Calf (leg)


The calf is the back portion of the lower leg

Cross-section of lower right leg, through the calf, showing its 3 compartments: anterior at upper right; lateral at center right; deep posterior at center; superficial posterior at the bottom
Latin sura
TA A01.1.00.039
FMA 24984

Anatomical terminology

The calf (TA: sura) is the back portion of the lower leg in human anatomy. The muscles within the calf correspond to the posterior compartment of the leg. The two largest muscles within this compartment are known together as the calf muscle and attach to the heel via the Achilles tendon. Several other, smaller muscles attach to the knee, the ankle, and via long tendons to the toes.


The calf is composed of the muscles of the posterior compartment of the leg: The gastrocnemius and soleus (composing the triceps surae muscle) and the tibialis posterior. The sural nerve provides innervation.

Clinical significance

Medical conditions that result in calf swelling among other symptoms include deep vein thrombosis[1] compartment syndrome,[2][3] Achilles tendon rupture, and varicose veins.

Idiopathic leg cramps are common and typically affect the calf muscles at night.[4] Edema also is common and in many cases idiopathic. In a small study of factory workers in good health, wearing compression garments helped to reduce edema and the pain associated with edema.[5] A small study of runners found that wearing knee-high compression stockings while running significantly improved performance.[6]

The circumference of the calf has been used to estimate selected health risks. In Spain, a study of 22,000 persons 65 or older found that a smaller calf circumference was associated with a higher risk of undernutrition.[7] In France, a study of 6265 persons 65 or older found an inverse correlation between calf circumference and carotid plaques.[8]

Calf augmentation and restoration is available, using a range of prosthesis devices and surgical techniques.

Society and culture


Further information: Calf raises



Calf and calf of the leg are documented in use in Middle English, respectively, circa 1350 and 1425.[9]

Historically, the absence of calf, meaning a lower leg without a prominent calf muscle, was regarded by some authors as a sign of inferiority: it is well known that monkeys have no calves, and still less do they exist among the lower orders of mammals.[10]

See also


  1. David Simel; Drummond Rennie; Robert Hayward; Sheri A Keitz (2008). The rational clinical examination: Evidence-based clinical diagnosis. McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 500. ISBN 0-07-159030-7. page 229
  2. Drey IA, Baruch H (February 2008). "Acute compartment syndrome of the calf presenting after prolonged decubitus position". Orthopedics. 31 (2): 184. doi:10.3928/01477447-20080201-08. PMID 19292184.
  3. Hartgens F, Hoogeveen AR, Brink PR (August 2008). "[Athletes with exercise-related pain at the medial side of the lower leg]". Nederlands Tijdschrift Voor Geneeskunde (in Dutch and Flemish). 152 (33): 1839–43. PMID 18783163.
  4. Young G (2009). "Leg cramps". Clinical Evidence. 2009. PMC 2907778Freely accessible. PMID 19445755.
  5. Blättler W, Kreis N, Lun B, Winiger J, Amsler F (2008). "Leg symptoms of healthy people and their treatment with compression hosiery". Phlebology / Venous Forum of the Royal Society of Medicine. 23 (5): 214–21. doi:10.1258/phleb.2008.008014. PMID 18806203.
  6. Kemmler W, von Stengel S, Köckritz C, Mayhew J, Wassermann A, Zapf J (January 2009). "Effect of compression stockings on running performance in men runners". Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 23 (1): 101–5. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31818eaef3. PMID 19057400.
  7. Cuervo M, Ansorena D, García A, González Martínez MA, Astiasarán I, Martínez JA (2009). "[Assessment of calf circumference as an indicator of the risk for hyponutrition in the elderly]". Nutrición Hospitalaria : Organo Oficial De La Sociedad Española De Nutrición Parenteral Y Enteral (in Spanish). 24 (1): 63–7. PMID 19266115.
  8. Debette S, Leone N, Courbon D, Gariépy J, Tzourio C, Dartigues JF, Ritchie K, Alpérovitch A, Ducimetière P, Amouyel P, Zureik M (November 2008). "Calf circumference is inversely associated with carotid plaques". Stroke; a Journal of Cerebral Circulation. 39 (11): 2958–65. doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.108.520106. PMID 18703804.
  9. Hans Kurath (1959). Middle English dictionary. University of Michigan Press. p. 128. ISBN 0-472-01031-X. page 20
  10. Maria Montessori (1913). Pedagogical anthropology. Frederic Taber Cooper. Frederick A. Stokes Company. p. 508. page 311
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