Your Achilles tendon runs down the back of your lower leg, connecting the heel and calf muscle. It is the strongest tendon in the human body, able to withstand forces of over 1,000 pounds. It is also, believe it or not, the most commonly injured tendon. When the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed, it swells and causes intense pain in the calf area. This is known as Achilles tendonitis and it affects both professional athletes and “weekend warriors” alike.
Achilles tendonitis is a condition that we treat frequently at Edmond/Norman Foot & Ankle Clinic. Here are five major causes of the disorder and what you can do about them:
- Suddenly increasing your running or walking routine—whether adding miles or upping your speed, if you do too much too quickly, you’re like to aggravate your Achilles tendon. Start gradually, especially if you haven’t exercised in a long time and work up in small increments.
- Not stretching—take the time to really stretch the muscles and tendons in your feet and legs before you start exercising to reduce the likelihood of inflaming your Achilles tendon. If you need some suggestions for specific stretches, click here.
- Inappropriate Footwear—the shoes and sneakers you wear need to be supportive and designed for the specific activity you are doing. Our board certified foot and ankle doctor, Bil Buksh, DPM can evaluate your feet and your gait and make suggestions regarding the best shoes for your particular feet and walk.
- Stairs and hill climbing—walking up stairs and climbing hills puts excessive strain on the Achilles tendon and entire calf area. If this is a big part of your fitness routine or your day-to-day life, you are more prone to developing issues with your Achilles tendon.
- Overuse—too much repetitive strain on the tendon due to a sport or other activity can also cause inflammation and pain. Rest and alternating activities (swimming with walking, for example) can reduce the strain on the Achilles tendon.