As a runner, your closet is likely bursting with running shoes. Some have a few miles, and some have a lot. Each pair probably has a different drop, toe box, and other features. Sometimes when lacing up, you might feel some discomfort in your Achilles tendon, begging the question, can running shoes cause Achilles tendonitis?
We all love the reliable pair of shoes that carry us through mile after mile. Unfortunately, there may be some correlation between your shoes and Achilles pain.
Achilles tendonitis usually presents as tendon stiffness, pain, swelling, and discomfort during or after your runs. The irritation isn’t to be confused with the more severe pain accompanying a tendon rupture. If your pain doesn’t dissipate after your run or makes it difficult to complete everyday activities, your issue could be more severe.
If your Achilles discomfort is minor, and you believe it is linked to Achilles tendonitis, then here are a few tips to help find the best running shoes for Achilles tendonitis.
Why Running Shoes Can Cause Achilles Tendonitis.
Running shoes can help alleviate some of the load on your Achilles tendon. But if you’re not experiencing ongoing tendon issues, the wrong shoes may cause problems.
Heel Lifts and Rocker Shoes
In our other Achilles articles, we’ve talked a bit about shoes with heel lifts or a higher drop. If you have active Achilles pain, a shoe with a more supportive heel, usually in the form of a higher drop, may help your ankle. However, wearing this type of shoe all the time may not be the best idea.
Shoes with a lot of heel support or a rocker shape work to reduce the load on your ankle and Achilles tendon. This can affect other areas of your foot, gait, and form. Some experts believe it can cause deterioration in the small muscles of your foot, which harms your reaction time, stability, and strain placed on the larger muscles of your leg.
Bottom line? These shoes are great for short-term use, especially when your Achilles is painful, but they might have adverse side effects if used long-term.
Tight Toe Boxes
Most runners like the feel of a roomier toe box, but some don’t. If you’re not a fan of letting your toes splay out, know that squishing them in a tight toe box could affect your Achilles tendon.
There isn’t an exact scientific link between tight toe boxes and Achilles problems, but experts know that foot stability is strongly linked to your big toe. If your big toe is stuffed into a tight toe box and squished into a pointed shape with your other toes, it may not be able to help you balance properly. Which, you guessed it, could strain your Achilles tendon.
New, Stiff, Shoes
Don’t be too eager to break in those new running shoes by wearing them for every run. Stiff shoes, usually those that are brand new, might lead to your foot over-rotating, irritating your tendon. Achilles tendonitis can be common with runners who turn their feet too far inwards when they contact the ground, known as overpronating. Stiff shoes only exacerbate this issue.
Always Wearing the Same Pair of Running Shoes.
Speaking of wearing the same pair of shoes for every run, not rotating your tennis could cause problems. Having a variety of running shoes consisting of different brands, heel drops, and other features is a great way to keep your body figuratively on its toes.
Variability in your shoe choice tends not to place too much strain or too little on any one area of your body. You can change your shoe choice by day or try and tailor your pairs to your needs, i.e., wearing a more supportive shoe when your Achilles does act up.
What About Barefoot Running?
Just because shoes could cause an Achilles issue doesn’t mean you should forgo them altogether. A few runners argue that supportive shoes act as a crutch, weakening your ankle and forcing you to ultimately rely on them to keep Achilles’ issues at bay.
However, wearing minimal shoes or no shoes at all requires your Achilles to do a lot of work. Each time you push off the ground, eventually lowering your heel, your Achilles has to contract. Suppose it isn’t flexible or strong; this eccentric contraction while running might result in discomfort and irritation. We talk more about eccentric strengthening in this article if you want to learn more!
In the end, either extreme, too much support, or too little, should be avoided. Varying your running shoes can be the best way to prevent Achilles’ problems.
If you’d like to read more about running with Achilles tendonitis, then you will find my article interesting which answers the question; Can I run with Achilles tendonitis?