Calf Strengthening Exercises for Runners

calf exercises for runners

Strengthening your calves isn’t just about preventing injury to your calves. It’s about protecting your lower legs as a whole. For example, if your calves are too weak, it puts stress on your Achilles tendon and shins. No runner likes dealing with a painful, squeaky Achilles tendon or going through the agony of shin splints.

Include these calf exercises into your training routine two to three times per week to improve your form and help prevent injuries by building muscle in your lower body. 

The difference between good calf exercises and great calf exercises is the time and attention you put into them. Be diligent and intentional…take your time.

Good calf workouts aren’t an afterthought…they’re a priority.

1. Best Dynamic Calf Exercise: Jumping Rope

Let’s start with the basics! An exercise as simple as jumping rope not only strengthens your calves, it amps up your cardiovascular ability–which as runners is what we want, right? It can also serve as a great pre-run warm-up. Jump in place on the balls of your feet for 30-60 seconds three times. Repeat for a total for three sets.

Tip: Be sure to land on your toes rather than flat-footed. Landing on your toes is what makes this a great calf exercise–you strengthen those muscles with every jump.

2. Best Static Calf Exercise: Simple Calf Raises

Stand on the edge of a step or sturdy box. Raise your left foot, putting your body weight onto your right foot. Balance on the ball of your right foot.

Next, lift your right heel and pause there for a few moments. Lower your heel and repeat. Alternate feet every 10-15 reps, completing a total of three sets for power up those calves!

Tip: You can also hold dumbbells at your sides to amplify this strength-training exercise.

3. Best Calf Exercise with Dumbbells: Toe Walking

If you have them, grab some dumbbells and hold them at your sides–but this exercise works fine without weights, too.

Lift up your feet and walk forward on your toes for about one minute to 90 seconds. Do three to five sets for stronger calves, particularly the soleus muscle in your calf that’s responsible for plantar flexion…helping you to power off when you run. 

Remember, don’t let your heels touch the ground–keep them as high as you can!