If you're interested in reading more on ideas presented in the article below, I suggest reading Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief. If you'd like movement instruction via video, start with Alignment Snacks: Stretching the Standing Muscles found in our Virtual Studio Membership.
As a kid, did you have a Barbie doll? I did. What was up with her feet? It’s like she was designed to wear high heels with everything, including her bathrobe. And while Barbie seems like a freak of nature, I’d like you to take a moment to get your feet in the air and check out your own freakiness.
No, really. Do it. It’s mind-blowing.
Check out my feet:
He married me for the calf-stretch, I am sure. He also wears black socks a lot.
Check out da baby's feet -- so hard to catch in their totally-relaxed position!
You can also check out my super-awesome photo-shop skills where I removed my breast from the picture. Please email me if you'd like me to do a high-end graphic arts project for you. I'm available and inexpensive.
Ever seen that perfect baby squat? The one with vertical shins and a sort of “I can be down here all day” attitude?
I know, I know. Our chair-lovin’ hips just don’t open up enough to keep those shins vertical. You're working on it. But in addition to those hips, how about those shoe-wearin’ calves? Most of us don’t even have a resting 90° at the ankle so that vertical shin is going to be impossible to hold without the knee moving forward to force it down!
Want to evaluate how much tension is in your lower leg?
Lie on your back bringing your knees toward your chest until your shins are vertical. If your hamstrings are tight, place a pillow underneath your low back. Now, completely relax your toes, feet, calves, ankles, and forehead. No forcing your foot into position! Also, make sure your tongue’s not sticking out.
Have someone snap a picture or look in a mirror. The angle between your foot and your shin is created by how much tension lives in your calves.
What’s it mean?
If you’ve got an ankle position greater than 90°, then the ankle’s desire (totally anthropomorphizing here) to be at a Barbie-like resting position will knock you back toward your butt during a squat.
It means that, while walking or running, you are using your muscles, tendon, and fascia like springs, instead of like muscles.
B.F.D., you say? You say you like springs? So much that you want to add springs to your shoes?
Well, for those of you who didn’t take Physics 101: After stretching a spring out (read: once you load your foot during a walk or fun cycle by planting it on the ground), it shortens back up because of the properties of the spring (read: not requiring any energy) to launch you forward.
For those of you who didn’t take Physiology 101: Using your muscles like springs (because they're too short to use as muscles) means you're expending very little energy (read: calories) during your exercise session. No matter what the machine-thing tells you.
How did your calves get so short?
1. A lifetime of footwear with elevated heels.
2. Practicing “on the toes/ball of the foot” type activities, i.e. dancing, cheerleading, sports, running.
3. Muscle tone due to birthing process (i.e. CP)
How can I restore my lower leg?
1. Gently stretch your gastrocnemius (no bent knee).
3. Stop wearing shoes with heels.
4. Do all of these things when you’re done with your “on your toes” activities.
5. Read this book.
6. Or, don't do any of these things and have a surgery to lengthen your Achille’s Tendon. Nice because you don't have to change any of your habits. Except for the bed rest. And the year recovery time. And physiotherapy. And learning how to walk in a mobilization boot. And the likelihood of knee, hip, and back pain from the bed, the crutches and the boot. But, you know. Whatever.
Got tight calves? Work on them until your foot looks less like Barbie’s
and more like Ken’s. Minus the dog bites.
No Barbies were actually harmed for this blog post. Although one may not be able to say the same about those who played with them.