Your Achilles tendon runs along the backside of your ankle. It connects your calf muscles to your heel bone, and when it’s strained or ruptured, simple activities, such as walking and running, can be extraordinarily painful. Serious Achilles injuries can even cause pain when you’re standing.
Because the tendon is a thick cord of connective tissue, it takes time to heal once strained. So it’s much easier to prevent an Achilles injury than manage it. Use these five tips by Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center to avoid Achilles pain or trauma.
1. Stretch and strengthen
Stretch your calf regularly by pulling your toes toward your shin or by standing with your heels hanging off the edge of a stair. Hold for 15-30 seconds at a time. Foam rolling your calf can also loosen the muscles and prevent undue tension from straining your Achilles tendons.
Calf strengthening exercises, such as seated or standing calf raises, can make it so your muscles and tendons are able to absorb a greater amount of force to help prevent injury. Talk to our doctors about the right exercises for you.
2. Increase workouts slowly
Increasing the number of miles you run or the intensity of your workouts too quickly can raise the risk that you’ll injure your Achilles tendons. Increase your workouts gradually, adding about 10% more intensity, duration, or distance each week. Doing too much too soon is a recipe for pain and injury.
Always warm up before workouts with a 5-10 minute jog, brisk walk, or a series of jumping jacks and lunges. This will increase circulation to your Achilles tendons and calf muscles, which will help them sustain the work ahead of them.
3. Wear the right footwear
Opt for running or athletic shoes that have good cushioning in the heels. Also, get your gait checked at a local running store. Getting the right footwear will allow you to exercise and move around in shoes that will give your feet the right support and thereby minimize your risk of strain. And when your shoes start to wear out, replace them so you can maintain good support.
And, if you do run, choose the surface carefully. Opt for a trail or track rather than cement. Running on cement can increase your risk of straining your Achilles tendons.
4. Mix up your workouts
If you run, dance, or do kickboxing, your joints and tendons can take a beating, especially your Achilles tendons. Make a few of your weekly workouts low-impact to give your body a break. Swim or use the elliptical trainer or rowing machine to still get a workout without risking injury to your Achilles tendons.
5. Rest at the first sign of pain
If you notice a mild ache, stiffness, or throbbing in the back of your heel and ankle, take a couple days off from running or other high-impact activity until the soreness resolves. Pushing through the pain may irritate the tendon more and increases the risk that you’ll experience long-term tendinitis.
If you have any foot or ankle issues, the team at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center can help. Book an appointment online or over the phone today.