Muscle stiffness is known to vary as a result of a variety of disease states, yet current clinical methods for quantifying muscle stiffness have limitations including cost and availability. We investigated the capability of shear wave elastography (SWE) to measure variations in gastrocnemius shear wave speed induced via active contraction and passive stretch. Ten healthy young adults were tested. Shear wave speeds were measured using a SWE transducer positioned over the medial gastrocnemius at ankle angles ranging from maximum dorsiflexion to maximum plantarflexion. Shear wave speeds were also measured during voluntary plantarflexor contractions at a fixed ankle angle. Average shear wave speed increased significantly from 2.6 to 5.6 m s(-1) with passive dorsiflexion and the knee in an extended posture, but did not vary with dorsiflexion when the gastrocnemius was shortened in a flexed knee posture. During active contractions, shear wave speed monotonically varied with the net ankle moment generated, reaching 8.3 m s(-1) in the maximally contracted condition. There was a linear correlation between shear wave speed and net ankle moment in both the active and passive conditions; however, the slope of this linear relationship was significantly steeper for the data collected during passive loading conditions. The results show that SWE is a promising approach for quantitatively assessing changes in mechanical muscle loading. However, the differential effect of active and passive loading on shear wave speed makes it important to carefully consider the relevant loading conditions in which to use SWE to characterize in vivo muscle properties.