Calf raises…why are they so important?

December 20, 2017

Drysdale Podiatrist, Patrick Oughtred explains…

The humble calf raise is an effective exercise which has been around decades, and has been re-worked to create dozens of variations. The movement is simple: rise up onto your forefoot (double or single leg), then back down – How hard could that be?

Essentially the calf raise is a replication of the propulsive phase of your walking/running gait by shifting your bodyweight forward onto your forefoot, and lifting your heels up off the ground. You would be amazed at how many people complete this exercise incorrectly.

The correct technique is to push through your big toe joint, and rise up onto your heels at a slow and controlled speed, then slowly lower your heels back to the ground. All the while, maintaining body-weight through the big toe joint. Commonly I see clients in our practice (majority of them suffering from an overload injury) who will rise up onto the lateral (outside) part of their forefoot – indicating what we call “low gear propulsion”. This is opposed to high gear propulsion, which is through the medial column of the foot (big toe joint).

The use of the big toe joint during walking/running is essential for efficient biomechanics. As well as being the largest of the forefoot bones (meaning it is designed to deal with the largest load/force), activation of this joint, leads to secondary efficiencies mechanisms being utilised.

If low gear propulsion is being used with every step of walking/running, then there is a high risk of the following overload injuries developing:

  • Plantar Fasciosis
  • Achilles Tendinopathy
  • Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (Shin Splints)
  • Metatarsal Stress Fractures
  • Interdigital Bursitis/Neuroma

Factors that affect the foot’s ability to utilise the big toe joint:

The calf raise exercise is an awesome exercise for foot and ankle strength, and control. Unfortunately if you’re not coached to complete the exercise properly, then you can be doing yourself a disservice, and putting yourself at risk of developing an overload type injury.

If you have any specific questions, please feel free to email me on the address below or make an appointment for a 3D assessment with myself or any of our team members on 1300 937 573


Patrick Oughtred
Sports Podiatrist
Pro Feet Podiatry