Runners are tuning up for Sunday’s ING Rock-n-Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon, but no matter how well they’ve trained, runners will be in a whole lot of pain if they don’t stretch the often-neglected smaller leg muscles. The soleus muscle is a broad, powerful muscle in the calf beginning just below the knee and attaching to the heel via the Achilles tendon. It works closely with the gastrocnemius muscle, which is typically thought of as the calf muscle. The soleus muscle is active every time the toes point down while the knee is bent, such as in every stride.
Sunday’s runners will take approximately 26,000 strides during the 13.1-mile race, leaving the soleus prone to strains from either over-exertion when the calf muscles are tight or a forceful, sudden contraction when the calf muscles are not properly warmed up.
Runners are very familiar with how to stretch their calf muscles, however I rarely see my fellow runners warming up or stretching their soleus muscle. For the stretch to be effective, the knee must be bent while the foot is flexed towards the head as seen in this video.
I highly recommend warming-up the soleus and other muscles by performing an Active Dynamic Warm-up series (try the series in the video below) before your 13.1 miles and to perform this soleus stretch after the race to deter strains.