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The calf tendon, or Achilles tendon, is vulnerable to numerous injuries. Strengthening it can prevent more serious injuries caused by strain, age, or repeated exertion. Tendon-strengthening exercises also greatly improve rehabilitation after injuries to the calf and Achilles tendon areas. There are many ways to strengthen the tendon, but most advise a graduated approach that mixes stretching exercises with more active physical exertion to progressively improve tendon strength. The appropriate footwear can also provide the support and balance needed to strengthen the calf tendon.
One strengthening method involves using a resistance band. Hold the resistance band in one hand, and press the ball of the foot into the lower portion of the loop. With the leg extended and the band drawn tight, flex the foot to point the toes away in a steady movement. Relax and repeat in sets, increasing the number of sets gradually as the tendon strengthens each day.
Another method is called a calf raise. This can be done seated or standing, on one foot or both, with the legs straight or with the knees bent. The calf raise involves flexing the foot to lift your weight, then lowering it. In the seated calf raise, this pushes your knees up when your toes point, while in the standing calf raise, this positions your body to stand entirely on your toes. This forces the calf tendon to support your weight. The gentlest method is the seated version, where the tendon only supports the weight of your lower legs. The standing calf raise applies the full weight of your body to one or both calf tendons.
For gentler stretches, the easiest is touching your toes. Bending at the waist with the legs completely straight stretches the muscles from the buttocks to the foot, and stretches the Achilles tendon. Lunges can also stretch the calf tendon when performed properly, either on flat ground or, for the more ambitious, on stairs. The same principle as the lunge can be applied in a stationary stretch — with the hands resting against a wall and the body positioned at arm's length, lean forward in a lunge and hold the position. This places strain on the Achilles tendon without putting the full weight of the body on it.
When choosing the appropriate footwear for calf and tendon support, you should choose a shoe that has firm support in the heel area. Many shoes come with thick, padded wedges built into the insoles. Also, be sure the ankle area of the shoe grips comfortably, but not too tightly. The aim is to find footwear that provides proper support for both the heel and ankle, to reduce impact and flexion strain on the calf tendon.
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