If you regularly find yourself suffering from a consistent pain in your heel that simply won't fade away - no matter what you do, then you could have a problem with your Achilles tendon. The bane of runners and triathletes everywhere, Achilles heel pain is a common issue that occurs through overuse of the ankles, calves, and feet. The chances are that if you've struggled to shuffle out of bed on a morning after a particularly grueling exercise session - you've already felt the burn of Achilles tendinopathy.
Although many of us think about the impact that running has on our knees and calves - leading to the purchase of professional compression sleeves, we often forget the damage that can be caused by chronic overuse of the Achilles tendon. However, Achilles tendinopathy is one of the three most common injuries reported by runners and triathletes.
So how do you cure Achilles heel pain, and what's the secret to preventing these problems from occurring in the first place?
Address it Before It Becomes Chronic
The first thing to keep in mind is that you'll need to take steps to cure Achilles heel pain before the condition becomes chronic. While the injury itself is characterized in some people by its chronicity, conservative treatment through exercise can be effective in treating most people who suffer from Achilles tendinopathy. Unfortunately, as unappealing as it might sound to someone struggling with severe pain, successful treatment of an Achilles injury has to involve some degree of rest. In other words, you might have to stop running and take up other - less impactful sports for a while - such as cycling or swimming.
What Causes Achilles Pain
If you want to know how to cure Achilles heel pain, it's also worth learning which risk factors can cause it in the first place. For example, this particular injury is often seen in people who stick to the minimalist running style that involves landing on the forefoot. Various studies suggest that there's an increase of foot injuries and Achilles pain in people who use this kind of foot strike. In other words, if you want to cure Achilles heel pain, you might need to change your running form.
What's more, since stronger calf muscles can help to reduce the amount of weight that is distributed onto the Achilles tendon with each running stride, exercising to strengthen the calf muscles is critical for preventing and treating Achilles injury. Research has found that workouts which emphasize the lower portion of the calf can be particularly important in treating Achilles pain.
Use the Right Exercises
When attempting to cure Achilles heel pain, many people assume they need to stretch the tendon and the calf to reduce tension in the muscles. However, stretching can actually aggravate the Achilles tendon, meaning that your best bet will be to avoid vigorous or repetitive motions that stretch the ankle and foot.
Instead, your aim should be to build up your calf muscles, and invest in better running shoes to help you focus on improving your running form. For example, try performing 10-15 reps of soleus calf raises every day, using a hamstring curl machine to slowly lower and raise your heel. Alternatively, athletes could attempt eccentric calf raises by keeping the knees straight and pushing upwards on both legs, before transferring to a single leg upon descent.