Attractive calves are desirable to people of all cultures, although the definition of just what constitutes "attractive" always varies. Relative to Europeans, the natural Asian calf tends to be shorter and thicker, a difference sometimes described as "radish calves" or "radish legs." Especially when developed through physical exercise, "muscular" calves may be equated with "fat" in overly weight-conscious Eastern cultures.
Telling a young South Korean that her thighs or legs look "healthy" is not generally taken as a compliment and is more akin to calling her "bulky, "chunky," or "ample" in the West. While this practice may be derided with great contempt by some Western observers, such linguistic confusion is really more of a translation limitation than a true distinction between good and bad health.
The Eastern bias against muscular legs may be similar to its negative bias with respect to darker skin tones. Frail muscles and whiter skin have historically been associated with gentility, while greater muscularity and darker skin tones have been associated with outdoor manual labor. Incorporation of global beauty standards has also affected local perceptions.
In both the East and the West, a large calf may be considered an aesthetic problem by women who find it awkward wearing clothes like short skirts or more revealing swimsuits. Bulky calves can also make short legs look even shorter, and short height is a common point of employment discrimination in East Asia.
Popular Asian media seem obsessed with long thin legs with computer-manipulated ads not uncommonly showing thighs and legs that are impossibly or even comically thinned and elongated.
The calf contains three main muscles: the medial gastrocnemius (back of the calf towards the leg's inner side), the lateral gastrocnemius (back of the calf towards the leg's outer side), and the soleus (located underneath the gastrocnemius muscles).
The diagram shows the gastrocnemius muscles severed and reflected apart to reveal the underlying soleus muscle. Nerves are shown in yellow, arteries in red, and veins in blue.
All three muscles play important roles in standing, walking, running, and jumping, although the soleus muscle can make up for some of the functional loss that comes with damage to the gastrocnemius muscles. Those with "athletic" life-styles (running, bicycling, dancing, hiking, or even just plain walking) are best advised to avoid cosmetic operations that sacrifice leg function.
A number of calf reduction methods exist, from simple to "extreme."
First described in Germany, today's most advanced and aggressive calf reduction techniques are practiced mainly in Korea and Taiwan, while American doctors emphasize Botox injection methods that are much simpler but also far less effective.
Surgery that destroys nerves and muscle remains controversial even in Asia, where in a few countries they are forbidden by law. While cosmetic results after even aggressive techniques are usually subtle, they can be extreme in some cases. Furthermore, not all people with naturally shorter legs look "better" with artificially scrawny calves.