How to reduce your risk of developing Achilles tendon pain

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Did you know you can run pain-free!

It can happen to an ancient Greek warrior, a world class athlete or you the recreational runner! That’s right, that unassuming, tough little tendon that attaches to your heel bone can become painful and stop you from doing the thing you love… running! And when it does; it’s a bugger to treat… So, here are top 5 tips to reduce your risk of developing Achilles tendon pain.


  • Avoid sudden spikes in training 

Tendons consist of mainly type 1 collagen fibres, water and proteins. Running stimulates a slow process of both collagen growth and disruption, which usually lasts for several days post workout. Sudden spikes in training load without sufficient recovery between sessions, has the potential to overload the tendon, causing pain and swelling. The amount of load that causes tendon pain is not clear and will vary between clients, however I’ll often suggest having a recovery day between high intensity training sessions to minimise the risk of injury.


  • Train consistently and incrementally increase your longer runs

Research shows that rapidly increasing training volume will increase your risk of developing Achilles tendon pain. Therefore, train consistently and incrementally increase your overall training volume on a week-by-week basis. This will ensure that you build robust tendons and will leave you better prepared for race day. To minimize the risk of injury, it’s recommend that you increase your weekly training load by 10%.


  • Perform isolated heavy slow strength exercises

Specific strength exercises will reduce your risk of developing Achilles tendon pain and will enable you to train consistently over the months leading up to your race. A specific Achilles tendon strength program will stimulate collagen growth, tendon size, stiffness and durability.  All of which will reduce your risk of injury and improve your running form. Check out Shaun’s blog (Strength training for the endurance runner), where he outlines the major benefits of incorporating a progressive strength training program into your weekly training schedule.


  • Include plyometric exercises in your training schedule

Running involves repetitive lengthening and shortening of the Achilles – calf muscle tendon unit. Energy is stored within the tendon during the lengthening phase and transmitted back to the foot during the shortening phase. Research shows that a stiffer Achilles tendon stores and releases energy more effectively and is less susceptible to injury. Therefore, plyometric exercises which replicate this stretch shortening cycle will reduce your injury risk and improve your overall running economy.


  • Strike with your heels

Achilles tendon load is influenced by your foot strike. Whilst most runners make initial ground contact with their heel, others make initial contact with their forefoot. Runners that habitually land on their forefoot demonstrate greater Achilles tendon forces (approx. 30% increase) compared to those who land on their rearfoot. Therefore, if you’re a runner who continuously lands on their forefoot then you maybe at increased risk of developing Achilles tendon pain.


Blog written by Shaun Clements APA Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist and member of the SquareOne Performance Physiotherapy team.

If you want to know how Shaun can help you with these top tips, book an appointment with him now.
9968 3424 or book online.

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