1 year and 1 month; Single Leg Calf Raise

Greetings all,
It has been 1 year and 1 month since my ATR and surgery. While I can do most things I need to do (ellipse, stairclimber, yoga, light weights, golf, swim, etc.), I still can’t do a full single leg calf raise on my injured leg. While my tendon healed up nicely, the calf muscle is tiny compared to the healthy leg. Right now, my heal can get 20-30 degrees off the ground (compared to 90 degrees on the healthy leg). I have great ROM, flexibility, and balance, but the calf strength has really not come back the way I had hoped it would (and was told it would). It can get depressing sometimes, and seeing how it has already been a year without good results, I worry that this may never get better.

Has anyone been able to do 10 full single leg calf raises on their bad leg? If so, how long did it take you to do so? Did the strength in the bad calf get back to the same strength as in the healthy leg (or at least close to it)?
Would love to hear back from everyone, and my best wishes to everyone for a healthy recovery.

17 Responses to “1 year and 1 month; Single Leg Calf Raise”

  1. Hi,

    I just started doing assisted single leg calf raises and one thing that has helped me a lot in recovering some calf muscle is this exercise where I get in front of the stairs and put my injured leg two steps above my other leg and in a very slowly control manner I go up putting all my weight in my injured leg until my uninjured leg has reached the same step my injured one is at. I do this 3 times a day,each time has 4 sets of ten.

    I hope you keep progressing!

  2. Savvy, I remember you and I had some big differences on the forum a year ago, but we’re in remarkable agreement now! About 1.5 yrs post-non-op, my left leg sounds remarkably like your 13-month post-op one. I’ve started bicycling a LOT on it, and running some on it (delayed a BUNCH by my open-heart surgery last Dec. 1!), and I may soon try competitive volleyball again. But still no full-height 1LHR for me, either.

    If I had an answer, I’d share it with you. After my first ATR, 8 years earlier, after surgery and a frustratingly conservative rehab protocol, I was doing as many 1LHRs as I wanted at about 10 months. I expected the same this time, but no.

    Not only are we all different, I think our TENDONS may be all different, too!

    Good luck. I’m semi-idly thinking of springing the $65 for a fancy “isokinetic” session to quantify my strength deficit, both with bent knee and straight knee. (I think I’m close to 100% with bent knee, but with a significant deficit straight-kneed.) Then I’ll take that to my (non-op) OS, and/or my PT, to see what they think, or recommend.

    So far, I’m amazed how little it seems to matter, even when I run. Jumping at a volleyball net may well be another matter entirely, not sure yet.

    BTW, there have been several surveys along these lines here. One was entitled something like “That @$% 1-legged heel raise!”

  3. Savi,

    if your gym has a pool, i’ve found that doing heel raises in the pool and different depths has helped a lot. when the water is up to your chest, i practice a heel raise all the way to my tip toes. As i move into shallower depths, I work more on midway raises. This along with running sprints in the pool and actual jogging on the street (not treadmill) has helped my calf tremendously. i’ve also been hiking a bit lately and that has forced my calf to work harder than usual which leaves me sore for a couple of days. After a couple of days of recovery, my calf seems to be noticeably stronger.

    I’m at 8 months post op and can probably do 1 very week single calf raise. i’ve stopped PT for now as i only have 10 sessions left. Once I strengthen my calf where i can do several single heel raises, I will return to finish out those sessions with hopefully more intense plymetrics which will allow my calf and ATR to return to explosive sports.

    Good luck.

  4. Savi,

    I ruptured both last October and I too find it difficult to do single calf raises on either leg. The previous comment regarding the pool is a great idea and one that I forgot about. When I first started rehab, I started in the pool at different depths. I found that because the water supported most of my weight, I could isolate and engage the upper part of my calf to do a full calf raise. When I try to do it lately outside of water, my calf cramps up before I can get a full raise/rise?. Good luck to you and your recovery. Don’t give up.

  5. Hi Savi,

    Try walking backwards. Someone suggested it on this forum and it helped tremendously in breaking mental barriers!

  6. Hi all,

    I, too, am trying to overcome the frustration of not being able to do a single leg heel raise. It’s been a year and 8 months for me, and maintaining strength and girth is nearly impossible. Thankfully, it sounds like this isn’t uncommon. I haven’t tried step ups on the stairs or heels raises in the pool, but those sound helpful. (Perhaps frequency is key too.) I just bought SPD shoes and a road bike to see if that might get me past this huge road block. Looking forward to seeing what happens.

    Good luck to everyone. Thanks for sharing your stories.

  7. Hi
    I’m 15+ months past my atr surgery for a ruptured tendon. I’ve done my exercises religiously from 6 weeks post up on, plus massages daily, and intermittent professional calf massages, acupuncture for scar tissue, and innumerable untrasound treatments. My achilles is good, and I can do any activity I choose to, 5 hour hikes are no big deal, nor were 2-3 hour mountain bike tours.

    But I can’t do a single calf raise!!!! And I have a small weak calf muscle!!! I’m about to give up on the strengthing exercises for that calf because nothing has changed in oh so long. The only thing keeping me at them at the moment, is the thought of, what happens if I do in my other achilles, as mine was a spontaneous rupture playing racket sports.

    Has anybody gotten back the calf strength after struggling at this length of time post injury??

  8. Yucca, I am 3 or 4 months ahead of you.

    I was curious, so just measured calf circumference. It’s a little hard to get a precise, consistent measurement; but my best estimate is that they are still ~4% different (42cm vs. 40.5cm). If you look for it, you can see it, but I don’t think it’s noticeable when viewed casually; people notice the big tattoo way before they’d ever notice the minor size difference :-)

    As for strength, I’d say it’s about like the size differential. It’s there if you measure for it- but not really noticeable otherwise. I can do lots of single leg heel raises… finger tips against a wall, a set of 20 is no problem whatsoever.

    I’m not sure what to attribute my success to. I think that I got lucky with a good surgeon- and got the tendon reconnected at a good length. To be honest, I think my gastroc is a tiny bit long, and my soleus is a tiny bit short. But, I think I fared better than many (most) others in this regard. If I’m right, and the gastroc is a bit long, I will probably never fully regain strength and symmetry.

    There’s that old saying about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good…

    That leads me to my best guess for your situation. Have you tried to determine if you’ve healed long?

  9. Yucca, I’ve long since given up on doing good 1-leg heel raises on my left leg, but I’ve also long since returned to aggressive bike riding, aggressive downhill skiing, competitive volleyball (including 2-on-2 beach volleyball), and anything else athletic I feel like doing. As I’ve outlined on my own blog here and elsewhere, I’ve been shocked at the “disconnect” — at how good my performance feels in all my sports, despite a clearly measurable strength deficit when I isolate that one muscle with that simple test. In my case, I think that part of the disconnect is probably because my soleus is close to 100%, and it’s responsible for ankle dorsiflection when my knee is bent, which is a fair bit of the time when I’m playing sports.

    I’ve always had skinny calves and high Gastrocs (inherited from BOTH parents!), and I also tore my other AT 8 years before “this” one, so I don’t have a “factory original” leg to compare to any more! But when I stare at my legs in the mirror — something I assure you all I very seldom do! — it does seem that “this” calf muscle is a bit skinnier and higher (at the same ankle angle) than other, confirming my suspicion that my AT-gastroc connection healed long. (I went non-op for this second ATR, BTW.)

    I wish I could give you confidence that continuing your calf-strengthening exercises would help prevent your other AT from rupturing, but I don’t believe it. (Many elite athletes have ATRs while in top form.) You were probably blissfully unaware of your ATR risk before your injury, and you should probably do your best to recapture that blissful ignorance about your other leg, and have fun doing the activities you love. If it goes, it goes, and you’ll deal with it.

    BTW, I’ve thought of paying $65 for a series of strength tests on the fancy dynamic ergo-dynamometer (?) at my Sports Medicine Clinic, both legs, straight-kneed and bent-kneed, just to quantify my strength deficit both ways. But I’ve been thinking about it for way over a year now, and I don’t seem to be hurrying to actually DO it — as opposed to playing more sports! This season, I’ve started hanging out the side of a 15’ racing dinghy (sailboat) for maybe the 30th summer in a row. . . :-)

  10. Greetings. I ruptured my Achilles in 1991. I didn’t have insurance at the time so my rehab was nonexistent. Currently I still cannot lift my bodyweight at a 90 degree angle like my good leg. I’ve done seated calf raises with success, but I haven’t built up enough strength to raise my 200lbs by extending my leg. I am able to run, exercise, and do most things normally. I haven’t given up, but after 24 years the light seems dimmer. Hopefully you all will have a breakthrough and it will help people like me.

  11. 2 yrs 3 months out and my calf strength is not coming back very well at all. My calf is visibility quite smaller than my healthy one.

    I can do 10-15 calf raises with my bad one but I can never get past that.

    Began a leg workout regiment 2 weeks ago hoping I can push past this barrier but I’m not sure what will or can push me over this.

  12. I’m not 100% sure this will work for you….but the leg workout routines really helped me a lot. But it took I would say…2 months straight consistent workout. One that helped me the most is the weight machine that you push with your foot against a flat bar. I could only do 10lbs when I first started. 10 reps of 10. Then got up to about 95 lbs…And that’s using two leg first, then one leg by itself. Obivouisly don’t overdo it when u start out. But this built both my calf and strengthened my Achilles tremendously. My Achilles is easily about 2 times thicker than my original. And guess what…I will be starting the same program again as I partially tore my Achilles again 2 weeks ago today…different leg. So same routine..I used to go actually twice a day everyday for weeks. As I said…that’s just my story…and not promising anything. But the leg routine honestly I think will help a lot. I really wish you luck.

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  14. I tore my left Achilles in august running up a ninja warrior warped wall. 13 weeks later in novemeber ( after about 8 weeks of physical therapy) I re ruptured my Achilles at physical therapy while practicing walking up and down steps. Here I am pushing 8 months post 2nd surgery and I still cannot even budge on a single leg lift. Also the muscle atrophy is terrible and I cannot curl my toes fully. Has anybody else had any luck with a full reovery?

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  16. I had a heel spur and achilles surgury may 20th 2020 did the PT and my calf has come back close to normal but cant do a one legged calf raise either. My calves have always been naturally big. Seems the achilles is weak but im not sure. Hearing all these stories of not being able to do one for years is disheartening. I have stopped therapy and been doing calf raises stretches but havent made it back to the gym since this Covid crap.

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