Achille’s Tendonitis for Runners: How To Treat It (And Keep Running)

Achille’s Tendonitis for runners is one of the most common injuries, and can stop you in your tracks.

Feeling that pain in the back of your lower leg?  

Let’s jump in and find out what Achille’s Tendonitis is, what causes it, how to prevent it, and how to treat it – hopefully without suspending your running training for too long!

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The Achille’s tendon connects your heel bone to your calf muscle.

It helps your foot flex and is responsible for your ability to walk, run, jump, stand and even balance on the balls of your feet.

However, if you aggravate your Achille’s tendon, it can wreak havoc on your running schedule.

Here’s everything you need to know about Achille’s tendonitis for runners.

Achille's Tendonitis for Runners: How To Treat It (And Keep Running) 1

What is Achille’s Tendonitis?

Achille’s tendonitis is inflammation of the Achille’s tendon.

There are two types of Achille’s tendonitis:

Insertional Achille’s tendonitis refers to inflammation in the lower part of the tendon, where it attaches to your heel.

Non-insertional Achille’s tendonitis is inflammation in the middle of the tendon.

What are the symptoms of Achille’s Tendonitis?

Symptoms of Achille’s tendonitis usually occur in the back of your leg and foot.

You may feel tight calf muscles and limited range of motion when you try to flex your foot.

There may also be pain, swelling, or warmth at the back of your heel.

Most of these symptoms will occur when you walk or run.

What causes Achille’s Tendonitis?

Achilles’ tendonitis is usually caused by overuse.

This means if you’ve been excessively exercising – such as ramping up your running mileage – then you are at risk to develop Achille’s tendonitis. 

You can also inflame this tendon when you don’t practice proper exercise form.

This includes not warming upusing worn down running shoes, a sudden increase in exercise, like too much mileage, and too much track work.

If you strain you calf muscles, you can also inflame your Achille’s tendon.

It can also be caused by wearing high heels for very long periods of time, having bone spurs in your heels, and from growing older.

Achille's Tendonitis for Runners: How To Treat It (And Keep Running) 2

Preventing Achille’s Tendonitis for runners

Since Achille’s tendonitis is an overuse injury, you can prevent it by not adding in too many miles at once.

The general rule of thumb is to only add 10% more miles every week.

Following a proper training plan can prevent accidentally adding too many miles at once!

If you are training for a race and are worried about your cardio endurance, you can always do other forms of cardio!

Your heart and lungs will not know the difference between a difficult run or bike ride!

 It’s also important to stretch your calves throughout the day and be sure to stretch and foam roll them well after every workout.

Wearing proper shoes also goes a long way in preventing Achille’s tendonitis.

Look for shoes that are cushioned, provide arch support, and have a lower heel.

Zero drop shoes are a great option for this, but you’ll need to slowly transition to them over a few weeks to get your feet and ankles used to this new shoe!

Treating Achille’s Tendonitis Through Rest

The best way to treat Achille’s tendonitis for runners is to rest from running.

This will give your body time to heal and increase your recovery period.

The next step for treatment depends on when your symptoms started.

If you were just injured, then you can use the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) to help treat your pain right away.

Rest – Try to keep off your foot for as much as possible. Again, this includes no running for a few days!

Ice – Apply ice, or some type of cold compress, to the area for 20 minutes at a time, three times a day. This will help reduce inflammation more quickly.

Compression – You can wear some type of compression garment around your tendon to increase blood flow. This will reduce swelling. You can use compression socks, bandages, or tape to wrap the area.

Elevate – Finally, take a load off and elevate your foot. You want it to be above the level of your chest if possible, so you may need to lay down and prop your foot on a pillow. The goal is to keep the blood from pooling in your ankle and get it back to your heart as quickly as possible to reduce any swelling.

If RICE doesn’t work and you still feel pain and swelling, then it might be time to see a doctor.

She will probably recommend stretching, using ibuprofen or other NSAID’s to keep the pain at bay, and putting you in a boot or brace to keep you heel from moving.

Depending on how severe your tendonitis is, they may also prescribe physical therapy.

Achille's Tendonitis for Runners: How To Treat It (And Keep Running) 3

How to Keep Running if you have Achille’s Tendonitis

If you have Achille’s tendonitis, the first thing to do is rest for a few days and adopt RICE.

After a few days, you can continue running – try out taping the ankle to help (see below).

Shorten your runs at first, so there will be less pressure on your tendon.

You can substitute other cardio exercises like cycling or swimming to keep your endurance up while this heals.

As your tendon heels, do gentle stretches like calf stretches and foot stretches. You can also wear compression socks and tape when you run to keep your ankle and muscles stable and have good circulation.

 Slowly work your mileage back up and stop running if the pain becomes severe again.

If you keep running through the pain, you run the risk of developing chronic tendonitis, which is much harder to treat.

You may also rupture your tendon, which means a much longer period of no running!

How to Tape your Achille’s Tendon for runners

To soothe your Achille’s tendonitis and prevent it, you can always use kinesiology tape.

The best way to tape this tendon is to use one full size strip and two smaller ones.

Put the large piece on the bottom of your foot and place it along the back of your calf, over your tendon.

Then, use one of the two smaller strips to secure the area by placing it around tendon, perpendicular to the long strip.

You can then use the second strip to tape the same area or slightly up where you may be experiencing pain.

Achille’s tendonitis for runners is usually just annoying and painful.

It may be tempting to run through the pain and hope for the best, but constant pressure on your tendon will only lead to worse injury.

Take the time to rest when you first feel pain and stretch, compress, and elevate.

Cut back on your runs temporarily and give your body time to heal. You’ll be back running in no time!  

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References:

https://www.active.com/running/articles/how-to-treat-and-prevent-running-injuries-achilles-tendonitis

https://www.healthline.com/health/achilles-tendinitis

https://www.kttape.com/how-to-apply-kt-tape/kt-tape-achilles-tendonitis/

https://www.muellersportsmed.com/blog/post/achilles-tendinitis-treatment-using-kinesiology-tape

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.

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