Best Running Shoes for Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is when the Achilles tendon, the tissue between your heel and calf muscle, becomes inflamed. This leads to pain, discomfort, and swelling which is why finding the best running shoes for Achilles tendonitis is crucial to help your recovery.

Whether you currently have Achilles discomfort or have experienced a bout of tendonitis in the past, the best running shoes for Achilles tendonitis (which you can see here) may just be the key to not only improving tendonitis, but preventing it too. 

But first, let’s look at the most important features you need from a running shoe along with the reasons why. It’s important you understand what these features will give you because if you make the wrong purchase then it could make your condition even worse.

Important Features You Need 

Best Running Shoes For Achilles Tendonitis

A case of tendonitis can range from mild to severe, and if you have a minor case then you may be able to run through the pain before  taping, resting, and icing afterward. More advanced Achilles tendonitis might require you to stay away from running for days to weeks. A bad case of Achilles tendonitis can spell trouble for runners.

The nagging irritation felt when running will often lead to short workouts at the very least and could keep you from logging miles altogether at worst. Cushion and support go hand in hand. Cushion often means a larger heel or sole made of stiffer foam or gel. Support generally equates to the heel drop or even heel inserts. These things help to reduce the load on the Achilles tendon. When the tendon experiences less strain, pain and inflammation can significantly be reduced.

Room relates to how much space is in the toe box. It’s crucial to find a roomy shoe that lets your toes splay out. You want to spread your toes so that your big toe is not cramped, as this is where most of your stability comes from.

Finding a shoe that allows you plenty of space to keep you stable while cushioning your strike and supporting your arch should help decrease Achilles discomfort and keep you pain-free.

There are a few shoe characteristics that can undoubtedly assist with Achilles tendonitis. But, it is also essential to know that switching up your footwear each time your run can make a big difference:

1. A Mid to High Heel Drop

The heel drop is perhaps the most crucial feature. If you suffer from Achilles issues, you will want a mid to high heel drop. The heel drop refers to the offset or the difference in the amount of material between your forefoot and your heel. Generally, a mid to high heel drop means the shoe’s drop should be between six to ten millimeters.

A higher heel drop decreases the load experienced by the Achilles tendon. Taking off the strain and pressure can allow the Achilles to rest, heal, and become less painful. However, we also mentioned regularly switching up your running shoes.

Having a pair or two with a lower heel drop can be advantageous. The lower drop will help to strengthen the Achilles over time and can be rotated into your lineup once the worst of the tendonitis has passed.

2. Adequate Cushioning

Barefoot shoes usually aren’t great for runners who regularly experience Achilles tendonitis. If you have a severe case of tendonitis, high cushioning will be your best bet. It will decrease tension on the tendon while helping to protect the Achilles and surrounding structures. Don’t wear them for too long, though.

High cushioned shoes should be worn only if warranted and should be treated as a band-aid for your problem rather than a solution.

You will want to find a shoe with mid-level cushioning for the long term. It can provide just enough support to ease the strain on your Achilles. A mid-level shoe will also work to strengthen and tone your Achilles tendon. A decent amount of cushion and support won’t prevent you from feeling the terrain, meaning it won’t throw off your stability or reaction time.

Our favorite cushioned shoes are made from ethylene vinyl acetate or EVA for short. This foam-like substance is lightweight while being extra supportive. It also helps to equally disperse your weight, giving you better stability through your ankle and tendon.

3. A Spacious Toe Box

When your toes are cramped together, various problems can ensue; one of them being Achilles tendonitis. Your big toes are predominantly responsible for stability. When your toes cannot splay out in a shoe, this can lead to balance issues.

Squished toes lead to instability, which leads to your heel slipping, and the result can be Achilles tendonitis. A roomy toe box helps solve this problem, letting your toes spread to have better balance and control over your stride.

A wide toe box starts with the shoes’ sole, and it is often foot-shaped while still being roomy. However, variable lacing options can complement the toe box and lead to a more custom fit.

4. Rocker Soles

Recently, rocker-shaped soles have become quite popular. These shoes often have a decent cushion, a high heel drop, and an upward turned toe box. As a result, the shoes reduce plantar flexion, which reduces Achilles load.

Rocker shoes will propel your foot forward, moving it through the motion from heel-strike to push off. The sole, often made of EVA, is almost always thicker than your average shoe. The toe, the heel, or both can be rounded to help you glide through your stride and prevent you from landing flat-footed.

These shoes certainly aren’t for everyone, but they can be a game-changer for runners who have consistent Achilles issues.

PRODUCT REVIEWS

Best Running Shoes for Achilles Tendonitis

In this section, we will look at the three best running shoes for men followed by the three best running shoes for women. Not choosing the right pair of running shoes can also lead to Achilles Tendonitis, because ill-fitting and unsupportive shoes often put too much strain on the tendon.

Additionally, shoes that don’t support your ankle and allow it to roll to the inside may result in tendonitis. This ankle rolling can come from two things, either very stiff shoes or worn-out shoes. Either can lead to overpronation, straining the Achilles, and causing pain.

Let’s take a look at the best running shoes for Achilles tendonitis now.

FOR MEN WITH ACHILLES TENDONITIS:

#1  Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 – Best for Stability

Our first men’s shoe is the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21. Brooks is a favorite of many runners thanks to its quality shoes that suit many runners with varying preferences, distances, and styles.

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21

The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 was released in November 2020, and though there is a Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22, the 21 model tends to be more preferred. There is a men’s and women’s version. Available in nearly twenty different colors sizes 7 to 15, and four different widths, there is an option for everyone!

Especially those dealing with Achilles tendonitis. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 is an excellent pick for tendinitis suffers due to the stability it offers. If you need relief quickly, its 12mm drop will help to reduce load and strain on your tendon. This is a more significant drop than most other running shoes, perfect for those with low or flat arches.

Additionally, the shoe’s high support level helps stabilize all parts of your lower body. The sole has soft and smooth support, but the intuitive “Guard Rails” make a noticeable difference. They help minimize unnecessary movement, maintaining your form even if you get tired and sloppy, which, if left unchecked, could irritate your Achilles.

The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 stabilizing support is complemented by the shoes roomy toe box, breathable mesh upper, and lightweight. However, the breathability of the mesh does come with a trade-off, as a few runners feel that it doesn’t securely hold their foot as well.

If you require a high-stability shoe to combat existing Achilles issues, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 is a solid choice.

PROS

  • ✅    Enhanced cushion for support
  • ✅    12mm drop protects the Achilles a lot more
  • ✅    Lightweight and breathable for a comfortable run

 

DRAWBACKS

  • X    Mesh upper may allow too much movement for some
  • X    Everyday use won’t allow for the strengthening of the Achilles

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21

For Prices & Customer Reviews

#2  Mizuno Wave Rider 25 – Best for Responsiveness

The Mizuno Wave Rider 24 was loved by Achilles tendonitis sufferers, and now the 25 is even more appreciated. The Japanese brand Mizuno has been around a long time and has become most associated with the responsiveness of their shoes.

The Wave Rider 25, released in May 2021, is no exception. It’s available in either men’s or women’s, with the men’s ranging in size from 7 to 16 and being offered in four different colors.

Mizuno Wave Rider 25 - best running shoe for achilles tendonitis

There is one men’s wide version available in two color choices. Keep in mind Mizuno’s tend to run more narrow than other shoes.

Thanks to their patented Wave Plate, we like the Mizuno because it is a great responsive shoe. This layer of cushion helps to absorb the impact and disperse that energy, not only cushioning your tendons and joints but also giving you a peppy transition. The foam construction is cushioning without being over-supportive.

With a 12mm drop, most runners with Achilles tendon problems will find the Mizuno Wave Rider 25 a fantastic relief. Its support and stability go well with the carbon rubber outsole that is incredibly durable and protects your feet from feeling the terrain too much.

Though Mizuno’s are often narrower than Brooks, the Wave Rider 25 is generally suitable for those with wide feet. Especially if you get the wide version. The added room in the toe box is great at letting your toes splay to increase stability.

An awesome drop and just enough energized foam cushioning make this a top contender for anyone prone to Achilles tendonitis.

PROS

  • ✅  Very responsive to help absorb impact
  • ✅  Achilles-friendly 12mm drop
  • ✅  Durable and protective outsole

 

DRAWBACKS

  • X    Low ankle cut may allow too much rolling
  • X    Laces are a bit short for those with wider feet

Mizuno Wave Rider 25

For Prices & Customer Reviews

#3  Saucony Ride 14 – Best for Strengthening

Finally, we have the Saucony Ride 14, a superlight shoe with a lower drop for those days you want to strengthen your Achilles. Saucony is often thought of as having the most technology-forward shoes. An excellent example is their Ride 14, released April 2021. Available for men and women, with sizes 7 to 15 for the men and 13 color options and a regular or wide version.

Saucony Ride 14 - Best running shoes for achilles tendonitis

It has an 8mm drop, lower than our previous two but still within that mid to high range. It offers a decent amount of support without overdoing it. This is in line with the rest of the Ride 14, which strives to deliver a form-fitted, customized ride. Remember, though, if you have an incredibly irritated Achilles, the higher the drop, the better.

Saucony’s PWRRUN midsole foam is marketed as balanced cushioning. Thanks to its springy responsiveness, it’s supportive but won’t minimize transition, giving you a pep in your step. The heel has an equally balanced amount of foam, not bulky or too thin, making it less cushioned than the other two shoes on this list.

The shoe’s unique “bucket seat” form cradles your foot. Add in the sock-like fit of the upper and the contoured sole that flexes, and you have a shoe that adapts to your body and running style.

We also love that it is one of the lightest shoes at just 9.4oz. Less weight can mean less effort on your part while transitioning, taking some strain off your Achilles. Everything about this shoe can be described as soft and stretchy, offering you the right amount of giving where you need it most.

The Saucony Ride 14 is an ideal shoe for when you want less support and more strengthening.

PROS

  • ✅  Form-fitting technology contours to your feet
  • ✅  Responsive yet supportive
  • ✅  Incredibly light

 

DRAWBACKS

  • X    The upper and laces may be too stretchy for those who like a secure fit
  • X    The drop may be too low for those with more than mild Achilles tendinitis

Saucony Ride 14

For Prices & Customer Reviews

FOR WOMEN WITH ACHILLES TENDONITIS:

#1   Brooks Ghost 14 – Best for Stability

Brooks shoes are a favorite of runners, and almost every Brooks owner likely has a pair of Ghosts in their lineup. We particularly like the Ghost 14 for its stability and support.

The Ghost is available in women’s and men’s. The 14 was released July 1st, but we honestly really like the 12 and 13. There is something for every runner, available in sizes 5 to 13, three widths, and around nineteen different colors. In the form of DNA Loft foam, its cushion is perfect for neutral runners and those with a bit of overpronation. Stacking in the heel gives it an excellent 12mm drop. The cushion does nothing to decrease the responsiveness, which is awesome! Because the foam isn’t too soft or too firm, the run experience is relatively stable.

brooks ghost 14 - best running shoes for achilles tendonitis

Additionally, the midsole contains EVA foam, too, offering a soft ride no matter how many miles you run. Ultimately, the softness and stability help keep your Achilles from becoming irritated. It doesn’t run short as the Ghost 13’s did, so you can be confident its roominess will allow your toes to splay properly. Similarly, the ventilated mesh upper is stretchy to accommodate all runners but is still secure. Padding added to the heel tab, collar, and tongue make the Ghost 14 such a comfortable shoe. There’s a lot of padding, but not nearly as much as a Hoka, for example.

The outsole contains both soft rubber and carbon rubber. Though the carbon rubber is very durable, most runners will notice that the sole tends to hold up less well than other shoes over time. This is unfortunate because one workout in these shoes, and you’ll want to make them a regular in your rotation.  

If you’re looking for a stable shoe that provides a soft ride, the comfortable Ghost 14’s are a solid choice.

PROS

  • ✅  High drop to reduce the load on the Achilles
  • ✅  The perfect balance of cushion to support your ankle, heel, and tendon
  • ✅  A versatile shoe for all types of runners and workouts

 

DRAWBACKS

  • X    Outsole wears rapidly during initial use until the wear rate tapers off
  • X    It feels a bit heavier than other shoes

Brooks Ghost 14

For Prices & Customer Reviews

#2   Hoka Bondi 7 – Best for Cushion

Hoka is known for its cushion – stacks of foam that make it feel like you’re running on clouds. The Bondi 7 is perhaps the chunkiest, most cushiony, and most comfortable shoe Achilles tendonitis sufferers could ever own.

hoka bondi 7 - best running shoes for achilles tendonitis

The Bondi 7 was released in September 2020. You can grab a pair in men’s or women’s versions, with women’s sizes ranging from 5 to 12. There are two width options and eight different colors. The Bondi’s most noticeable feature? The massive slab of incredibly soft memory foam. This shoe only has a 4mm drop, though it has 33mm of stack height. It offers a plush ride from the heel to the thick midsole.

As is customary with Hoka’s, it has a meta-rocker in the midsole. This helps to propel you through your turnover and, when combined with the springy foam, lessens the demand on your Achilles. Designed specifically for comfort, the foam support in the shoe’s base and the memory foam collar provide runners with a soft, secure, and gentle running experience. However, we don’t advise doing any speed work in these as they’re not as versatile as the Brooks.

Speaking of the foam collar, the upper of the Bondi 7 is made with breathable engineered mesh and incorporated with a few solid Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) overlays for extra support. We appreciate the addition of flat laces that genuinely help secure the foot and lock it down to minimize shifting.

If you need cushion and support for your easy recovery miles, the Hoka Bondi 7 is an obvious choice.

PROS

  • ✅  Copious amounts of cushion to reduce the impact on joints and tendons
  • ✅  Meta-rocker helps reduce forces and stresses placed on the Achilles during turnover
  • ✅  Plush midsole for extra arch and heel support, reducing pressure on the Achilles

 

DRAWBACKS

  • X   The Upper may be a bit narrow for some
  • X    Not ideal for everyday use as they could weaken Achilles

Hoka Bondi 7

For Prices & Customer Reviews

#3   Altra Paradigm 6 – Best For Strengthening

Altra shoes often get a rap of being wide, but it’s all part of the design. They are made to strengthen and accommodate feet by naturally working with the mechanics of your body. Take the Altra Paradigm 6, for example, a zero drop shoe full of stability and support.

The Paradigm 6 was released in July 2021. You can find it in men’s or women’s sizes ranging from 5.5 to 12, available in four colors. Though it has a nice streamlined look, it is a supportive shoe. Altra EGO™ MAX in the midsole plus Balanced Cushioning foam creates equal ground-to-foot distance at your forefoot and heel. This improves form, alignment, and a less harsh impact, strengthening and supporting your tendons.

altra paradigm 6 - best running shoes for achilles tendonitis

The INNOVARCH helps to do the same, encouraging good foot placement when you land. The guide rails, which are becoming popular with other brands, assist with this too when you start to get tired and a little sloppy. The wide toe box results from the foot-shaped sole that is remarkably roomy for optimum toe splay, which is vital to your balance.

An engineered mesh makes up the upper. It is breathable while being secure, locking down your foot rather well. However, Altra’s are traditionally broad, so those with narrow feet may use an ankle lock with the laces.

The Altra Paradigm 6 is the enigma that is a cushioned trainer. Unlike our other cushioned picks, it has a zero drop, which can take some getting used to.

It does offer a soft ride but will actively work to improve your form, ultimately strengthening your Achilles. If you don’t have an ongoing issue but hope to prevent future Achilles problems, you may want to throw the Paradigm 6 into your shoe lineup.

PROS

  • ✅  A comfortable amount of cushioning and stability boosting foam
  • ✅  Works to improve form and proper foot positioning
  • ✅  Additions like guide rails and INNOVARCH offer support only when needed

 

DRAWBACKS

  • X   The zero-drop might be a learning curve for some
  • X    It runs wide, making it not suitable for those with very narrow feet

Hoka Bondi 7

For Prices & Customer Reviews

Frequently Asked Questions

Whilst testing and talking to other runners about the best running shoes for Achilles tendonitis, I noticed that handful of questions kept getting asked. So, just in case you are thinking the same I have shared some some of them below and provided my advice.

Q1. Can Running Shoes Cause Achilles Tendonitis?

If you’re wondering whether running shoes can cause problems with your Achilles tendon, or, if running shoes can help with it, then the answer to both questions is yes.

If you have ongoing issues with your tendon, rocker shoes, or those with a high heel drop, it can help alleviate Achilles’ problems. However, these shoes should only be worn in the short term, so they don’t affect other muscles in your foot and increase reliance on their support. However, barefoot running isn’t the answer either.

In general, varying your shoes is a great idea! Stiff new shoes can also play a role in Achilles strain, so make sure you’re not wearing them for every run. The same goes for shoes with a tight toe box. For the best chance at a pain-free run, switch up your shoes, never opting for too much support or too little.

Q2. Can I Run With Achilles Tendonitis?

When we looked deeper into whether you can run with achilles tendonitis, the short answer was yes; but so long as you are mindful of certain factors. Pay attention to your pain level. Mild discomfort that flares with running but then eases post-run usually isn’t a reason to stop running. Severe pain that does not decrease with time off should not be ignored.

If you notice that your Achilles tendon is profoundly affecting your gate, you may want to stop running. Tightness at the beginning of your run is normal; though if the tightness persists and causes your gait to shift, postponing running might be a good idea. Other reasons to take a break from running include a noticeable thickening of the tendon, bruising, redness, or swelling.

Continuing to run with severe Achilles tendonitis could lead to your tendon tearing or rupturing. In most cases, this will require surgical repair; only lengthening your time off running. This article goes further into precautions and prevention tips.

Q3. How To Run With Achilles Tendonitis.

Before determining how to run with Achilles tendonitis it is a good idea to figure out whether or not you should run. Severe pain that does not improve with rest is a sign you should take a break from running. Mild discomfort that fades with time after your last run is usually okay to continue running with.

If you’re determined to run, take proper steps to prepare your muscles and tendons. Warm them, stretch, and dedicate some time to strength training your calves, glutes, and other leg muscles. Don’t forget to check your shoes either! Those with Achilles pain often benefit from a greater heel drop or temporarily using heel lifts.

During the run, pay attention to your form. Aggressive forefoot running can further irritate your Achilles tendon. Lack of glute and calf strength, as well as reduced mobility, might impact your loading and push-off, stressing the tendon. Though abrupt and major changes aren’t advised, you may be able to gradually alter your form.

Q4. How To Tape Your Achilles Tendon for Running.

When learning how to tape your Achilles tendon you need to make sure you don’t just support the tendon, but the ankle, foot, and surrounding structures too. There are two types of tape commonly used by runners to tape their Achilles. They are kinesiology tape and athletic tape.

Kinesiology tape provides minimal support. This breathable and flexible tape is made to lift the skin, improving circulation and possibly speeding up healing. Athletic tape is rigid and non-breathable. It provides greater support and reduces the range of motion to prevent further injury while stabilizing the area.

Most taping methods begin with forming an anchor at the ball of the foot or the heel. Tape can then be applied upwards from the base of the foot to the top of the calf. Additional supports may be added horizontally along the back of the heel, the ankle, or over other pain points. For an in-depth look at taping your Achilles tendon for running, we suggest you check out this article.

Q5. How to Treat Achilles Tendonitis Pain from Running.

Achilles tendonitis causes pain, swelling, and stiffness. In most cases, you can treat Achilles tendonitis pain from running at home. Treatment should consist of not only reducing the ache but also addressing the root cause of the problem.

Suppose you’re experiencing Achilles tendonitis from running. In that case, you can try rest, icing, gentle stretching, and self-massage to quickly take care of post-run pain. To try and prevent further issues with your Achilles, it is advised that you stretch pre-run, foam roll post-run, and work to strengthen your surrounding muscles and tissues.

Investing in better running shoes for Achilles tendonitis, changing your running form, and taping are all possible solutions but can be less effective than the techniques mentioned above. Suppose nothing seems to help your Achilles pain after a few weeks, or the pain is severe. In that case, it is probably time to back off running and schedule an appointment with your doctor.  

Q6. How to Warm Up Your Achilles Tendon Before Running.

There are a variety of exercises and stretches runners can do before a workout to warm up their Achilles tendon. Warming up the tendon helps to release tension, prepare the area for the stresses associated with pounding the pavement, and increase flexibility.

Static stretches are great for improving mobility and getting rid of tension. Dynamic stretches can help as well but are also wonderful for warming up the area and increasing blood flow. Many of these exercises do not require special equipment.

Classics like the runner’s calf-stretch and ankle flexion and extension particularly work on the Achilles tendon. Adding in heel raises and drops not only will warm up the structures but strengthen your calves too.

Failure to complete a proper warm-up before your run usually isn’t the best idea. While some runners are perfectly okay with a cold-start, most are more prone to injury and discomfort when they skip their pre-run warm-up routine. 

Q7. How Do I Strengthen My Achilles Tendon For Running?

Strength exercises may help prevent common ankle and Achilles tendon injuries runners face from rigorous workouts and overuse. Knowing how to strengthen the Achilles tendon and the surrounding muscles can effectively ward off Achilles tendonitis and other issues that cause pain while running.

Many runners use a combination of proper Achilles strength training exercises and stretching exercises. As your Achilles is a tendon, it can take longer to see results compared to strengthening muscles in general.

However, building up the many muscles found in your legs may also help tendon and ankle issues. Common areas to focus on include strengthening your calves, increasing flexibility in your hips and hamstrings, and working on ankle and knee stabilization. Through a combination of traditional stretches, eccentric exercises, and strength training, you might be able to relieve Achilles discomfort and prevent future strains so that you can keep enjoying your running workouts. 

Final Thoughts

The Best Running Shoes for Achilles Tendonitis.

There truly isn’t a perfect shoe. Instead, you should view your shoes as tools that can help reduce and prevent Achilles problems (as well as other issues runners may experience). 

Having a handful of shoes with different characteristics is vital. Why? Because each one has a different function and advantage. Shoes with too much cushion or too great of a heel drop might provide instant relief but aren’t helpful in the long run. They won’t strengthen your Achilles or the surrounding muscles, which might only perpetuate your issue.

On the other hand, barefoot-type shoes will only exacerbate ongoing Achilles tendonitis. Once the pain has passed, though, these shoes will be excellent for increasing strength and resilience in your feet and ankles. Some experts even advise running barefoot. The more shoe you have, the less the muscles will be used, deteriorating your strength and stability. Wearing no shoes undeniably causes all of the muscles to activate.

Overdoing it in any direction will cause problems. Instead, aim to have and wear a variety of shoes depending on your needs and the condition of your Achilles tendon.

A Couple of Tips

When switching out your running shoes, don’t overlook these tips.

  •   Switch to new shoes gradually, especially those with a heel drop 4mm (or more) different from your existing shoe. Too sudden of a change could only cause more problems and pain.
  •   Don’t wear your new shoes consistently. Rotate your new shoes into your lineup, don’t try to break them in by using them day in and day out.
  •   Walking around in shoes with a higher heel drop or more cushion can help with more severe tendonitis. If your Achilles is very irritated, wearing extra supportive and cushioned shoes not just to run but also to walk in might reduce your pain more quickly.
  •   Don’t forget about variability in your terrain. Changing the terrain you run on, just like you switch up your shoes, might work to both alleviate and strengthen your tendons and muscles.

When combined with a great pair (or two!) of shoes, these tips should help keep Achilles tendonitis at bay.

Written by Mark

Having researched and advised on hundreds of footwear products, I'm confident you'll find my articles insightful to the most common questions that's currently being asked online.

November 28, 2021

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