Dear Hayley, 
I have a pear shaped body, and although I’m very slim I have “cankles”. I hate that word. My legs from the knees down, look a lot like [a certain actress] but without all the exercise she does. And I don’t have any boobs, so I need to weight train to get some balance in my body. 

I feel like I’m stuck with my routine for calves and I don’t see any changes. 

Can you tell me what exercises are good to shape my calves and ankles? I feel like my body type is not very common. 

Thank you! 


So I just had to google this actress and see what her so-called “cankles” look like. After I googled her I did a bit of digging on the internet to see what other people had to say about reducing size of cankles and in all honesty, I was pretty appalled at the advice that was given. Some say to go on diets, some say to check for health conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes and some even suggest liposuction of the calves! I’m sorry, but liposuction in your calves? Come on. 

All bodies are different. No skeleton is the same and no composition of muscle is the same. More importantly, we all store fat in different parts of our bodies. For me it’s my stomach. It doesn’t matter how fit I am, how thin I am or how much core I do, I always have a layer of fat on my stomach. As a kid I was always told it was just extra skin (thanks mom) but it’s fat that my body likes to keep there. And I accept that. I do my best to create my best body but at the end of the day someone else is going to look much better in a bikini than I will, and I’m ok with that. 

Then I think about my girlfriends whom I’ve been friends with for 25 years. We all have different bodies and I’m sure, if we could, we would take the best parts of each of our bodies to make the “perfect body”. I have the legs and the athletic butt. Amie has the hour glass figure. Lisa has the most incredible arms. Lysa has a petite skeleton. Christine is well-proportioned from head to toe and Dawn has a body built for a runway, even with a 1 year old son. 
You? You have your ankles. Your body not only likes to store a bit more fat there than in other areas of your body but it also decided to shape your skeleton with shorter lower leg bones. You can’t change that. But what you can do is embrace them and highlight them to the best of your ability. 

Start by increasing your water intake. Sometimes our ankles can swell due to dehydration and an increase in salt content so adding more water could help. Even if it doesn’t help shape your calves you’re going to feel so amazing being extra hydrated. 

You can also seek out the help of a massage therapist to help release some over-active or inflamed muscle tissue. Your calves could be doing more work than necessary, so releasing over-active muscles could help. What also could help are activities that help to strengthen weaker muscles and fix other muscular deficiencies in your body. Yoga and Pilates are great places to start. 

You may also want to work on aiding in your circulation. Sometimes just lying with your legs elevated against a wall can aid in drainage of fluid (including lymph). 

As for exercises that will shape your calves there are a few things you can do but you know you can’t spot reduce: 

Eccentric heel drops are a great way to lengthen and strengthen your calves. Stand on your tiptoes on the edge of a stair while slowly lowering your heels down on a count of 3. Once you get to the bottom quickly lift yourself up to your toes again. Do a set of 10 of these a few times a week and work up to doing them on a single leg. This could help. Also, stretch, stretch and stretch your calves.

Another method is strengthening the muscles in the front of your leg as the only way to lengthen a muscle is to strengthen the opposing muscles. Grab an exercise band and wrap it around something which will allow you to hook it around your feet when in a seated position on the floor (straight legs). Work on pulling your toes and ankles towards your shins, and do it with your toes pointed out, in neutral and rotated in. 

Also try to strengthen your glutes. Weighted squats are great for this but start with your heels elevated on a pad to ease the pull on the short calf muscles (standing with your heels on a weight plate is a good technique). Strengthening your glutes can help lengthen many of the muscles along the back of your legs. That, combined with a solid core, could be helpful. 

Most important, just know that your body is your body and you may always have thicker calves. Sometimes rebranding our flaws and seeing them as what makes you uniquely you eases the stress of constantly striving for “perfection”, because is there really one version of it?