Foam Roller Self Massage For Calf and Foot Relief

As a Movement Therapist specializing in hands on massage therapy, I help clients improve movement quality to aid in the healing, recovery, and prevention of chronic pain and injury. In many clients, I see a connection between their persistent pain and the health of their feet. Painful conditions of the knees, hips, low back, shoulders, and neck can often be traced through the fascial lines down to the feet. Foot health is one of, if not the biggest determining factors of pain and injury, as well as overall health, wellness, and vitality. To improve foot health, one of the best self care options available is foam roller self massage.

Anatomy of the foot and ankle. Foam Roller Self MassageThere are 26 bones in the human foot, 33 joints, more than 100 muscles, and roughly the same number of sensory nerves that you have on the palms of your hands. The foot is designed to be incredibly dynamic, sensitive, and responsive. Most importantly, it offers the promise of stability in almost any context.

How to Treat Your Feet

1. Take off your shoes! Even if only for a few of hours per day. (Should you wonder why I am an advocate of making the transition to barefoot or minimalist footwear, take a look at Free Your Feet.)

2. Throw out the flip-flops. It is not the job of your little piggies to curl unnaturally (involuntarily & imperceptibly!) in order to keep your shoes from flying off your feet! Consider finding a similar style with an ankle or behind-the-heel strap instead.

3. Utilize a golf ball and The Grid foam roller self massage the arches of your feet and lower leg.

Using a golf ball to self massage the arches of the foot. Foam Roller Self Massage

Foam Roller Self Massage

Foam roller self massage techniques are very simple to learn. It may be painful in spots. The goal is not to force through the pain, but to be very gentle with your body. There should be some discomfort without being unbearable.

Set up on the foam roller under the desired muscle area to be worked on. Relax your body and breathe. Ease into it and allow yourself to relax.

You are seeking out the most tender spot. Once you find it, stop, relax your body as much as you can; and visualize the tissue as melting butter and the foam roller as a hot knife. Allow the butter to melt over the knife. Hold position for at least 30-60 seconds or until you notice a significant reduction in pain, about 30-40%. Then move on to the next painful spot. Do this in 2-3 different spots for each muscle shown below.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and these suggestions are not meant to take the place of a regular training program with a professional. That being said, it’s a good place to start the recovery process. And if you’re feeling acute pain, foam roller self massage will help bridge the gap until you are able to get advice and treatment from a qualified movement therapist.

The Grid Foam Roller self massage by Trigger Point Therapy.

This is the foam roller I recommend: The Grid by Trigger Point Therapy

The Grid foam roller self massage by Trigger Point Therapy is my go to foam roller. I’ve used it for years and recommend it to clients. In the interest of full disclosure, I am an affiliate for Trigger Point Therapy. This means that if you purchase one of their products after clicking one of these links, I will get a small commission. That said, the only reason I am an affiliate for their products, primarily The Grid, is because I believe in it 100%.

Was this post helpful? Click one of those social buttons up above and share this with your friends and family.

Knee Pain and Running

Running and Knee Pain

There is a conversation taking place on facebook in a runner’s forum about knee pain and running.  What you are about to read is the exchange I had with the author of the original post.  Check it out below.  And will you do something?  If you know someone with knee pain that you think this would speak to, will you pass the link along?

The Question:

Ok fellow runners…ever since I took a week off post 1/2 marathon I can’t run more than 2.5 miles without excruciating knee pain. Never once happened before. This is bullshit! Help!!!

My Response:

Knee pain is a postural issue. It has less to do with a problem at the knee and more to do with mobility and stability dysfunction at the hips, feet, upper back, core, and shoulders. For any adjustment to be effective, the entire biomechanical chain must be addressed.  Not just the knees.

No Pain sign. Knee Pain Running.I work on postural dysfunction in four (4) stages:

Knee Pain Running

1. Pain: Your range of motion must be, first and foremost, PAIN FREE! This means, if it hurts to do… DON’T DO IT!!! If your knee hurts to run, squat, or lunge, etc… hold off on these exercises until you can do them without pain.  What to do about the pain?  I address the pain through movement assessment, hands on massage therapy, and a personalized exercise program. I recommend finding a highly movement therapist who uses walking and running gait assessment and has experience successfully treating these types of injuries. I typically see a significant reduction in pain within 2-4 treatments.

Practicing some full body self massage using a foam roller may also provide some temporary relief from the pain.

2. Mobility: Once the pain is reduced, you will need to work on improving your functional range of motion, such as the ability to perform a functional deep squat or lunge. IN MY OPINION, IF YOU CANNOT PERFORM A FUNCTIONAL DEEP SQUAT OR LUNGE, YOU SHOULD NOT BE RUNNING! PERIOD!!! These are progressive movement patterns that lead up to running. Babies learn to squat-ass-to-the-grass BEFORE they learn to walk and run.  You must do the same.  So do it.  And on top of training for functional lower body mobility, you will need to work on upper body mobility as well. When your thoracic spine, scapula, and neck are restricted, your hips will not function properly.

3. Stability: Now that you have improved Range-of-Motion (ROM), you will need to train your body for stabilization with this renewed ROM. This is the basic definition of posture. The ability of your body to stabilize throughout your entire ROM. For more on posture, read:

What is Posture

Here are some super basic corrective exercises to get you started.

The Foundation of your Posture – Injury Prevention Begins at your Foot

Corrective Exercises for the Hips

Corrective Exercises for the Scapula

4. Conditioning: Running is a very basic movement pattern. It is also a very small percentage of our overall functional movement pattern. If the only form of exercise you are doing is running… you are running directly into a potential injury. Your body needs to be conditioned throughout it’s entire movement ability. Full body functional movement is vital to overall health and vitality, as well as running ability. Another way to think about this is: How do you want to feel when you’re 70, 80, 90, or 100? Do you want to run comfortably in advanced age? Conditioning your body through full functional movement patterns, which includes running, is the key to both of these questions.

I encourage you to hire an expert team to help you through this process. The investment now will save you thousands in your long term pain and health. I suggest hiring a therapist to help with the pain; a movement coach to help improve your posture; and a running coach to teach you how to run (years and years of sitting on our butts means that we don’t know how to do this very basic movement pattern – even if we run frequently). Here is a link with tips on finding a quality therapist and coach:

Five Steps to Choosing a Professional Therapist

Good luck.

The Response:

Jesse, in a perfect world I would LOVE to be able to hire all of those folks to help me out. I have contacted an ART (Active Release Therapy) doctor in hopes they’ll be able to help me a little bit. As for the rest I’m going to have to go it alone or go through my HMO (which everyone knows could take years) to get to a physical therapist. My knees don’t actually hurt unless I’m running. I can do squats and everything w/o knee pain…it’s when my glutes get tight about mile 2 that everything goes to pot. So I’m sure some of it’s my form and some of it is that I’m just too tight. I will continue to work on it and stop running for the time being. Perhaps yoga is in my future…

My response:

I completely understand the issue of cost. At the bare minimum, I encourage you to invest in a foam roller, softball, lacrosse ball, and golf ball. This will allow you to do a great amount of the massage work on your own. The foam roller alone should make a huge difference with your pain during running. It may take a few weeks. Here is another article on foam roller therapy that has a bit more detail to it.

How to Treat and Prevent Injury and Become a Better Runner

Finding a good teacher, Part II

When looking into a PT, I recommend really vetting them out. You want the most educated, experienced, passionate, top of their game professional available. You are looking for a highly skilled therapist, preferably one who includes manual therapy; as well as multiple other modalities; and looks at the entire movement system, not just your knees. If they treat the knees in isolation, find another therapist! Hopefully, it won’t take too long, but you are better off taking your time searching for a high quality therapist who is the best fit than to settle on someone who isn’t.

Can you really do a functional squat?

The majority of clients that I see, at the time they come in, say that they can do a squat. The fact is they cannot do a “functional” squat. This is what I consider a functional squat:

This Is A Functional Squat

Baby squatting with perform form. Knee Pain Running.
If you can’t do this from standing to sitting to standing keeping your shoulders down and back, without your heels coming up, your feet rolling out, or without pain then you can’t do a functional squat.

Here is a great little video from Barefoot AngieBee describing squatting

Self Massage Using A Foam Roller

Self Massage Using A Foam Roller

Deep tissue massage therapy modalities, such as myofascial release, improve flexibility, function, and performance; speed up the recovery process; and reduce chronic pain and injury risk. Regular deep tissue massage therapy breaks down adhesions and scar tissue that form in the fascia. With the use of a few simple, inexpensive tools (foam roller and a soft ball), you can perform daily self massage and receive much of the same benefits as weekly professional bodywork.

The Grid Foam Roller by Trigger Point Therapy - self massage calf muscles.How does self massage work?

Fascia is a three-dimensional fibrous matrix interconnected throughout the body from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. Fascia surrounds muscles, bones, and joints providing the body structural integrity and strength. Dysfunctional fascia is a leading cause of chronic pain, reduced flexibility, and decreased athletic performance.

Located within the muscle and tendon tissue are two sensory receptors called the muscle spindle and golgi tendon organ. These sensory receptors monitor muscular and tendon tension from the surrounding tissue and relates it to your nervous system.  They are highly sensitive to changes in muscle tension and rate of change.  Stimulation of the golgi tendon organ leads to a decrease in soft tissue tension.

golgi tendon organ Located within the muscle and tendon tissue are two sensory receptors called the muscle spindle and golgi tendon organ. These sensory receptors monitor muscular and tendon tension from the surrounding tissue and relates it to your nervous system.  They are highly sensitive to changes in muscle tension and rate of change.  Stimulation of the golgi tendon organ leads to a decrease in soft tissue tension.

Placing pressure directly on tight or overly toned muscle tissue using deep tissue massage therapy or self-myofascial release techniques stimulates the golgi tendon organ to relax tension in the soft tissue. The decrease in soft tissue tension can be used to reduce pain, reduce scar tissue adhesions, increase joint mobility, and improve overall function.


  • correct muscle imbalances
  • increase joint range of motion
  • decrease muscle soreness and relieve joint stress
  • decrease tight or overly toned muscle tissue
  • increase extensibility of muscle and tendon tissue
  • increase performance
  • maintain normal functional muscular length

The Grid Foam Roller by Trigger Point Therapy - self massage gluteal muscles.What to do
Self massage techniques are very simple to learn. One of the best tools for self massage is the foam roller.

Place your body weight on the foam roller over taut bands of muscle tissue that need to be released. For the best results, begin near the center of the body and slowly work away from the center of the body. Breathe, relax your body, and slowly roll through the length of the muscle.  If you find a painful spot, stop and visualize the soft tissue as melting butter and the foam roller as a hot knife. Allow the pressure into the tissue and within 30-60 seconds you will notice a significant reduction in pain. Repeat this until you have reduced all the painful tissue.

The first couple of weeks of foam roller therapy more than likely will be painful.  It is important to be diligent. The payoff is well worth it. If you use the foam roller every day, within a couple of weeks you will begin to notice not only does the exercise not hurt as much but also it will begin to feel really good.

Self massage on a foam roller offers an effective, inexpensive, and convenient way to both reduce scar tissue and adhesions. For the most effective self massage techniques, I offer a foam roller therapy session geared towards beginner, intermediate, and advanced users.

Check out Foam Roller Massage Therapy For Beginners for more details on how to begin self massage.

The Grid foam roller by Trigger Point Therapy for self massage

This is the foam roller I recommend: The Grid by Trigger Point Therapy

Don’t miss out on any of our posts, subscribe to our newsletter!