Don’t Let Achilles Pain Let You Down At Your Next Race!
In this article I will outline 3 simple steps that will allow you to stop achilles pain in it’s tracks before it even begins. These tips are based on years of experience working with runners who suffer from this condition. My goal is to arm you with the tools to prevent achilles pain in order for you to add those summer miles and hit your PR’s!
For my auditory and/ or visual learners, click the video below to view the Facebook livestream I did on this topic during our weekly Monday Night SPARK Live!
The achilles tendon is the soft tissue structure that connects the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) to the heel bone. It is one of the largest and thickest tendons you have in your body but is the most commonly torn tendon. This is a common running related injury characterized by pain and stiffness in the back of your heel bone area especially first thing in the morning and during the beginning of a run. Typically, the pain may loosen up after a mile or two but then pain will return as you increase your mileage.
3 Most Common Reasons To Get Achilles Tendon Pain:
1. Limited Ankle Mobility:
Limited ankle flexion mobility (dorsiflexion) is a common clinical pattern I see with many runners who suffer from this condition. As a runner you may feel pinching pain in the front of their ankle (especially with hill work or going down stairs) or stretching in the back of the achilles or calf muscle. You can see if you are limited in this motion by placing your foot a couple of inches from a wall and lunging forward until your knee hits the wall. Keep moving your foot slighty back until your knee can barely hit the wall. That is how much ankle mobility you have. Compare it to the other side and see if you are equal. If you have asymmetrical tightness then that could be a contributing factor to your achilles pain. There are some simple manual therapy techniques we do as clinicians that can improve this mobility and decrease the stress to the achilles tendon. There are also some great self mobilization and stretching exercises you can do to to continue to improve this motion. Here is a collection of calf stretching exercises that will help improve the soft tissue mobility of the calf and achilles complex.
2. Limited Calf Muscle Strength:
Most people associate achilles tendonitis with tight calves when in fact it is the strength and endurance of the calf muscle that has been shown to be more of a risk factor for having this condition. It is also the important factor in preventing achilles tendon pain. As a runner, you should be able to perform 25 calf raises slow and controlled maintaining your knee fully straight on each leg. If you are not able to do this then you need to strengthen your calf muscle for endurance to tolerate the demands of running. In this video, I demonstrate how to perform the calf raise exercise with the knee straight as well as with the knee bent in order to build the resilience in your calf muscles.
For more info on how to prevent injuries with soft tissue care, I direct you to a previous article I wrote on this topic:
For my special recipe on how I like to foam roll the calf muscle check out the video below and while you are there subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss the next exercise that may help you 😉
3. Training errors:
Building up your mileage too soon or adding in weekly mileage at the same time as you are adding in speed work into your training can be a recipe for disaster. Your body and your tissues, specifically the soft tissues like the achilles take time to adapt to the stresses of running. Build up your mileage by not increasing more than 10% from the previous week. Also take into consideration your running shoes and consider if they should be replaced. The typical recommendation is to replace your running sneakers between 350-450 miles depending on your size.
In this article I provided an overview of the 3 most common reasons runners suffer from achilles tendonitis and the exercises you can do to combat this condition. We covered how limited ankle mobility will create more stress on the achilles tendon and the exercises you can do to improve this. We also talked about the importance of having strength and endurance in the calf muscle to build the resilience of this structure to tolerate the demands of running. We also talked about how training errors or poor running sneakers may contribute to this problem. Remember, achilles tendon pain should not be ignored because a chronic long term injury could eventually lead to a tear. Keep active and keep moving friends!
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Are you a runner that is trying to stay healthy but can’t train because pain is stopping you from meeting your goals?
Are you worried that an injury will limit you from doing what you love like working out and training?
Have you wondered what it will cost you in the long run if you continue to train through pain?
Have you seen other medical providers in the past that just tell you to stop your activity?
We have a unique treatment approach that focuses on solving these problems with our clients. We combine manual hands-on techniques with guided supervised exercises to help you get stronger, pain-free and perform at your peak level to get you back on the road doing what you love. Our goal is to help keep you active and on the road, while recovering from injury by guiding you in ways to modify your training, rather than eliminating running!
The SPARK Physical Therapy Commitment
No long waits or multiple trips to providers’ offices every week. We see you either onsite at a partnering gym or in the comfort of your home when it is convenient with your schedule.
One on one for a full hour with your doctor of physical therapy, every visit. We provide you with a customized plan specifically designed for you, based off your unique injury and goals.
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Thank you for taking the time to read,
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