Dr Timothy Young Talks About Tight Calves and Foot Problems

Dr Timothy Young Talks About Tight Calves and Foot Problems

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Dr Timothy Young Talks About Tight Calves and Foot Problems

Tight calves are a common finding and a common factor in many foot problems.  This can start in childhood with some children with calves so tight that the parents notice and call their kids “toe walkers”.  Later in life the mechanical force on the foot increases and if the calves are still tight, then tight calves can cause more problems.  We often call tight calves equinus.  The ankle joint moves down (plantarflexion) and up (dorsiflexion).  There are normal ranges for this upward and downward motion.  As a child we expect more flexibility compared to the adult range of motion.  A child might have 15 to 20 degrees of dorsiflexion and an adult range is less, more like 10-15 degrees.  The calf muscles attach to the Achilles tendon, and then to the foot at the heel (calcaneus bone).  

As mentioned, the mechanical load on the foot from the calf and ultimately the Achilles is tremendous.  So, with equinus ( a tight calve and or Achilles) there are many problems.  Think of a woman who wears high heel shoes every day for many years and over time the calf gets less flexible.  Now with that tight calf, her gait has changed.  As she walks, with each step going forward that tight calf pulls, and her heel comes off the ground early.  Early heel off with gait leads to early transfer of weight and force to the front of the foot.  Over time, this extra pressure on the front of the foot can cause problems.  This is like the childhood toewalker, but with adult body size and weight.

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