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Runners! Fifteen Centimeters can make a Big Difference.

Updated: Jan 17, 2020

Written by, Darren Scherbain (B.A. Kinesiology)

Fifteen centimeters might not seem like a big deal when running 5 km,10 km, 21.1 km or 42.2 km.

When it comes to peak performance those 15 cm can make all the difference. It's the small details that are the foundation and stepping stones to progress.

What's the distance between your heel and ball of your foot?

Roughly 15 cm.

Have you ever wondered why your calf muscles are still so tight even after stretching


The culprit may be tonus- continuous and partial contraction of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.

When doing a gastrocnemius (calf) stretch that the pivot point is the heel and not mid foot; as a traditional heel drop off a curb. This 15 cm will change the movement arm and its effect on the ankle joint.The movement arm and pivot point at mid foot will cause an eccentric (lengthening ) contraction on the gastrocnemius muscle.

You will ”feel ” the traditional heel drop, because the muscle is contracting eccentrically. An eccentric contraction has the potential to generate up to three times the amount of force as a concentric contraction.

Solution - pivot point should be the heel.

The effect of tonus is the gastrocnemius may be the cause of knee inflammation and discomfort.

The gastrocnemius (calf muscle) crosses the ankle and the knee, if the gastrocnemius is chronically shortened from the inherent nature of running and lifestyle (too much sitting and not enough movement).

This chronically shortened gastrocnemius will cause a slight bend in knee: “turning on” the quadriceps muscle (thigh muscle).

The quad being “turned on ” could result on tension pulling the patella (knee cap) upwards.

This tension on the patella will force the knee cap into the joint space which can lead to increased friction and possible inflammation.

The attention to small details can make all the difference!

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