The Most Important Pre-Run Warmup: A Calf/Achilles Dynamic Stretch

By Jae Gruenke | Injury Recovery

Apr 13

I have one warmup activity that’s absolutely non-negotiable: a dynamic range-of-motion stretch for my calf muscles. It warms up and lengthens both the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles and puts a real spring in my step.

I teach it to all my clients as well because it can make more of a difference to your running form than practically anything else, improving your lean and the mobility of your core and reducing harmful overstriding and excessive impact. I’ve just videoed it so I can share it with you as well. Here it is:

Give it a try and leave a comment letting me know how you feel.

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About the Author

Jae Gruenke, GCFP, is a running technique expert and Feldenkrais Practitioner. Known as a “running form guru,” she is the Founder and CEO of The Balanced Runner™ in New York City and The Balanced Runner UK. She has helped runners from beginner to Olympian improve their form to become pain-free, economical, and fast.

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(23) comments

Sue April 14, 2014

Thank you, Jae! This is exactly what I need. I really look forward to your posts!

Reply
Jan April 14, 2014

Ha! I most likely do need this, but doing a few of these recently contributed to me pulling a calf muscle – two weeks before doing a Half Marathon ……… I had a bunch of ‘work’ done on my leg and was able to mostly run the Half, but at a very conservative pace. I haven’t dared tried this again, yet ……

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    Jae Gruenke April 22, 2014

    I”m sorry to hear about your calf pull, Jan. But something about this isn’t adding up because the exercise should neither tense nor pull harmfully at the calf, and if you were to feel it did, you should stop immediately. Were you doing exactly this exercise or just something similar?

    Reply
Ben May 16, 2016

I tried it out today, and I shaved a minute off my time even. I’m guessing this is because my legs felt a lot lighter. But yeah this is exactly the type of pre run stretch that I’ve been looking for. I know there are good static stretches for the calf, but I’ve read that those are a no go for pre workout stretches. Thank you so much!

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mazaffar August 26, 2016

I did 1km on the treadmill before feeling a sharp pain in my right calf. I didn’t warm up, went from bed to gym.

Reply
    Jae Gruenke August 27, 2016

    Not sure I need to say anything here, it sounds like you know what you did wrong….

    Reply
Frank August 23, 2017

Thanks, but you are wearing long black trousers which drape over red trainers, a giant a red carpet with large blocks of shadow. Also, the camera angle is too wide. It therefore difficult to see in detail what you are doing.

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    Jae Gruenke August 24, 2017

    Sorry it isn’t clearer, Frank! I was working with what I had at the time. Hopefully you can still make it out in combination with my explanation.

    Reply
Chris Lovie-Tyler January 11, 2018

Hi, Jae.

I’m a barefoot runner (just easing back into it, actually, after a long break), and I’ve recently started reading a lot of your articles, and I’m finding them very helpful. Thanks!

I’m currently doing straight-leg, flat-ground eccentric-loading exercises for insertional tendinosis in my right Achilles. I’m just wondering whether you’d still recommend this for me at the moment, given it also includes a concentric movement (up onto your toes).

Reply
    Jae Gruenke January 19, 2018

    Sorry to hear about your achilles. While this exercise resembles a rehab exercise, it actually isn’t one and I can’t speak to whether you should–or could–do it safely and benefit from it. The lifting up part can be too much for a person with serious tendinosis. I recommend you ask your physiotherapist. And I also recommend you do Free Your Feet as soon as possible–just type it into the search bar on my website and you’ll find it. Best of luck!

    Reply
      Chris Lovie-Tyler January 21, 2018

      Thanks, Jae!

      Reply
John Smart February 18, 2018

Hi Jae,
Just watched your video.
I am looking for a good pre-run stretch for my calves.
I did your routine post run when I was training for “Tough Mudder” but I still ended up with shin reactions which was debilitating.
I am now training for a marathon (up to 10mls) and everything was going well until I did a run with steep hills and the following run my right calf went tight mid run.
I have rested for a few days and it has eased off.
I am going to be honest and state that my pre and post stretching is pretty much non existent but this is not down to laziness but rather fear that I might be doing the stretching exercises incorrect and do more damage.

Reply
    Jae Gruenke February 19, 2018

    John, this warm-up won’t specifically address your shin issues but it should help with the calves. However please also take a look at the blog post titled “Why your calves are tight,” as that should give you some additional help. As for this exercises, you can actually do both feet at the same time if you want, and it’s a bit less strenuous but just as effective.

    Reply
Angus Rose June 18, 2018

Thanks – these are just what I’m after for my knotty old calves!

Reply
    Jae Gruenke June 24, 2018

    Super, Angus!

    Reply
Neil November 8, 2018

Hi, have recently started running and cycling again. Doing couch to 5k program. I am in week two of plan. Have been warming up and also stretching after. Saw your stretches as calves have been tight, so been doing the dynamic stretches before run and also for days when not exercising.
However today I have pulled right calf muscle for 2nd time (rested after 1st time).

Anything else or recommended dynamic stretches. I can do to help my running and calves?

Thanks in advance

Reply
    Jae Gruenke November 9, 2018

    Hi Neil. Sorry to hear about your calves. Cycling and running is a difficult combination, despite the fact that it’s part of triathlons. When you take the flexed hip and back position of cycling into your running, it makes your calves overwork. Type “tight calves” into the search bar on my website to find the Quads and Calves Solution, a free download. That should help you. And if you really want to run and aren’t passionate about cycling, you might decide to drop the cycling and just stick to running.

    Reply
Kaylee November 20, 2019

Thank you so much for this, Jae! It was extremely helpful!

Reply
Mahesh February 6, 2020

Hi There,

I have Achilles tendinitis, the pain is on back of heel bone, when tendon gets attached, i stopped running past year plus. It get’s better for some time, all of sudden the pain is back, i have to rest/ice/hot to control. I’m trying all possible calf stretches, X-ray are ok, ideas?.

Thanks.Mahesh

Reply
Bill February 21, 2020

Just checked out your calf muscle warm-up video. I’m about to try it but before I do, Here is why I was looking…I’m a returning runner/jogger and last year I tried the couch to 5k programme but had to cease after four weeks after I ‘pulled’ my left calf muscle. Recently I tried again and got right through to the later stages, week 8 (of 9) and my right calf felt heavy and I got a twinge as if it was going to “go”.
That was a week ago. Would I be okay to do your warm-ups?

Reply
    Jae Gruenke April 8, 2020

    Bill, this warmup isn’t the best for pulled muscles. Your problem is likely something to do with your core not being mobile enough. I’d recommend you go to the homepage and click on “Get Your Core in Action” and sign up to get the free lesson on that page. It should be helpful in easing the stress on your calves that makes them tighten up. This particular warmup can be too much for people with chronic calf problems.

    Reply
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