You eagerly lace up your running shoes and head out the door, only to discover an annoying ache above your heel that gets worse the further you go. Unfortunately, many runners will experience Achilles tendonitis at one time or another.
This pesky problem can really put a dent in your training cycle, leaving you to wonder, can I run with Achilles tendonitis? Yes, you can run with Achilles tendonitis. However, it isn’t always advisable. Let’s find out why.
What is Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis is when the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed. This tendon connects the muscles in the back of your leg (your calf) to your heel. It is responsible for assisting with all leg movement, including running. Overuse may lead to Achilles tendonitis.
Because it is an overuse injury, you may not want to continue running. Plenty of runners encounter this issue during a training cycle when they are increasing their mileage and the frequency of their running. How severe your case of Achilles tendonitis is will affect whether or not you should take a break from running.
Achilles tendonitis pain can range from nagging discomfort to severe pain. You may notice mild irritation during or after runs. More pronounced pain may be followed by especially long or challenging runs, sprint work, or stair climbs. Achilles tendonitis can cause the affected tendon to not only become inflamed but tight and tense too.
Therefore, you might notice that the back of your heel and calf feel a bit stiff in the morning or after long periods of inactivity. Generally, this stiffness will go away as you move around more, gentle runs may even help to loosen things up. However, a severe case might affect your gait while running, causing a host of other issues.
Can I Run with Achilles Tendonitis?
The majority of runners won’t let Achilles tendonitis stop them from running; though you need to decide what is best for your health. Here are a few considerations to think about.
> Pain Level. If the ache is more than mildly uncomfortable, you may want to back off your runs. Extremely severe pain should be evaluated by a doctor.
> Predictability. Does your pain ease during your non-running days? If your tendon becomes less irritated as time passes since your last run, you can probably continue training. As long as the pattern remains consistent, flaring with a run then improving post-run, running might be okay.
> Form. When you first start on your run, your Achilles might feel a bit tight. If it relaxes and loosens up as your run progresses, then there usually isn’t a need to stop running. However, if it is noticeably affecting your gait for the majority or all of your run, you may need to think about taking a break.
> Appearance and Feel. This can be tricky to determine, but a thickening of the Achilles tendon definitely means it is time to stop running. Additionally, bruising, redness, or swelling are cause for concern.
Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Achilles Tendonitis
What happens if you continue to push through the pain and run with Achilles tendonitis? You risk causing a rupture or tear to your Achilles tendon. Not only will this likely lay you up for quite a while, but it could require surgical repair.
Precautions for Running with Achilles Tendonitis
Taking these steps when dealing with Achilles discomfort can help ease the pain and reduce injury.
- • Warm-up before activity with gentle, active stretching. Make sure your muscles are physically warm too, using heat packs or warm water if necessary.
- • Apply ice post-run to help reduce swelling and inflammation.
- • Before heading to bed warm up your muscles with a hot pack or warm water then engage in some light foam rolling to further reduce tightness.
- • Pay close attention to your pain level; reducing running frequency and duration as necessary.
Can Achilles Tendonitis Be Prevented?
There isn’t a guaranteed way to prevent Achilles tendonitis, but these methods may reduce your chances of dealing with this annoying issue.
- • Strength Train. Cross-training, especially strengthening your calf muscles, may help your tendons and muscles handle stress better.
- • Stretch Often. Stretching before your runs is important, but also try to include stretching into your daily routine; even your off days.
- • Wear Quality Shoes. Make sure that your shoes have adequate arch support and heel cushioning. Don’t run in worn-down and overused running shoes.
- • Increase Slowly. Don’t add too much mileage too fast. Also, gradually increase the frequency of your running days, taking breaks to allow your body to recover.
Paying attention to your body while running can not only help prevent Achilles tendonitis but allow you to manage it more effectively if you find yourself stricken with this common running problem.
If you’d like to read more advise about running with achilles tendonitis, then take a look at the next article in our sequence about How to run with achilles tendonitis.