Three tips for running with Achilles Tendon pain (that aren’t stop running)
By Eric Leach, DPT
Running is an excellent way to stay in shape. However, injuries can pose significant challenges for runners. One common issue is Achilles pain, which occurs at the back of your ankle. When you experience Achilles pain, it’s essential to consult a sports physical therapist to assess your condition, identify its root cause, and develop a therapy plan for recovery.
Regardless of the reason for your Achilles pain, there are some practical tips to help minimize discomfort and potentially allow you to continue training while addressing the underlying issues. Let’s dive right in!
Tip 1: Embrace the Heel Strike
If you’ve been a runner for a while, you’ve likely encountered conflicting advice regarding your foot strike pattern from various sources. Different biases and marketing claims can make it challenging to determine the best approach. However, when you’re dealing with Achilles pain, adopting a heel strike pattern while rehabilitating is universally recommended.
Heel striking is favored because it places less load and stress on the Achilles tendon. Striking with the forefoot loads your weight onto the Achilles in a stretched position, which can lead to increased inflammation and pain due to the repetitive nature of running. Shifting your strike pattern to the heel transfers some of the load to your quadriceps and knees, helping protect the Achilles. It’s important to note that the Achilles still plays a role during the push-off phase of your running stride.
Tip 2: Increase Your Cadence to 160-180 Strikes per Minute
While every runner has their unique style, there are certain guidelines that can benefit most. One such rule is to aim for a cadence of 160-180 strikes per minute, with each strike representing a foot contact. Achieving this is easier than you might think—simply listen to music with a BPM (beats per minute) within this range. Music streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music offer playlists specifically designed to help you maintain this cadence while running. You can even customize a playlist on Spotify based on your musical preferences that are in this BPM range.
Increasing your cadence has been shown to reduce tendon loading, thereby lowering the overall stress on the affected area, making running more comfortable for you. Considering the repetitive nature of running, even a small difference in tenon loading may give you enough relief to manage your pain and avoid more issues down the road. This also helps to improve your running performance with time!
Tip 3: Opt for Shoes with Extra Cushion
This recommendation is primarily aimed at athletes and runners who prefer minimalist footwear. Transitioning to minimalist shoes, which have less cushioning, can sometimes lead to issues or injuries due to the sudden change in support. If you’re interested in minimalist footwear, consider brands like Altra, which advertise their shoes as foot-shaped with a wide toe box and a zero-drop design, yet they provide more cushioning than many competitors.
When shopping for running shoes, it’s always advisable to visit a local store and try on different options to ensure a proper fit. The best way to find a brand that works is to try and run with the shoes on. Stores like marathon sports let you go on a short run with new shoes if you want to try them out!
Remember that the above tips are not a one-size-fits-all solution. If you feel your symptoms are worsening, it’s crucial to consult with a sports physical therapist to create a personalized plan tailored to your specific Achilles pain and needs. If you feel your achilles pain is out of control, come to Peak Performance to get experienced help from sports therapists that care about getting you back on the right track.
- Adams D, Pozzi F, Willy RW, Carrol A, Zeni J. ALTERING CADENCE OR VERTICAL OSCILLATION DURING RUNNING: EFFECTS ON RUNNING RELATED INJURY FACTORS. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2018 Aug;13(4):633-642. PMID: 30140556; PMCID: PMC6088121.
- Rice H, Patel M. Manipulation of Foot Strike and Footwear Increases Achilles Tendon Loading During Running. Am J Sports Med. 2017 Aug;45(10):2411-2417. doi: 10.1177/0363546517704429. Epub 2017 May 1. PMID: 28460179.
We have no relationship to altra or marathon sports or financial incentives to disclose.