How to Strengthen the Achilles Tendon for Running.

Ward off Achilles pain and injuries with these excellent strengthening exercises! Whether you’re a new runner or a veteran, you’re probably aware of how troublesome your Achilles tendon can be.

Things like overuse, failing to warm up, and intense hill or speed workouts can all put a strain on your Achilles. These circumstances may lead to discomfort, swelling, and pain. But what if you could prevent some of these issues? Dedicating a couple of training sessions to Achilles strengthening each week will undoubtedly help you comfortably log those extra miles!

Can You Strengthen the Achilles Tendon?

You might be wondering if you can strengthen your Achilles. The answer is yes, but given that it is a tendon, it won’t strengthen as quickly as muscles. Because it can take longer to build strength in your Achilles, it is also important to target the tendon’s surrounding muscles and structures.

Calf and heel exercises are commonly used to help decrease Achilles tendon issues. Additionally, weak or tight hips, hamstrings, and glutes can lead to tendon discomfort. If, for instance, you have weaknesses in these surrounding areas too, then it is equally as important to stretch and train them at the same time.

 

How to Strengthen Achilles Tendon For Running.

Some of these moves might seem like stretches, but they are working to protect your Achilles. Known as eccentric exercises that contract and then lengthen the tendon and nearby structures, a more robust and flexible Achilles is the desired result.

Heel Drops

  •    Stand on a step, bench, or sturdy platform
  •    Holding onto a railing or wall for support, place the balls of your feet on the edge, letting your heels hang
  •    Slowly lower your heel(s) to the ground or the step below you. You can do this exercise one foot at a time or both feet together.
  •    Lift yourself back up slowly to the starting position
  •    Repeat 10-15 times

Heel Lifts

  •    Standing on the ground, shift your weight to the ball of your feet
  •    Slowly raise your heels off the ground
  •    Hold for a few moments at the top, then lower your heels back down slowly
  •    Repeat 10-15 times
  •    Try completing this exercise while holding a tennis ball between your ankles to increase the workout. Doing it like this will shift your weight to your big toe, helping to stabilize your knee and arch, reducing the load on your Achilles when running.

Achilles Band Stretch

  •    Using a towel or light resistance band, sit on the floor with both legs extended in front of you
  •    Loop the towel or band around the ball of one foot
  •    Gently pull your foot back towards you using the towel or band
  •    Hold for a few seconds, then release
  •    Repeat 10-15 times on each leg

 

The next set of exercises doesn’t target the Achilles but is still highly beneficial to runners. By strengthening the muscles surrounding the Achilles, they help to reduce the strain on your tendon.

Shoulder Press On One Leg

  •    Hold a light dumbbell in one hand
  •    Raise the opposite leg of the hand holding the dumbbell to ninety degrees
  •    With control, press the dumbbell overhead, then return it to its starting position at your shoulder
  •    Focus on stabilizing the knee and ankle of the standing leg
  •    Complete this exercise twenty times on each side as two reps of ten

Single-Leg Balance

  •    Using a balance board or Bosu ball, stand tall and focus on a point straight ahead
  •    Keeping your balance, lift one leg
  •    Attempt to balance on one leg for 10-20 seconds, eventually progressing to 60 seconds
  •    Focus on stabilizing the knee and ankle of the standing leg
  •    Repeat on the other leg

 

This final set of exercises involve weight machines to provide your legs with heavy resistance, strengthening the muscles and tendons. Because these exercises can strain your tendon, it is recommended that you first seek the guidance of a physical therapist.

Seated Calf Raise

  •    Seated at a calf raise machine with both feet on the plate, select a weight at which you can do 10-15 repetitions
  •    Slowly rise onto your toes, lifting the weight, and then lower your heels back down
  •    Perform 1-2 sets trying to increase your weight weekly

Heel Raise on Leg Press

  •    Seated at a leg press with your legs straight and your feet shoulder-width apart, choose a weight that you can complete 15 repetitions with
  •    Slowly push up onto the balls of your feet to your toes
  •    Then, slowly lower back to your heels
  •    Perform 1-2 sets trying to increase your weight weekly

 

Next Article:

If you’ve joined us late in the series about running with Achilles tendonitis, then take a look at our article which answers the question; can running shoes cause Achilles tendonitis, or not?

 

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.

December 5, 2021

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