Our body’s strongest tendon gets the short end of the stick when it comes to running. The achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone, and can receive a force of up to three times our body weight when we’re running. The poor, persevering tendon receives even more pressure from faster speeds or uphill running. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that achilles tendinitis from running is one of the most common injuries sustained in this activity.
If you’re a runner, you might already be feeling the early stages of achilles tendinitis. It tends to start as a dull stiffness or aching in the back of the heel that usually goes away once you’ve warmed up. At this stage, it’s easy and convenient to deny that there’s any possible injury. However, as hard as it may be, it’s best to take a break from running and give the tendon time to heal. If not, it will only get worse, and take even longer to heal down the road.
The achilles tendon is made up of fibrous tissues. When you experience achilles tendinitis from running you’re actually experiencing damages and tears to these tissues. As they work to heal themselves, they can grow back scar tissues. Because of this, one sign of achilles tendinits is a cracking sound, which is the scar tissue rubbing against the tendon. You may also feel the scar tissue through the skin as a solid nodule.
If you don’t address signs of achilles tendinitis from running as soon as you notice them, the achilles tendon will only become more damaged. Then the pain will be so strong you’ll have no choice but to take a break from running. After all, pain is the body’s way of telling us something is wrong. When it’s time to give a little love and attention to your achilles tendon, do so with alternating ice and heat.
Some professionals recommend gentle stretches, while others suggest that you save this for later in your recovery. The thought behind that is that stretching it will cause additional strain too soon, preventing the tendon from healing properly. In this case, you may end up with less flexibility in your ankle than before. Exercises like the eccentric heel drop come highly recommended from professionals who have studied the achilles tendon. To do this one, stand with your fore foot on a step with the weight on the injured leg. Slowly drop your heel so that it’s lower than your toes and stretching your calf. Pull yourself up with the other foot, and then repeat.
Of course, you should do everything you can to prevent developing achilles tendiintis from running to begin with. Make sure you’re stretching and conditioning properly. Spend time training for longer runs rather than pushing yourself all at once. Increasing mileage or terrain suddenly gives your achilles tendon stress it’s not ready for. Also, visit a runner’s shoe store. If your running shoes are anything less than optimal, you’re at a higher risk because you lack proper support. In the end, the most important thing is to listen carefully to your body. If it needs a rest, it will tell you, and you’d do best to listen!