You have thousands of tendons all over your body. Their job is to connect muscles to bone, which gives your musculoskeletal system the ability to move. Some even help absorb impact for muscles during activities, like jumping and running.
In your lower leg, this important job falls to the Achilles tendon, the tough tissue attaching calf muscles to the heel bone.
The Achilles tendon may be strong and flexible, like ropes, but it’s not invincible. Like all tendons, it can only sustain so much stress and strain. When pushed too far, it can tear — an injury that can take a long time to heal.
Our team at Premier Foot and Ankle Center & Elite Upper Extremity and Plastic Surgery treats people of all ages for issues involving feet, ankles, fingers, hands, wrists, and elbows. And, as sports medicine specialists, we often see active individuals with Achilles tendonitis.
Fortunately, understanding your risk for this condition can help you take measures to avoid injury and lengthy recovery times. In this blog, we explain Achilles tendonitis and preventive steps to help you keep this tendon injury-free.
Understanding your risk for Achilles tendonitis
Unlike other injuries, Achilles tendonitis develops from overuse and repetitive or intense stress on the tendon. The first sign of Achilles tendonitis is often a mild ache above the heel or in the back of the calf.
Once injured, your Achilles tendon can cause discomfort and throw off your stride for months.
Since Achilles tendonitis is due to overuse and strain, it often afflicts runners. In most cases, it develops when they increase the duration or intensity of their runs too quickly.
Similarly, it’s a common problem for weekend warriors in their middle-aged years who engage in sports once or twice a week.
Other risk factors for Achilles tendonitis include:
- Advancing age
- Being overweight, obese, or male
- Having flat feet or medical conditions, like high blood pressure or psoriasis
- Taking certain medications, like fluoroquinolones antibiotics
Training in cold weather, running hills, or wearing improper footwear also increases your chances of developing Achilles tendonitis.
How to avoid Achilles tendonitis
Once you understand your risk of Achilles tendonitis, you can take steps to protect yourself from injury. The first stop? Wearing the right shoes for your activity.
Whether you run, play tennis, or walk your dog regularly, your footwear is your first line of defense when it comes to protective gear. More simply put, the correct shoes absorb some of the pressure and impact activity places on your feet, ankles, and legs.
They also keep you comfortable and improve your performance. If you perform a specific activity more than two times each week, you should be wearing proper shoes while you do it.
We recommend working with an expert when choosing the best shoe for your foot type and activity. For example, a runner should go to a running store, and a tennis player should head to the tennis shop.
You can also work with an experienced podiatrist at our office to get personalized guidance.
Additional tips for purchasing shoes to avoid Achilles tendonitis include:
- Trying shoes on after a workout or at the end of the day
- Making sure the back of the shoe provides grip and heel stability
- Having enough room in the front to wiggle your toes
- Walking on different surfaces when trying them on
- Trying on both shoes to ensure they fit each foot properly
Once you have the right shoes for your activity, replace them often. Athletic shoes break down over time, especially under stressful activities like running. Replacing them regularly guarantees they maintain optimal function and support.
Proper footwear is the first step to avoiding Achilles tendonitis. But if you have a history of the condition or concerns about your risks, we can create a personalized treatment strategy to keep you in peak performance. This could include daily stretches, calf strengthening exercises, custom orthotics, or training recommendations.
No one wants to miss a run or the big game because of injury. Fortunately, you don’t have to. Call us for more information about our sports medicine services, or schedule a consultation in Worcester or Webster, Massachusetts, today.