Calves get sore and tight for a number of reasons, however, the primary reason they get tight is that they’re used every day. Running, jumping, sliding, playing… all these activities use the gastrocenemius and the soleus to create forward motion.
“The calf muscle, on the back of the lower leg, is actually made up of two muscles:
- The gastrocnemius is the larger calf muscle, forming the bulge visible beneath the skin. The gastrocnemius has two parts or “heads,” which together create its diamond shape.
- The soleus is a smaller, flat muscle that lies underneath the gastrocnemius muscle.
The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles taper and merge at the base of the calf muscle. Tough connective tissue at the bottom of the calf muscle merges with the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon inserts into the heel bone (calcaneus).
During walking, running, or jumping, the calf muscle pulls the heel up to allow forward movement.” –http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/picture-of-the-calf-muscle
One of the easiest stretches to do after a run, and several times throughout the day, is the Wall Stretch.
Place your hands on a wall. Put the foot of the calf you want to stretch on the floor about 2 feet in front of the wall with a slight bend in the knee, making sure foot is planted on the floor. Position the other leg behind the first with a straight knee and the foot pointed straight ahead. Push against the wall and bend the front knee forward until you feel a stretch in the calf. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Do not bounce in the stretch, as that will over-stretch the gastrocnemius and possibly lead to damage or injury.