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Real Life Fitness Questions Answered

Kelly Marshall
Fitness Consultant

Posted 10 Mar 11

How can I make my calves slimmer?

Hi, I am hoping for some advice on how to slim down my calves. I have very slender ankles but my calves are rather large. They look really out of proportion to my ankles so if IÂ?m wearing tight leggings or skirt I always wear boots that cover the area so the difference can't be seen. I bought some Sketchers shape-ups hoping they would improve my walking style and therefore help in slimming them down a bit but I haven't really noticed a difference. Can you recommend any stretches or exercises I can do that would help? Thanks

Our expert says...




The calves are one of the main working muscles in the lower leg and are often over worked through muscle imbalance and postural stress. Also, high heels and loading the front of our foot encourage calve-use. The more we weigh, the more weight (load) we place on our calves when we go through our everyday lives and in exercise the more work the calves get. This is why sometimes someone who is overweight has very well developed/shaped calves, (though often they aren't desired by the same individuals). 


So to clarify, calf size is determined by:  


– their use (or overuse compared to other muscles in a particular activity i.e. walking)   


- How tight they are – if they are over used they will be over tight and this causes a bigger appearance as they lose flexibility   


- fat storage   


I would recommend the following:  


1) When your out walking try to adopt a heel-toe walking method – so ensure you are making heel contact with the ground first – sounds obvious but when calves are tight this often stops happening due to the loss of flexibility and will only add to your issue.   


2) When walking try to clench your butt to encourage the butt muscles to support the calves and offload some of their workload. This will feel almost impossible to start with but just keep trying and gradually they will start to wake up!! This will also make your waling stronger! 


3) Stretch them daily - as overworked muscles, calves end up being too short and short muscle gives the impression of being bigger. When muscles are shorter they are restricted in flexibility and this can cause waste products (including water), to remain in this area, giving an almost ‘swollen’ appearance. Get a sports / massage therapist (or a personal trainer if you know one) to show you a good stretch for your calves and make sure you do it AFTER every walk – holding (not bounding) for 30 seconds


4) Lose weight - it sounds ridiculous but as you lose weight the stress on the calves reduces and this declining stress on them on a daily basis allows recovery and often a reduction in size.


5) Sports massage - exercise and all the already mentioned factors cause these muscles to get tight and without good flexibility training (see point 1 above!) the calves get muscle ‘knots’ or ‘adhesions’ over time. These reduce the effectiveness of static stretching and in turn require a more powerful approach which is sports massage. A half-hour session as an MOT once the calves increase flexibility is quite common practice, especially if the individual runs regularly.  


6) A person’s genes is a factor that will affect the calves, but obviously one that is unchanging. If you feel, however, that genetically you were gifted with an ability to develop good calves size/strength then again just make sure you concentrate on the above 5 points.


Exercise like the stepper machine and running can cause calve tightness and muscle tightness so it is merely a case of establishing a good flexibility routine and getting assistance to maintain flexibility, (I.e. massage), as needed.


I hope this helps,



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