Sore Muscles? These Calf Stretchers Ease Aches And Pains In A Flash

by Ileana Morales Valentine

Tight calf muscles may be the surprising culprit behind several discomforts like ankle, achilles, and forefoot pain, but using one of the best calf stretchers each day can really help. Whether you’re active and dealing with shin splints or someone with a desk job feeling muscle tightness, there's a calf stretcher that's just right for you.

There are a variety of calf stretcher types, which means you can find the right one for your budget, lifestyle, and stretching needs. Here’s a rundown on the benefits of different calf stretchers:

  • Foam rollers: Foam rollers are a good place to start for calf stretching. Their entry point is affordable and they can be used for relieving tension in calves but are versatile enough to be used on other parts of the body. They’re typically round, though half-round foam rollers are especially helpful for stretching legs and feet. Keep in mind it’s best to work your way up to a firmer density to minimize the risk of injuries, and it may take some practice to get it right.
  • Stretching straps: Calf-stretching straps are affordable, easy to use, versatile, and the most portable type of calf stretcher. Your own body weight controls the amount of tension in the stretch. You may see these referred to as "yoga straps," which is proof of their versatility — they're as equally great for stretching during yoga and pilates as they are for post-run stretches and physical therapy.
  • Incline boards: Standing on an incline board can angle your feet to stretch your calves. The best ones have anti-slip surfaces and a high maximum weight capacity for safety, plus an adjustable incline for both light and deeper stretches. Wooden boards will last a long time, but those made of plastic or foam are relatively more affordable, lightweight, and some are even foldable for portability.
  • Rockers: For deeper calf stretches, try a rocker. Like incline boards, you’ll step onto a rocker, but its curved bottom will require supporting yourself with a wall or chair and some practice. Be sure to choose one with an anti-slip surface for safe use. Anyone with larger feet will want to double check that the rocker can accommodate them.

With all this in mind, keep scrolling to find the best calf stretcher to bring you relief.

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The Best Calf Stretch Strap

This cult favorite, with more than 5,000 reviews, looks simple, but the Stretch Out Strap extends more than 6 feet with loops in sturdy woven nylon that reviewers say is more durable than other straps or bands. Its 10-loop design allows for gradual or deeper stretching of calves, and can be used on other parts of your body.

With an impressive 4.8-star rating, many reviewers commented this stretcher was recommended by physical therapists, and the manufacturer states this is indeed a go-to tool for therapists and trainers, perhaps in part because it was the first stretching strap on the market in the 1990s. It can help relieve pain and improve range of motion, and comes with a booklet of easy-to-follow exercises and stretches, making this a clear top pick. Plus, it takes up minimal room for storage and is portable enough to take anywhere.

A helpful review: “One of the best PT clinics where I live recommended that I get this strap. It's what the professionals use and for its price it's very good. I use this to stretch out my hamstrings and calves because they have this tendency to get tight really easily and I also use it to strengthen the areas around my knees. Comes with a glossy full color guide on how to do the exercises and the strap itself is plenty long and VERY durable. Between my PT visits I use this to keep myself loose and nicely stretched. Really a great deal to aid you in your recovery.”


The Best Foam Roller For Calf Stretches

If you're new to foam rollers, this pick from Cando is a good place to start. The half-round shape is particularly useful for standing calf and leg stretches, and the medium density is supportive but gentle enough for beginners. This shape can mimic the movements of a rocker but it provides more stability. This roller is also versatile: in addition to stretching calves and ankles, you can challenge your muscles by using it for planks and push-ups and then turn it around and use the flat side as a rocker board for a deeper stretch.

If you think medium density may be too soft for your stretches, you can jump right in with this high-density foam roller made by the same manufacturer. Either roller is highly rated and can be used for stretching other parts of the body as well.

A helpful review: “Good for people just starting since it is smaller and not as hard as the black ones. [...] I use it for back of legs since the larger blacker ones are harder to balance on. Would recommend though. Good quality.”


The Best Incline Board

This incline board for stretching calves is simple and sturdy to use. The non-slip grip covering the entire top keeps feet in place (if the texture is uncomfortable, try stretching with shoes on). High-quality hardwood plywood holds up to 450 pounds and five adjustable inclines that range from 15 to 35 inches to allow for both gentler and deeper stretching. A reviewer commented that this board is broad enough even for their size 15 shoes.

Unlike some other boards, this highly rated board has handles on the side for conveniently moving it around the house. If you'd prefer more support, there's also an extra-large incline board with a greater weight capacity.

A helpful review: “My calves and lower calves / achilles have become increasingly tight with age. I've been stretching them using traditional stretches, but I desired a more serious stretch. [...] THIS THING is changing my life... I'm getting calf and achilles stretches that I've never gotten before [...]"


The Best Budget-Friendly Incline Board

You don't have to break the bank when choosing an incline board to stretch calves. This budget-friendly option is made from foam, which makes it more lightweight and portable than my best wooden incline board, though it may not be as sturdy or last quite as long (though several reviews rave about how it is standing the test of time after a few years of use).

The board has an 18-inch incline that provides a gentle to moderate stretch and more than 500 reviewers confirm that it does the trick of loosening tight calves and hamstrings, with some saying it even helps ease the pain of plantar fasciitis. Unlike a more traditional wooden incline board, this one comes in a pack of two with two smaller boards for either foot.

A helpful review: "I have weak ankles and at one time my Achilles tendon was so tight that I was threatening injury. I placed these slants in front of my bathroom sink and stand on them (one foot on each slant) while I brush my teeth ... This has really helped to stretch my Achilles tendon. The foam is springy and very sturdy. I have had this for about 2 years now."


The Best Rocker For Deep Calf Stretches

If you're in need of a more intense stretch, this foot rocker can deeply stretch too-tight calves with its greater range of motion. The non-slip rubber strips on the base of this one, as well as the slip-resistant treading on top and a raised lip on the heel, keep your foot securely in place. Plus, the angled position of the foot plate is ergonomically designed for effective but safe posture.

This rocker is especially helpful for isolating lower leg muscles, which helps bring relief to tendons and ligaments, while providing a deep stretch. Its mid-foot gap can also help strengthen ankles. This highly rated pick has more than 1,500 reviews.

A helpful review: “Deepest calf stretch I have ever gotten. I have flat feet especially in my right foot which got worse after I got pregnant. [...] But this thing is awesome! Better than using a band to pull my foot back while laying in the ground. Better than stretching my foot against a wall. Better than stretching my calves off the floor. [...] I can literally walk around more comfortably after using this for a few minutes on each leg. [...]"