Understanding Achilles Tendonitis in Runners

Last Updated: January 01, 2024 | Author: James Leigh

Achilles tendonitis is a common running injury that affects many runners, causing achilles pain, discomfort, and frustration. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatments of Achilles tendonitis in runners, as well as provide expert advice and preventative measures to help you stay injury-free and enjoy your running journey. So, let's dive right in and gain a deeper understanding of this complex condition.

Achilles Tendonitis in Runners

Table of Contents

  1. What is Achilles Tendonitis?

  2. Causes of Achilles Tendonitis in Runners

  3. Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis

  4. Diagnosing Achilles Tendonitis

  5. Treatment Options for Achilles Tendonitis

  6. Preventing Achilles Tendonitis in Runners

  7. When to Consult a Medical Professional

  8. FAQs about Achilles Tendonitis in Runners

  9. Resources and References

What is Achilles Tendonitis?

What is Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is an overuse injury that involves inflammation, swelling, and irritation of the Achilles tendon, which is the longest, strongest, and thickest tendon in the body. The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to your heel bone and is responsible for transferring force when you run, jump, or walk.

There are two types of Achilles tendonitis, non-insertional and insertional. Non-insertional Achilles tendonitis occurs in the middle portion of the tendon and is more common in younger and active individuals. Insertional Achilles tendonitis, on the other hand, affects the lower leg part of the tendon where it inserts into the heel bone and can happen at any age, regardless of activity level.

Causes of Achilles Tendonitis in Runners

Causes of Achilles Tendonitis in Runners

There isn't a single cause for Achilles tendonitis in runners. Instead, various factors can contribute to its development. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Training errors:

    Sudden increases in running mileage or intensity, running on uneven or hard surfaces, and inadequate recovery are all potential causes of Achilles tendonitis in runners.

  • Biomechanical abnormalities:

    Issues with foot mechanics, such as overpronation, weak calf muscles, or limited ankle flexibility can increase the risk of developing this condition.

  • Inappropriate footwear:

    Running in shoes that do not provide adequate support or cushioning can also lead to Achilles tendonitis in runners.

  • Medical conditions:

    Certain medical issues, such as tight calf muscles, flat feet, or obesity, can contribute to the development of Achilles tendonitis.

Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis

Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis presents with several common symptoms, including:

  • Achilles Pain: Pain is usually the first symptom of Achilles tendonitis. Runners often report experiencing a gradual onset of pain around the heel or along the Achilles tendon during or after running. The pain may be mild at first and worsen over time, particularly after long runs, hill running, or high-speed training.

  • Stiffness and Tenderness: Individuals with Achilles tendonitis often experience stiffness and tenderness, particularly in the morning or after periods of inactivity. This may be accompanied by a noticeable thickening of the Achilles tendon.

  • Swelling: Swelling along the Achilles tendon or at the back of the heel is a common symptom of Achilles tendonitis. The swelling may be constant or it may come and go, often worsening with activity.

  • Reduced Range of Motion: Some runners may notice a reduced range of motion in the affected foot, particularly when flexing the foot upwards towards the shin.

  • Audible Sound: In some cases, individuals with Achilles tendonitis may hear a creaking or crackling sound when moving the affected ankle or pressing on the Achilles tendon.

  • Increased Discomfort After Running: Discomfort or pain may increase immediately after a run, particularly if you've been running on hard surfaces or have been doing a lot of uphill or high-intensity running.

  • Inflamed Skin: Skin over the Achilles tendon may appear red and feel warm to the touch.

It's important to remember that these symptoms can also be associated with other Achilles tendon injuries such as Achilles tendinopathy or an Achilles tendon tear. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, particularly if they're not improving with rest, it's important to seek medical advice to ensure a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Diagnosing Achilles Tendonitis

Diagnosing Achilles Tendonitis

If you suspect you have Achilles tendonitis, it's essential to get a proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional. They will typically perform an examination in which they'll ask about your symptoms and evaluate the range of motion and strength of the affected leg. In some cases, additional tests, such as ultrasound or MRI, may be recommended to visualize the extent of the injured tendon.

Treatment Options for Achilles Tendonitis

Treatment Options for Achilles Tendonitis

Treating Achilles tendon injuries is mainly conservative, with a focus on reducing pain and inflammation and promoting healing. Some of the most common treatments include:

  • Rest:

    Reducing or stopping the activities causing the pain is the first step in treating Achilles tendonitis. This does not necessarily mean complete rest, but rather, avoiding running and focusing on low-impact exercises, such as swimming or cycling.

  • Ice and compression:

    Applying ice to the affected area for 20 minutes several times a day, combined with compression, can help reduce swelling and inflammation.

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers:

    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can help control achilles tendon pain and inflammation.

  • Physical therapy:

    A licensed physical therapist can provide targeted exercises to strengthen your calf muscles and improve your ankle's range of motion, creating a more stable environment for your Achilles tendon.

  • Orthotic devices and footwear:

    Using shoe inserts or custom orthotics can help correct foot imbalances, reduce stress on the Achilles tendon, and promote proper alignment.

Preventing Achilles Tendonitis in Runners

Preventing Achilles Tendonitis in Runners

Preventing Achilles tendinitis involves implementing several strategies to reduce the risk of achilles injury, including:

  • Gradually increasing training:

    Avoid abrupt increases in mileage or intensity, and instead, follow the 10% rule, where you increase your running mileage by no more than 10% per week.

  • Performing regular stretching and strengthening exercises:

    Focusing on exercises that target calf muscles and improve ankle flexibility can help prevent Achilles tendinitis.

  • Wearing proper running shoes:

    Invest in high-quality, ideal running shoes for achilles relief designed for your specific foot mechanics and replace them regularly to ensure they provide the necessary support.

  • Cross-training:

    Avoid overloading your Achilles tendons by incorporating different types of exercises, such as swimming, cycling, or yoga, into your fitness routine.

  • Proper warm-up:

    Engaging in a thorough warm-up before running, including dynamic stretches and low-intensity exercises, can help prepare your muscles and tendons for the activity.

  • Incorporating rest days:

    Scheduling rest and recovery days into your training regimen can help prevent overuse injuries, such as Achilles tendonitis.

When to Consult a Medical Professional

When to Consult a Medical Professional

It's crucial to recognize when it's time to seek help from a medical professional. If you're experiencing persistent or worsening symptoms, despite attempting conservative treatments, you should consult a healthcare provider. Additionally, consult a doctor if:

  • You're experiencing severe pain or swelling.

  • You're unable to walk or perform your regular activities.

  • Your symptoms have not improved after several weeks of conservative treatment.

A healthcare provider will be able to provide a thorough evaluation and recommend a treatment plan tailored to your specific condition and symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I continue to run with Achilles tendonitis?

It depends on the severity of your symptoms and your healthcare provider's recommendations. In most cases, it's best to decrease or stop running for a period to allow the tendon to heal. Your healthcare provider will be able to give you guidance on when it's appropriate to resume running.

How long does it take to recover from Achilles tendonitis?

Recovery time from Achilles tendonitis can vary significantly, depending on the severity of the injury and the individual's healing rate. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months for symptoms to resolve completely, with appropriate treatment and rest.

Are there any long-term complications if Achilles tendonitis is not treated properly?

If left untreated or managed incorrectly, Achilles tendonitis can lead to chronic pain and tendon degeneration, known as tendinosis. In extreme cases, this can lead to an Achilles tendon rupture, requiring surgical intervention and a prolonged recovery period.

How can I tell the difference between Achilles tendonitis and Achilles tendon rupture?

An Achilles tendon rupture typically presents with sudden, severe pain after a forceful movement, such as sprinting or jumping. People often describe the sensation as feeling like they've been "kicked" or "struck" in the back of the ankle. In contrast, Achilles tendonitis symptoms are more gradual and develop over time due to overuse.

What is the best type of footwear for preventing Achilles tendonitis in runners?

The most appropriate type of footwear may vary for different runners, depending on their foot mechanics and individual needs. However, in general, look for shoes that provide adequate cushioning, support, and stability, including features such as arch support, a firm heel counter, and shock absorption.


Understanding Achilles tendonitis and taking the necessary prevention measures are crucial for runners who want to stay pain-free and maintain their athletic performance. By recognizing the causes, symptoms, and appropriate treatments for this condition, runners can tackle their goals with confidence and minimize the risk of injury.

Don't let Achilles tendonitis hold you back from achieving your running goals. Equip yourself with the knowledge and tools necessary to prevent, treat, and overcome this common injury, and enjoy a healthy, fulfilling running experience.

At BestRunningAccessories.com, we're dedicated to providing runners with the latest and most accurate information on injury prevention, training, and gear. Our team of certified experts and passionate runners regularly update our content to ensure you get the best advice possible, so you can make the most informed choices for your running journey.

Resources and References

  1. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). (2020). Achilles Tendinitis - https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/achilles-tendinitis/
  2. American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). (n.d.). Achilles Tendon Injuries - https://www.choosept.com/symptomsconditionsdetail/achilles-tendon-injuries-tendinopathy
  3. Harvard Medical School. (2018). Achilles tendinitis - Don't let the pain worsen - https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/achilles-tendinitis-a-to-z
  4. Mayo Clinic. (2017). Achilles tendinitis - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/achilles-tendinitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20369020
  5. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). (2016). Achilles Tendon Rupture: Avoiding Tendon Lengthening during Surgical Repair and Rehabilitation - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5095935/
  6. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. (2018). Management of Acute Achilles Tendon Rupture - https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2325967118818064
  7. Runner's World. (2019). Get on Top of Achilles Tendonitis= https://www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a20816261/how-to-treat-achilles-tendonitis/

These resources are provided by well-respected organizations and publications in the field of sports medicine, orthopedics, and running, providing valuable and trustworthy information on the prevention, management, and treatment of Achilles tendonitis in runners. We have carefully selected and reviewed these resources to ensure that our content is accurate, reliable, and up-to-date to meet the needs of our readers.

Author Box
James Leigh

James Leigh

James Leigh is a certified health professional, physiotherapist, and a seasoned runner who wins Boston Marathon, with a wealth of experience under his belt. Passionate about sharing his expertise with fellow runners. James is your go-to expert for your health, wellness and running tips.