Best Calf Strength Exercises for Runners

by Onward Physical Therapy | August 18, 2020 |
 Knee Pain
Best Calf Strength Exercises for Runners

Increased running mileage have you feeling like you’ve got to constantly stretch your calves? Maybe you’re in need of some targeted strengthening for these muscles instead! We rely heavily on our calf muscles to propel us while running, yet with many of our runners dealing with Achilles or other pain, we find they’ve rarely (if ever) focused on training these muscles. These five exercises are a fantastic place to start building stronger calves and improving your running performance!

Special thanks to Lisa of runCLTrun for demonstrating several of these drills!

1: Creep March

Drop into a mini-squat and rise onto the balls of your feet and slowly march forward while maintaining an upright torso. Try to prevent yourself from swaying side to side and keep your hips as level as possible. Add in dumbells or other weight to increase the challenge!

2: Lateral Band Walk on Toes

This exercise combines the much-needed calf strength and lateral hip strength absolutely critical to running performance! With a band around your feet, drop into a mini squat and begin slowly stepping sideways. Again, focus on maintaining a tall torso and level hips. Keep tension on the band by spreading the floor with each step and preventing your knees from falling inward.

3: Bent Knee Calf Raise

Maintain a bent knee and upright torso as you perform calf raises fighting for maximal height on each rep. Add in extra weight for more difficulty.

4: Wall Drill

We find that so many of our runners benefit from this drill not just for building calf endurance and strength, but also for those working on correcting their running form as well. You’ll need to be about an arm’s length away from a wall so you can position yourself with a forward lean. From here, you’ll come up onto your toes and work on quick steps. This is a great drill to pair with a metronome as well if you’re working on improving your cadence!

5: Heavy Slow Calf Raise

The ground reaction forces of running are much greater than your body weight. So, when we train our calves for running, we want to load this movement up if possible to prepare these muscles for the demands of your training! We love adding in a few heavy kettlebells or dumbbells for this movement. Focus on control of the movement by taking 2-3 seconds on both the rise and descent. 

Curious what’s holding back your own running performance or tired of dealing with the same injury every running season? Check out our running evaluation and start planning for your next PR! 

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