Achilles tendon pain; a familiar foe to runners. Some athletes push through the discomfort while others take time to rest and heal. If you’re the former, you may be wondering how to run with Achilles tendon pain.
But before we dive into the techniques of running with Achilles tendonitis and other issues, let’s take a look at whether you should continue running or not.
When Can and Can’t You Run with Achilles Pain?
In the previous that addressed the question ‘Can I run with Achilles tendonitis‘, I explain that the Achilles tendon is a thick band of tissue that connects your calf muscle to your heel bone. As it plays a major role in leg mobility and running, it is prone to injury and irritation. Sometimes, overuse can lead to inflammation and discomfort. Other times, a more serious injury like a rupture may occur. The severity of the issue and the pain you feel should determine whether or not you should push through a workout.
If you notice that your Achilles tendon is causing minor discomfort in the form of an ache or lingering tightness, then running might still be okay. Mild Achilles tendonitis, stiff or tight Achilles, or general Achilles irritation is usually not a reason to stop running altogether.
Moderate to severe pain should cause you to rethink going for a run. This could indicate an Achilles rupture or tear. Running with either of these ailments is not advisable. In most cases, injuries like these require surgical repair.
As long as you notice a pattern with your Achilles discomfort, flaring immediately post-run and then dissipating as you rest, and the pain is never too severe, you can likely continue to complete your running workouts.
How to Run with Achilles Tendonitis
Pre Run & Preparation
So you’ve decided that you’re okay to run; now what? You’ll want to take extra steps to prepare for your run when dealing with Achilles pain.
- • Warm-Up. Warming up is essential to mitigating Achilles aches, especially if they’re a result of tendon tightness. You can try physically warming the area with heat packs or warm water. Then, you will want to spend some time stretching. Pre-run, focus on gentle yet active stretching.
- • Try Taping. Taping, whether with kinesiology tape or athletic tape could make a difference in your pain. Athletic tape is a way to provide rigid support to the tendon, helping brace it during runs. KT tape is believed to improve circulation while offering light support, ultimately promoting healing. If you want to find out which one is best for you, check out our Achilles tendon taping article.
- • Consider Strengthening Exercises. Adding in a few weekly strength sessions may help get your legs in better shape for running. Movements that increase leg strength, especially calf strength, can be beneficial. Stronger legs may help to combat some of the stress that your Achilles experiences during running.
Taking some time to prepare your tendons, muscles, and other structures before you run may help to reduce your Achilles pain during and after a workout.
Is there any way to alleviate Achilles’s pain while running? Generally, runners aren’t advised to make any major changes abruptly as it could do more harm than good. However, you could consider gradually testing out a few of these techniques.
• Check Your Shoes. Some runners experience less Achilles pain with ultra-supportive shoes like Hoka, others swear by their minimalist Nike Free Runs. But the best shoe for you is ultimately the most comfortable one. You probably don’t need to switch up your shoes too much, though you should check that they’re not worn down.
Some experts argue that a larger heel-to-toe drop (in excess of 10 mm) might reduce the load and impact inflicted on your Achilles tendon, which is something to think about. Even if you swear by your lightweight no-drop shoes, you could always add heel lifts to temporarily reduce loading.
• Consider Your Form. There is a lot that goes into play with your Achilles tendon and running. Tight calves, hip tightness, weak glutes and more can all overload the tendon, straining it and causing pain.
If you’re a diehard forefoot runner you may be causing tightness in your calves and as a result, irritating your Achilles. On the other hand, runners with weak hamstrings and hips or tightness through the hips and posterior chain could be placing too much load on the calf muscles and Achilles as a result of pushing off with the ankle and heel.
That being said, foot strike largely comes down to a runner’s preference. Somewhere between a heel and a midfoot strike, while paying attention to leg strength and mobility might help reduce Achilles tendon pain.
If you’d like to learn more about running with Achilles tendonitis, then head to our next article which talks about how to tape your Achilles tendon for running.