Many of us don’t appreciate our calves as we should; our lower legs provide us with a great deal of mobility, but we rarely offer them the same care and attention that we give to other areas, such as shoulders and abs. Our lower leg has an incredibly complex structure, but let’s focus on our calves. While we often refer to it as our “calf muscle,” there are actually two relatively large muscles here. The largest is the gastrocnemius, and the smaller muscle is the soleus.
The gastrocnemius muscle begins on the back of your thigh bone and knee cap and attaches to your heel via the Achilles tendon. The gastrocnemius muscle acts to pull the heel upwards, which extends the foot downwards (plantarflexion). Whenever you run and jump, your gastrocnemius is working hard. This muscle also serves to flex or bend the leg at the knee joint. Because this muscle is working during standing, walking, and during most other activities, it is incredibly vital to keep it strong and flexible.
The soleus muscle is also a plantarflexion muscle, and it is a powerful force on our ankle joints. The soleus muscle begins on the back of the lower leg bones (fibula and tibia) and joins the heel bone via the Achilles tendon. This muscle is vital for running, walking, dancing, and many more activities. The soleus also acts as a muscle pump, working with other calf muscles to aid in pumping blood back to the heart.
A compression calf sleeve is designed to increase blood circulation, relieve the discomfort from swelling, varicose veins, and other issues that result in swelling of the lower leg. The quality calf sleeves from Physix Gear Sport are designed with your comfort in mind and offer moisture-wicking and graduated compression. When worn during intense activities, air flight, and during recovery, a calf sleeve will enhance circulation and reduce lower leg swelling. Increasing blood circulation provides your working muscles with more oxygen, nutrients and improves hydration. A calf compression sleeve may also support a strained or sprained calf muscle by providing compression that will reduce swelling, thus easing pain.
If you participate in marathons or watch marathons, you have likely seen many runners wearing a compression calf sleeve. When we move, especially during activities like running, dancing, and soccer, tiny vibrations are occurring within our muscles, which cause the muscle to fatigue. A compression calf sleeve minimizes these vibrations, resulting in better performance and reduced recovery time.
I love open trail running, and when it’s hot, I prefer to wear sturdy bike shorts when mountain biking. Wearing a compression calf sleeve protects from small scratches, insect bites, and skin irritation from plants while improving performance. If you are on your feet most of the day (yay you!), wearing a compression calf sleeve will reduce that painful swelling in your lower leg. Those who find varicose veins and spider veins an issue find relief from these by wearing compression calf sleeves regularly. If you have circulation problems or are at risk for developing circulation issues or blood clots, talk to your doctor about the value of wearing a compression calf sleeve.
Our calf muscles work hard every day; they play a significant role in our posture, keep us balanced when standing, and keep us stable when motionless and during activities. The calf muscles allow us to dance to our favorite songs, jump up and run away from danger, and participate in play, sports, and many leisure activities. Keep your calf muscles healthy by including strengthening exercises specific to them in your fitness routine. Stretch these muscles as tight gastrocnemius and soleus muscles can cause a great deal of grief. Pamper these muscles using a massage ball to gently ease muscle tension and knots and relieve muscle pain. If you are experiencing a great deal of lower leg or lower back pain, consult a physiotherapist or kinesiologist to get an accurate diagnosis. They may recommend a compression calf sleeve or an orthotic insole to correct your issues! While the calf muscles are often out of sight and out of mind, they play an incredibly vital role in our health and movement.