Before you start your running workout, it’s a good idea to stretch and warm up. One body part, in particular, can benefit from a good pre-run warm-up; your Achilles tendon!
This tendon can be especially bothersome to runners if it is irritated or injured. Dedicating time before your run to warm and loosen it up may help prevent future Achilles issues.
Why Warm Up Your Achilles Tendon?
Your Achilles tendon can be thought of as a rubber band connecting your calf muscles to your heel. It takes a lot of stress and load during running.
If you don’t take time to warm up that rubber band and you overexert it while it’s still tight and cold, you could cause injury. Achilles tendon issues can span from minor irritation to devastating injuries, laying you up for months. Taking the time to properly prepare the Achilles for running is an essential part of a running warm-up.
How to Warm Up Your Achilles Tendon Before Running.
Some of these moves are static while others are dynamic. Both types are beneficial to runners looking to prepare their Achilles tendon for a running workout.
The calf stretch is a classic. It helps to warm up all structures found in the lower leg. By playing with the direction of your toes, either pointing them inwards or outwards, you can really target the Achilles tendon.
- • Stand slightly further than arm’s length away from a wall
- • Leaning forward, place your hands on the wall. Your heels should lift slightly off the ground.
- • Slowly lower each heel, one at a time, until you feel a stretch.
- • Hold each heel lowered for 15-20 seconds, repeating a few times on each leg
- • Alternate the direction of your toes are pointed as necessary (pointing in or out)
This can be performed with your hands if you can reach your feet, or using a towel or band. Some runners find that sitting and bending their leg, so their heel rests on the ground, then pulling their big toe specifically towards their shin more accurately targets their Achilles.
- • Sit on the floor and extend both legs out in front of you
- • Grab your foot, or loop a towel or band around the mid to upper portion
- • Pull the foot back towards you gently until you feel a stretch
- • Hold for 15-20 seconds and repeat on the other leg
This stretch is very much like the traditional calf stretch. However, it can be much easier on your shoulders, arms, and back.
- • Stand as close to a wall as possible, so that the toes of one leg are up the wall and your heel is on the floor
- • Lean forward towards the wall until you feel a stretch in your calves
- • Hold 15-20 seconds and repeat on the other leg
Heel Raise and Lower
This dynamic stretch not only warms up your Achilles but strengthens your calves too.
- • Standing on a step or elevated platform and holding on to a wall for support, place the ball of one or both feet on the edge of the step
- • Let your heel drop down, holding for 15-20 seconds
- • Rise onto the balls of your feet and hold for 15-20 seconds
- • Slowly perform a few repetitions
- • This exercise can be performed on flat ground as well; rising to the balls of your feet, holding, then lowering back to the floor.
Ankle Flex and Extend
This can assist with ankle mobility as well as tight Achilles and calves.
- • Lie flat on the ground and raise one leg to ninety degrees, alternatively, sit in a chair and extend one leg to ninety degrees
- • Point your toes away from you slowly (extension) then, bring your toes back towards your shin slowly (flexion)
- • Complete this movement 15 – 20 times on each leg
Similar to the flexion and extension exercise, rotating the ankles helps warm up the area and release tension.
- • Lying on the ground or sitting, bring your leg to ninety degrees from your torso
- • Draw a circle in the air, rotating your ankle in one direction, 15-20 times before rotating in the other direction
- • Repeat on the other leg
What Happens If You Don’t Warm Up?
Failing to warm-up, or cold starting your run, doesn’t allow your body to properly prepare for the stresses of running. This may make you more prone to injury.
Whether you prefer static stretching or a dynamic warm-up, either can be effective in potentially reducing injury and keeping your runs pain-free.
Next in our series is a great piece about how to strengthen your Achilles tendon for running. You will find things in there that you may not have thought of, and most can be done from home too.