All the exercises below are great for overall fitness and fat loss, but if your main goal is to slim your calves, then you should definitely avoid:
1. CARDIO AT INCLINE
Running does actually build some muscles in your calves, but running is so good for you, and good for slimming down your legs in general, that I would be hesitant to stop running.
That said, if it seems like your calves bulk up easily, I would make sure that you are always running on a flat surface – an incline will increase your calf size.
If you’re working out in the gym, avoid Stairmaster and running with an incline on a treadmill.
Also, running for a long-duration (steady-state cardio) will not generally build a lot of muscle as much as sprinting does, so I’d stick to that.
If you really don’t want to run, then walking is great – it will slim your legs overall and won’t increase your calf size. Just make sure it’s on a flat surface!
2. HILL SPRINTS OR ANY UPHILL EXERCISES
Just like cardio at an incline, anything that involves walking or running uphill will build muscle in your calves.
This includes hill sprints but also things such as hiking often (unfortunately) and step machine.
Lots of women ask me if skipping is good for slimming legs. The answer is no, not really.
To make your legs and calves thinner, you really need to be walking and/or running.
Skipping uses mostly your calves, so it will bulk them up quickly if you have genetic predisposition.
It is a great exercise, though, so if you don’t care about calf size – go for it! If you do, better avoid it.
4. PLYOMETRIC / HIIT EXERCISES
As with skipping, lots of jumping exercises use your calf muscles and can make them bigger.
If you love HIIT, then you don’t necessarily need to stop if your focus is on making your calves smaller.
You can do some HIIT exercises, but I would avoid overdoing it on lower body plyometric exercises, such as jump squats, jump lunges and burpees, and anything that results in you landing heavily on your feet.