Whenever people start a new exercise program, this tends to coincide with an influx of heel pain-causing problems such as Achilles tendinitis. The more that people get out and get moving, the more susceptible they can be to certain sports injuries if they are not fully prepared.
Now, this is not to say we recommend people stay on the couch. We love it when people are active! It’s great for your feet and ankles, and also great for your cardiovascular health.
But with an increase in activity comes with risk of injuries (like Achilles tendinitis). Fortunately, by taking a few simple steps to reduce that risk, you’ll be much less likely to find yourself having to sit out for a while to recover.
We are always here to provide you with swift, professional help for any foot or ankle conditions which may prevent you from doing what you want and love to do, but it’s even better to avoid getting sidelined in the first place! We’ll go over some tried-and-true Achilles tendinitis prevention tips below, but never hesitate to contact us anytime you have questions or special concerns.
Make Sure Your Footwear Is In Your Favor
The shoes you use for any type of activity should always provide the proper support you need for that activity. Not doing so can put extra strain on vulnerable areas and increase your injury risk.
In general, a good shoe to help prevent Achilles tendinitis will help take extra load off the tendon. A rocker bottom shoe can help reduce the amount of work the Achilles tendon has to produce while walking or running. A slightly elevated heel can also take more stress off of the calf muscles and, in turn, the Achilles tendons they are connected to.
A trained sporting goods associate can help you determine what kind of shoe you should be looking for. Ultimately, the shoes you choose must be comfortable and fit properly. Even the best-designed pair of shoes in the world won’t do you much good if they don’t fit your feet!
If you have shoes that you haven’t worn in months (or longer), make sure they are not worn out. Shoes which worked well for you the past may be too broken down to provide you much support now. Materials can deteriorate over time even if the shoes have just been sitting in a closet.
For some cases – especially those involving abnormalities in foot structure that are causing too much stress on your Achilles – we might recommend the use of custom orthotics for better alignment and distribution of forces across your feet.
Pace Your Workout Progress
One of the most common reasons we see cases of Achilles tendinitis – especially during the start of new seasons – is that patients have “leaned into” new activities too hard or too fast. Their bodies are suddenly being forced to move in ways they are not yet conditioned to do well, and that can lead to trouble.
We call it an “overuse injury,” and it can happen in different ways. Perhaps you suddenly go all out and put an extreme force load on your Achilles when it’s not ready for it. Other times, though, you might be subjecting the tendon to repetitive impacts (such as long-distance running) and not providing your body with enough time and opportunity for recovery between sessions.
It is always smart to start any new activity off slowly, and then gradually build up the intensity over time. Try to increase the intensity by no more than 10% to 15% per week as measured in time, distance, or weight. And if your increase feels like too much for you to handle at this time, do not be afraid to dial it back a little. Push yourself, but don’t ignore pain!
Warm Up, Cool Down, and Condition
Tying into what we’ve noted about overuse, it can pay dividends to help ensure your body is ready for whatever paces you are about to put it through. Taking a few minutes to warm up with some dynamic stretching is a great way to do just that.
What do we mean by “dynamic” stretching? We mean more than just holding still in certain positions. Dynamic stretching gets your body moving with warm-ups like light jogging, lunges, and knee-ups. Save the “standing still” stretches for after a workout to help your body cool down.
If you have tight calf muscles that place more strain on your tendons, make sure you focus on them as well. We of course recommend talking with us or your primary care physician before engaging in any major changes to your exercise program, but calf-centric stretches to consider may include:
- Lunging Calf Stretches
- Heel Drops and Raises
- Seated Stretching with a Resistance Band (or Towel)
Well-conditioned calves can also help prevent plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and knee pain as well, so they’re well worth some investment in.
Keep Achilles Tendon Trouble from Dashing Your Ambitions
If you are starting to feel persistent heel pain and tenderness while you’re out and active (or at any other time, for that matter), do not try to ignore it or pass it off as something you don’t really need to worry about. The longer you let it go, the more likely it can worsen into a problem that can greatly affect your comfort and performance.
If the pain doesn’t improve within a couple of days, it’s time to give us a call. We can help you determine the root of the problem and provide expert advice and treatment for a speedy and effective recovery – getting you back into action pain-free!
Call us at (516) 541-9000 to schedule an appointment or fill out our online contact form if you prefer to reach out to us electronically instead.