Achilles Pain Running? How to Keep Running & Manage Achilles Pain

If you’re a runner, chances are you’ve dealt with some sort of pain in your lower legs. Shin splints, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis —the list goes on. But of all the aches and pains a runner can experience, Achilles tendon problems are probably the most debilitating. It can sideline even the most experienced runners, leading to frustration and a loss of fitness.

While Achilles tendon pain is certainly unpleasant, it doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your running goals. The good news is that there are a few things you can do to manage Achilles tendon injuries and keep running. By following these simple tips, you can keep running despite Achilles pain and stay on track to reach your fitness goals.

What is Achilles Tendonitis?

First, let’s talk about the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon is a fibrous band of tissue on the back of the lower leg. It joins the gastrocnemius (bigger, higher calf muscle) and soleus (flatter, lower calf muscle) to the back of your heel.

The Achilles tendon is used when walking, running, and jumping, so any activity that puts stress on this tendon can lead to irritation and inflammation.

Achilles tendonitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the Achilles tendon, especially when it is repeatedly or intensely strained.

Age-related changes in Achilles tendon structure make it more vulnerable to injury, especially in persons who seldom do sports or who have recently increased their running intensity. It is a common injury, particularly in runners, and can be quite debilitating if not treated properly.

Different Types of Achilles Tendonitis

Insertional Achilles Tendonitis

  • Affects the lower part of the Achilles tendon, where it attaches to the heel bone
  • More common in older runners and often occurs after a period of inactivity or a change in activity level
  • More likely to be associated with bone spur formation

Non-insertional Achilles Tendonitis

  • Affects the middle part of the Achilles tendon
  • More common in younger, active individuals
  • Often the result of overuse or repetitive stress on the Achilles tendon

The common causes of Achilles tendonitis in runners

There are several possible reasons why your Achilles may hurt from running. The most common cause of Achilles tendinitis, particularly in runners who have suddenly increased their mileage or intensity of running. Other causes are the following:

Overuse

This is the most common cause of Achilles tendinitis, particularly in runners who have suddenly increased their mileage or intensity of running.

Overpronation or Flat Feet

This is a condition when the foot rolls inward too much when striking the ground. This puts extra stress on the Achilles tendon and can lead to irritation and inflammation.

Also, read our article: The Best Stability Running Shoes For 2022 (Ultimate Guide).

Tight calf muscles or poor flexibility

If the calf muscles are tight, they can put added stress on the Achilles tendon, leading to irritation and inflammation.

Poor Footwear

Wearing shoes that don’t provide enough support can also lead to Achilles tendonitis.

Bone spur formation

This is also the cause of insertional Achilles tendonitis.

Sudden increase in mileage

If you suddenly increase your running mileage or intensity of running, you may be putting too much stress on the Achilles tendon, leading to inflammation.

If you’re a runner, the best way to prevent Achilles tendinitis is to wear the appropriate shoes. Check out: The Best Shoes For Achilles Tendinitis (No More Pain)

Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis in runners

The most common symptom of Achilles tendonitis is pain along the back of the heel and lower leg, which worsens with activity. The pain may be mild at first, but it can gradually worsen until it becomes quite severe. Other symptoms may include:

  • Swelling or stiffness in the Achilles tendon
  • Difficulty flexing the foot or pointing the toe
  • Warmth or redness in the area
  • Weakness in the affected leg
  • Dull or sharp pain along the back of the tendon close to the heel
  • A creaking or crackling sound when moving the Achilles tendon (Achilles tendon rupture or torn Achilles)

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor or other healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Is it OK to run with a sore Achilles?

The short answer is yes, but you’ll need to take some precautions to avoid making your symptoms worse. It is also important to visit your doctor or ask your therapist to know the severity of your injury before getting back to running or performing exercises.

Once you have a go signal, you may start by slowly increasing your mileage and intensity of running, and pay close attention to any pain you may experience. If you start to feel pain, stop running and rest until the pain goes away.

You may also want to consider cross-training with activities, which we will discuss later on.

How do I stop my Achilles from hurting when I run?

If Achilles tendon pain is interfering with your running, there are several things you can do to ease the pain and get back on track.

  • Follow available treatment and therapy options prescribed by your therapist
  • Cross-training with low-impact activities like swimming or biking
  • Gradually increase your mileage and intensity of running
  • Stretch and strengthen the muscles around the Achilles tendon
  • Wear supportive shoes that are designed for running

How long does Achilles tendonitis heal naturally?

The good news is that Achilles tendonitis usually responds well to conservative treatment methods like rest, ice, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. Most cases of Achilles tendonitis will improve within a few weeks with these simple measures.

The tendon may take anywhere from six to eight weeks to repair. After this, it will take some time for the muscles to recover their usual strength, especially after being in a cast or brace.

However, some cases may require more aggressive treatment, such as physical therapy, surgery, or steroid injections. If your symptoms do not improve with conservative treatment, please consult your doctor.

What is the fastest way to heal Achilles tendonitis?

The sooner this problem is identified and treated, the better the chances of recovery. Injuries that are mild to moderate should be able to heal on their own without medical intervention. It’s possible to expedite the procedure by doing the following:

Rest and Modified Exercises

Achilles tendonitis sufferers should take a break from any exercise that puts strain on the Achilles tendon. Running, for instance, should be avoided. Instead, do some low-impact exercises such as cycling or swimming. Once the pain subsides, you can begin to introduce Achilles-strengthening exercises into your routine.

Pain Relief

  • Ice can help reduce Achilles tendonitis swelling. Apply ice for 20 minutes a few times a day.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, as well as gels, may assist you in managing discomfort so that you may continue running and training.
  • Compression may also help reduce Achilles tendonitis swelling. Just wrap the affected area with an elastic compression bandage.

Footwear

Make sure you’re wearing shoes that are supportive and cushioned. Adding a heel lift to the rear of your shoe may help alleviate pressure on the Achilles tendon by increasing the amount of plantarflexion in your feet.

If you have wide feet, check out your options: 7 Best Running Shoes For Wide Feet

Elevation

When Achilles tendonitis symptoms first flare-up, it’s best to keep the leg elevated as much as possible to reduce swelling.

Eccentric exercises

Eccentric Achilles tendonitis exercises are those in which the muscle lengthens as it contracts. These exercises have been shown to be helpful in treating Achilles tendonitis and can be done at home.

  • Calf raises: Stand with the balls of both feet on an elevated surface with your heels hanging off. Slowly lower your heels below the level of the surface, then raise them back up.
  • Heel drop: Perform three sets of 15 repetitions twice daily for 12 weeks. After doing these exercises without experiencing any pain or discomfort, you may increase the weight.

If Achilles tendonitis pain persists despite trying these conservative measures, you may need to seek medical attention. Your doctor can prescribe stronger medication or refer you to a physical therapist.

Achilles tendonitis surgery is very rare and usually only recommended if all other treatment options have failed.

When can I return to running?

Achilles tendonitis can take several weeks or even months to heal. The length of time will depend on the severity of your condition and how well you respond to treatment.

Most cases of Achilles tendonitis will respond well to conservative treatment methods like rest, ice, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. Most people will be able to return to running within a few weeks.

However, some cases that require more aggressive treatment, which will take you longer to recover. If your symptoms do not improve with conservative treatment, you need to consult your doctor.

How to treat Achilles tendonitis

There are several therapy options for Achilles tendonitis. They are the following:

Surgery

Surgery is usually only recommended for Achilles tendonitis if other treatments have failed to provide relief. For individuals who are younger or more active, surgery may be indicated to prevent a recurrence of an Achilles tendon rupture. The goal of surgery is to remove the damaged tissue and repair the tendon.

Doctors may also utilize a transplant or a tendon from another patient in order to heal Achilles tendons that have been damaged. After the procedure, you’ll require an orthosis (plaster cast or brace).

It’s possible to do an operation using fewer incisions, known as percutaneous, rather of the more common open surgery. It reduces the chance of wound infection. It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of this treatment with your doctor before deciding if it is right for you.

Conservative Treatment

Older adults and others who want to avoid surgery may benefit from conservative therapy options. It involves resting the tendon in a cast or brace to enable it to recover spontaneously. If the tendon does not mend on its own, then a surgical repair may be performed later.

This approach uses either a plaster cast or a brace for a period of eight weeks in order to preserve the tendon throughout the healing process. The foot is supported with a brace or plaster cast that is angled slightly downwards to relieve pressure on the Achilles tendon.

Steroid Injections

Steroid injections are a common treatment for Achilles tendonitis. They can help reduce pain and inflammation. However, they are not a cure-all, and they may have some side effects. Therefore, it is important to discuss the risks and benefits of this treatment with your doctor before deciding if it is right for you.

Cross-training with Achilles tendon pain

If you have Achilles tendon pain, you may want to try cross-training with activities like swimming or biking. These activities will put less stress on your Achilles tendon and may help you avoid further injury. Always consult with a doctor or certified athletic trainer before beginning any new exercise program.

Aqua Jogging

Aqua Jogging is the best type of cross-training for Achilles tendonitis. Research shows that aqua jogging may sustain running fitness for up to four to six weeks in well-trained runners.

Aqua jogging is a deep water running technique that closely resembles the motion of a runner. There is no contact on the bottom of the pool, so it is safe for practically any form of injury. There is just one drawback to aqua jogging: you need a pool that is deep enough to run in without hitting the bottom. If you have access to a pool of this size, aqua jogging should be your first cross-training option.

Elliptical Training

If you don’t have access to a pool, the next best cross-training activity for Achilles tendonitis is elliptical training. When using an elliptical, be sure to keep the resistance low and your pace easy. You should not feel any pain in your Achilles tendon while using the elliptical. If you do, stop and consult with a doctor or certified athletic trainer before continuing.

Swimming

Swimming is a great cross-training activity for Achilles tendonitis because it is low-impact and non-weight-bearing. This means that it will not put any additional stress on your Achilles tendon.

When swimming, be sure to use a breaststroke or backstroke. These strokes will put less stress on your Achilles tendon than the freestyle stroke.

Frequently Asked Questions About Achilles Tendonitis

Is there a difference between Achilles tendonitis and Achilles tendinitis?

No, Achilles tendonitis and Achilles tendinitis are two terms for the same condition. Achilles tendonitis is the more common term, but Achilles tendinitis is also used to describe this condition.

What is the difference between Achilles tendonitis and Achilles tendinopathy?

Tendinopathy is a poor healing response and the deterioration of the collagen protein in the tendon. Tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendon.

Achilles tendinopathy is a general term that refers to any condition that affects the Achilles tendon. This includes Achilles tendonitis, as well as other conditions such as Achilles tendinosis and Achilles rupture.

How can I prevent Achilles tendonitis?

There are several things you can do to prevent Achilles tendonitis or stop it from getting worse.

  • Make sure you warm up properly before running or participating in any other activities
  • Be sure to stretch your Achilles tendon and calf muscles regularly
  • Avoid sudden increases in mileage or intensity when running or working out.
  • Always wear shoes that are comfortable and provide proper support
  • Consult with a doctor or certified athletic trainer if you have any Achilles pain or other concerns

Wrap Up

Achilles tendonitis is a condition that can cause pain and disability if not treated properly. There are many treatment options available, and most people will be able to recover with the proper care.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, be sure to see your doctor to get a proper diagnosis, and begin treatment. With the right care, you can soon get back to your regular activities pain-free.

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