If you prance around in high heels all day, your outfit might look great, but your ankles and calves can suffer. A sedentary lifestyle, uncomfortable shoes and simple lack of stretching can all cause pain and tightness in the muscles of your lower legs, but you don't have to live with this tension. A few quick stretches can help loosen you up and will make it much easier to exercise.
Before doing any stretch, talk to your doctor if you have painful injuries or any chronic medical conditions. Some stretches can exacerbate muscle problems, especially if you get too zealous and stretch too far. It's also safer to stretch warm muscles; your muscles will stretch more and you'll be less likely to accidentally injure yourself, so do a brief warmup by walking, cycling, swimming or doing some other low-intensity exercise first.
Ankle rotations can help move your ankle joint through its full range of motion and stretch the surrounding muscles. You'll also get a moderate calf stretch as you bend your foot upward, because the calf's primary job is to flex your ankles. Slowly roll each ankle clockwise five times, then counterclockwise. The movements should be slow and methodical. Then, point your toes forward and then flex your feet backward, holding each position for about 10 seconds, five to 10 times.
The calf towel stretch directly targets your calves without requiring you to balance or stretch other muscle groups. Simply sit down with your legs extended straight out. Then, loop a towel or exercise band underneath the balls of your feet, while holding either end of the towel with your hands. Pull the towel toward you until you feel a stretch in your calves, and hold for 30 seconds.
The step stretch can help improve your balance while stretching your calves. Stand at the edge of stairs next to a railing, or use a stepper while holding on to a bookshelf or other sturdy furniture. With the ball of your foot on the edge of the step and your heels hanging off the edges, shift your weight to one foot and slowly lower your heel. Hold for five to 10 seconds, then repeat on the other foot.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.