Your Go-To Exercises For Achilles Tendinitis

For Recovery And Prevention

Woman with Achilles Tendinitis

There you were being active, being healthy, doing something good for your body, and this is what you get? All that work you put in, the hours you spent, the sacrifices you made – you hoped would have only positive results. You were making progress, but now you’ve been sidelined because of the pain in your Achilles Tendon. How are you supposed to continue when the pain won’t let you function? What can you do to get past this?

Let’s talk about Achilles Tendinitis, what you can do to recover, and what you need to help prevent it from happening in the future…

Achilles Tendinitis and You

Your Achilles Tendon is the biggest 1, strongest 2 tendon in your body, connecting the two large muscles in your calf to your heel3.

Most people who are affected by Achilles Tendinitis are active – oftentimes in recreational or competitive sports4 that involve running. In fact, 7%–9% of runners suffer from Achilles Tendinitis every year 5.

You might recognize the symptoms that typically result:
– Pain with exercise and activity6
– Stiffness after sitting or sleeping7
– Stiffness and pain when you start exercising that lessens as you go8

How Does Achilles Tendinitis Happen?

When pain is acute or sudden, the tendon is likely being irritated, which results in inflammation 9.

It’s not uncommon for this to be related to training errors – especially when it comes to running10:
– Sudden increases in mileage
– An increase in intensity
– Hill training
– Returning to running after prolonged inactivity

These are all mistakes you can control, which will be good to know – and to avoid – the next time you start training.

Other risk factors for Achilles tendon pain include:
– Decreased dorsiflexion range of motion in your ankle11
– Decreased strength in your calf muscles12
– Increased foot pronation13

When pain has been around for several months or longer, we now call this a Tendinosis – and this pain is no longer a result of inflammation 14, but rather a result of degeneration 15.”

Achilles Tendinitis Treatments That Work

Stretching:

When we get Achilles pain, what’s the first thing we think? “Stretch!” Surprisingly, though, there’s little evidence showing that stretching helps during recovery of Achilles Tendinitis16.

That being said, we know that limited ankle flexibility is a risk factor for Achilles Tendinitis17…so…if this is the case with you, it would be a good idea to stretch the muscles in your calf.

Here are 2 stretches you can add to your routine to help improve your function 18:

1. Calf Stretch – Knee Straight

 

2. Calf Stretch – Knee Bent

 

Orthotics:

We also know that increased foot pronation is a risk factor for Achilles Tendinitis – especially in runners19. If you have excessive foot pronation, you might want to try an orthotic shoe insert to give your foot more support.

Foot orthotics have been shown to reduce pain and improve running mechanics in people with Achilles Tendinitis 20.

I recommend Superfeet* shoe inserts to my patients. They are affordable, durable, and they offer different fits for different types of shoes – simply put: they’re the best.

Heel Lifts:

Heel lifts reduce stress on the Achilles tendon by putting the muscles in your calf on slack. If you’re getting pain with normal walking, a heel lift* might be a good idea as a temporary relief.

Lifts should be between 1.9 to 5.7 centimeters to help the calf muscles relax during walking21.

Eccentric Strengthening:

Lowering yourself from your tip toes down slowly while the muscle is being stretched is referred to as eccentric strengthening – this type of strengthening is great for recovery from Achilles Tendinitis.

3. Eccentric Heel Raises

 

Try this exercise for 3 sets of 15 repetitions, both with the knee straight and with the knee bent, twice daily, for 12 weeks 22.

This may seem like a lot and it may even involve some pain, but loading the tendon helps improve strength and circulation 23.

There Are Better Days Ahead

Good news: the long-term outcomes for Achilles Tendinitis are very good. If you do the proper exercises for 6–12 weeks, you’ll likely see less pain and better function that lasts years. In fact, between 71%–100% of patients are able to return to their prior level of activity and keep it up – even years later24.

Question: What treatments have worked best for your Achilles Tendon Pain? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

*This is an affiliate product – which means that, if purchased, I earn a small commission.  The cool thing is, it doesn’t change the price for you – so it’s a win-win!  Thanks for your support!


  1. Saltzman CL, Tearse DS. Achilles tendon injuries. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 1998;6:316–325.  ↩
  2. Bjur D, Alfredson H, Forsgren S. The innervation pattern of the human Achilles tendon: studies of the normal and tendinosis tendon with markers for general and sensory innervation. Cell Tissue Res. 2005;320:201206. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00441–004–1014–3  ↩
  3. O’Brien M. The anatomy of the Achilles tendon. Foot Ankle Clin. 2005;10:225–238.http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fcl.2005.01.011  ↩
  4. Kujala UM, Sarna S, Kaprio J. Cumulative incidence of achilles tendon rupture and tendinopathy in male former elite athletes. Clin J Sport Med. 2005;15:133–135.  ↩
  5. Johansson C. Injuries in elite orienteers. Am J Sports Med. 1986;14:410–415.  ↩
  6. Maffulli N, Kader D. Tendinopathy of tendo achillis. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2002;84:1–8.  ↩
  7. Leach RE, James S, Wasilewski S. Achilles tendinitis. Am J Sports Med. 1981;9:93–98.  ↩
  8. Leach RE, James S, Wasilewski S. Achilles tendinitis. Am J Sports Med. 1981;9:93–98.  ↩
  9. Sorosky B, Press J, Plastaras C, Rittenberg J. The practical management of Achilles tendinopathy. Clin J Sport Med. 2004;14:40–44.  ↩
  10. Clement DB, Taunton JE, Smart GW. Achilles tendinitis and peritendinitis: etiology and treatment. Am J Sports Med. 1984;12:179–184.  ↩
  11. Kaufman KR, Brodine SK, Shaffer RA, Johnson CW, Cullison TR. The effect of foot structure and range of motion on musculoskeletal overuse injuries. Am J Sports Med. 1999;27:585–593.  ↩
  12. Mahieu NN, Witvrouw E, Stevens V, Van Tiggelen D, Roget P. Intrinsic risk factors for the development of achilles tendon overuse injury: a prospective study. Am J Sports Med. 2006;34:226–235. http://dx.doi. org/10.1177/0363546505279918  ↩
  13. Carcia CR, et al. Achilles Pain, Stiffness, and muscle power deficits: Achilles Tendinitis. Clinical practice guidelines linked to the international classification of functioning, disability, and health from the orthopaedic section of the American physical therapy association. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010;40(9):A1-A26.  ↩
  14. Astrom M, Rausing A. Chronic Achilles tendinopathy. A survey of surgical and histopathologic findings. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1995;151–164.  ↩
  15. Kader D, Saxena A, Movin T, Maffulli N. Achilles tendinopathy: some aspects of basic science and clinical management. Br J Sports Med. 2002;36:239–249.  ↩
  16. Norregaard J, Larsen CC, Bieler T, Langberg H. Eccentric exercise in treatment of Achilles tendinopathy. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2007;17:133–138. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1600–0838.2006.00545.x  ↩
  17. Kaufman KR, Brodine SK, Shaffer RA, Johnson CW, Cullison TR. The effect of foot structure and range of motion on musculoskeletal overuse injuries. Am J Sports Med. 1999;27:585–593.  ↩
  18. Carcia CR, et al. Achilles Pain, Stiffness, and muscle power deficits: Achilles Tendinitis. Clinical practice guidelines linked to the international classification of functioning, disability, and health from the orthopaedic section of the American physical therapy association. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010;40(9):A1-A26.  ↩
  19. Carcia CR, et al. Achilles Pain, Stiffness, and muscle power deficits: Achilles Tendinitis. Clinical practice guidelines linked to the international classification of functioning, disability, and health from the orthopaedic section of the American physical therapy association. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010;40(9):A1-A26.  ↩
  20. Carcia CR, et al. Achilles Pain, Stiffness, and muscle power deficits: Achilles Tendinitis. Clinical practice guidelines linked to the international classification of functioning, disability, and health from the orthopaedic section of the American physical therapy association. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010;40(9):A1-A26.  ↩
  21. Lee KH, Matteliano A, Medige J, Smiehorowski T. Electromyographic changes of leg muscles with heel lift: therapeutic implications. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1987;68:298–301.  ↩
  22. Alfredson H, Pietila T, Jonsson P, Lorentzon R. Heavy-load eccentric calf muscle training for the treatment of chronic Achilles tendinosis. Am J Sports Med. 1998;26:360–366.  ↩
  23. Knobloch K. Eccentric rehabilitation exercise increases peritendinous type I collagen synthesis in humans with Achilles tendinosis. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2007;17:298–299.  ↩
  24. Carcia CR, et al. Achilles Pain, Stiffness, and muscle power deficits: Achilles Tendinitis. Clinical practice guidelines linked to the international classification of functioning, disability, and health from the orthopaedic section of the American physical therapy association. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010;40(9):A1-A26.  ↩
Get Your FREE eBook!
Turn Down Your Pain
Plus, I'll send you new articles and products as they become available.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.