July 08, 2017
Running Can Be Tough on Your Achilles Tendon. What can you do?

Running is a great form of physical activity.  Cardiovascular health, powerful legs, and toned abs are just some of the many physical benefits.  So many people also find that it’s healthy for the mind, giving them the opportunity for quiet focus.

One area where it can cause problems, however, is on your foot.  Your Achilles tendon can complain about your daily jog even before you start.  Achilles tendonitis is the painful inflammation of this tendon which can feel like a dull ache, stiffness, or a burning sensation. 

Achilles Tendonitis

Why?

To understand why you need to first understand a little anatomy.  The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel and stretches from about mid-calf to the back of your heel bone.  This extraordinarily tough and strong tissue is easily felt through the skin.

Considering all the weight and tension that this tendon must withstand, it’s easy to see why it can get strained.  Every step requires it to support the entire body.  Running requires it to also flex back and forth quickly.

 Is it something I did?

Some types of training or terrain are known to trigger pain in the Achilles.  Speed training is exacerbating with its “whipping” motion and quick starts and stops [1].  Running uphill is also problematic as the tendon is stretched out more than usual while propelling you up at an angle. 

Continuing to run when the calf muscles are fatigued also causes problems [1].  If the muscles are not supporting the movement carefully, the Achilles ends up with more responsibility than it can handle.  Overextension and tiny changes in the mechanics of the ankle quickly add up to a painful experience.

What to do?

Few runners want to hear that the only thing to do is to give up running for awhile. While a complete rupture, or tear, of the tendon will sideline you for months, mild strains can have a complete recovery in about 5 weeks [1].  And rather than a “hands off” approach, strains require active treatment for the best outcome and to prevent re-injury [1].

  1. Strength training

Incorporating strength training into your recovery plan will get you back to running sooner than just rest.  A variety of different calf raises have been shown to help, whether they are single leg, double leg, bent knee or straight leg [2].  It is important to note that you should follow a doctor’s or physical therapist’s recommendations in regards to your strength and stretching exercises. To see a videos of proven exercises click here and scroll to Videos tab. 

PT Excercise

  1. Proper support

During the recovery time, it’s important to keep your tendon supported to prevent re-injury.  Physical therapy while wearing the AirHeel has been found to help healing more than just physical therapy without it [3].  By also stimulating blood flow to the area, the AirHeel helpsbring vital nutrients, instigating the regeneration of new, healthy tissue.

Airheel

  1. Ice

A core component to treating any strain is cold therapy.  Ice, cold packs, and the Freeze Sleeve all help to decrease inflammation and relieve pain.  The standard rule of thumb is 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off to prevent damaging the skin.

Your Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in your body, making its injury one of the most aggravating.  Thankfully, there’s help online to guide you through recovery.

 

 

[1] http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/036354658401200301

[2] http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0363546515584760

[3] http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09638280701786658

 

Joe McClung

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