The soleus muscle is one of 3 muscles of the calf. It runs from the back of your knee down to the heel (behind your Achilles tendon). Located deep within your calf. Your soleus is found behind the gastrocnemius muscle and is responsible for pointing your toes as it contracts.
The primary action of both the soleus and gastrocnemius muscle is to plantarflex your ankle (pointing toes down). The soleus primarily working when your knee is flexed. It is also an important muscle during the mid-stance to push off phase of both walking and running.
Your gastrocnemius muscle is filled with fast-twitch muscle fibres, making it an effective propulsor during sprinting. Whereas, the soleus is filled with a lot of slow-twitch muscle fibres. Meaning long-distance runners rely a little more heavily on their soleus.
The same can be said for your running pattern. As your foot contacts the ground when running. The angle and position of your body determines what muscles are more in play than others. If you are a heel striker, you will likely rely more on the gastrocnemius to decelerate your foot as you transition onto the next leg. Whereas mid-foot strikers will rely a lot more on their soleus.
Injury to the soleus muscle tends to occur because of overload. Whereby the capacity of the muscle gets to a point where it can no longer cope with the demands you are putting it under. This may be because of baseline weakness in the muscle, or a sudden increase in your training volume/intensity, in the lead up to a race, for example.
A physiotherapist would have the tools to help facilitate and guide your journey back to running if injury occurs. Ultimately you need to strengthen to prevent injury recurring, or even to prevent it in the first place.
Tom Goom, an experienced clinician known as “The Running Physio”, has created a Soleus circuit which can be implemented alongside your training regime to prevent calf related injuries.
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