they hurt?
    is there a risk of making things worse?
    Thanks

    • Hi Tony,

      Thanks for the comment!

      “So what’s going on with trigger points and is it ok to lean on them so they hurt”

      The answer to that is an article in it’s own right. One for the future.

      Glad to hear that your efforts with the roller and ball have now got you running pain free :)

      Cheers,

      James

  • Hi James, I had my ‘runners knee’ taped up by a physio before a half marathon last week. It helped immensely and kept the kneecap ‘in the groove’. A video on how to tape your knee correctly would be great.

  • Thanks James, Very useful video as usual.
    This is a great one specially for barefoot/ minimalist runners

    • Thanks for the comment Ali!

      Oh yes – the number of barefoot, minimalist, etc… runners I have seen with calf problems is crazy!

  • recovering from a grade 2 tear of medial head gastric. Any contraindication to doing the tender sore spot??

    • Hi Charles,

      Depends how far into your recovery you are, to be honest. Have you started running yet?

      If so, feel free to get started with some gentle/light rolling. But listen to your body and avoid causing pain. See how your calf feels the next day.

      Best option is to seek advice on this from your physio.

      Cheers,

      James

  • I’ve found a lot of these through trial and error while working through a problem with plantar fasciitis. It is great that you presented them all in one place alone with a few ideas I hadn’t thought of. Great work as always!

    • Thanks Bill! I hope you’re having success with the Plantar Fasciitis rehab :)

  • Thanks James! Great video explanation. Gonna get on this with my calf pain asap.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Johan! I’m pleased you found the video helpful :)

  • Thanks James! I tried this out last night and this is the first time I have woken up without stiff Achilles’ tendons in weeks. I didn’t realise I had been foam rolling incorrectly for so long!

    • Fantastic to hear this Sue :) Keep up the good work!

  • Hi James. Thanks for reminding me and promoting me to foam roll more often! I’ve recently developed what I think is plantar fasciitis in my right foot probably from an increase in my training for a few important triathlon races this year. I am learning different ways of managing it such as icing, heat, massaging the foot, rolling a golf ball under the foot and doing exercises for plantar. Have you any further information on this condition? Thanks.

  • Hi James,
    Brilliant post. .when your rocking from side to side is your bum on the floor or off?

    Many thanks

    Thanks for sharing your brilliant information and taking the time out to give us advice.

    • Hi Samantha,

      Great and important question! Thanks for asking :)

      When performing the side to side movement, my bum is off the floor and my weight in through my hands. I can put the other foot on the floor to regulate how much weight is put through the rolled leg… does that make sense?

      Cheers,

      James

  • Hi James,
    I’ve been using a roller for sometime now and have also used it on the Power Plate at the gym. Is this ok to do?
    I suffer with aching Achilles, tight calves and at the moment an aching piriformis, which is hard to roll. Any ideas?
    Debs

  • Hi James

    Like Deb I have what I think is a piriformis issue.

    Any ideas would be welcome.

    Mel

    • Hi
      I had a lot of trouble with piraformis last year and found you can’t get at it with the roller
      a physio gave me a great stretch which went straight to it, there are several on
      YouTube, find one that works for you. regular stretching fixed it.
      Now I still stretch but also sit on a hard ball and roll to stop the prob coming back.
      Good luck
      Tony

      • Thank you Tony,
        I’ve had Physio before and do have one of those hard balls. Will keep at it. Marathon training taking its toll I think!
        Debs

      • Thanks Tony.

        I’d found neural flossing seated routine which I’m doing alongside stretches & friction with the roller – still aches though, and have no hamstring strength.

        Mel

        • Hi Mel, Tony and Deb!

          Sounds like I need to do a more thorough Piriformis Syndrome treatment video… I’ll put this high on the to-do list :)

          Have you all seen this?: http://www.kinetic-revolution.com/piriformis-syndrome-what-runners-need-to-know/

          Cheers,

          James

          • Thanks James, I’ll have a look. Deb

          • Thanks James, I’m doing the hip hikes and bridges already, looks like I need to do more of that kind of stuff.

            Mel

  • Hi James, thanks for showing this. I too hate foam rolling and am getting problems with my shoulders so have been using a muscle trak instead. Do you think using muscle trak is a sufficient alternative? Or am I cheating myself too far.

    • Hi Suzanne,

      Thanks for taking the time to ask the question. It sounds like a cop-out answer, but as long as you feel you’re taking benefit from the muscle trak… go for it! My only issue with such devices it the question of whether you can apply equivalent effort to the area as foam rolling. But if it feels like it’s helping, stick with it :)

      Cheers,

      James

  • Hi James

    I get occasional pain in my foot on the medial arch just before the metatarsal phalageal joint. I have poor mobility in my big toe and tight calf muscles (particularly on that side). Do you think this could be linked or potentially a different issue?

    It mainly occurs on road running as opposed to trail.

    Cheers
    Fraser

  • Hi James,

    Great video again. I have been using this to help me recover from Achilles tendinitis. Do you thi you could do a video around preventing and or recovering from Achilles tendonitis? This is an injury that has plagued me over recent years and find it incredibly frustrating.

    Keep up the good work
    Mark

  • Hi, great video, thanks, will give those 2 more static exercises a go soon!

    I had a sports massage a while ago and during this the masseuse said to me while foam rolling to only roll in 1 direction, towards the body, with pressure on the muscle as going both directions can cause issues with valves in the veins, when going back the other way to take weight off the muscle. From the video you seemed to have your weigh consistetly on your calf in both rolling directions, just wondered what your thought were on this? Thanks.

  • Hi James

    That’s really useful thanks.

    I have 2 foam rollers, a bobbly one and a flat one. The flat one does now slope/dip in in the middle due to having used it for 2 years. Do they have a life cycle? When do you replace?

    Finally, is there a best way to foam roll the quad muscles?

    Thanks

    Matt

  • Great vid thanks. 2 questions:

    1) when should you replace a flat/smooth foam roller? Mine has had 2 years use and dips in in the middle

    2) any tips for foam rolling the quads?

    Thanks

    Matt

    • Thanks Matt!

      To quickly answer your two questions:

      1) It sounds like your roller is past it’s best! Perhaps time to invest in a new one. I enjoy ‘The Grid’. Enjoy is perhaps the wrong word…
      2) Have you seen this: How to Foam Roll the Quadriceps Muscles

      Cheers,

      James

      • Thank you!

        So no set tips on replacing foam rollers?

        I do have the grid one as well as the smooth cyclindrical one.

        Matt

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