When it comes to exercise, running is one of the best workouts out there. Not only is running a full-body workout, but it also helps improve your heart health. Although running is great for you and your body, it can also be hard on your body.
Running requires a lot of repetitive motion. These repetitive motions can be hard on your joints, tendons, and muscles. One tendon that is affected the most by running is the Achilles tendon.
It gets a lot of use during running and can get very sore or stiff after a hard run. To keep yourself in top running shape, you need to keep your Achilles tendon stretched and strong.
In this article, we’ll go over the best Achilles heel exercises for runners and how they can help you.
1. Standing Wall Stretch
Although stretching may not seem like exercise, it actually helps strengthen the tendon and make it less prone to injury.
For the wall stretch, find a sturdy wall that is at least as tall as you are. Next, you should stand about 2-3 feet or arm’s distance away from the wall. Pick the leg you want to stretch, and then step back from the wall with that leg.
You should now be in a position with one foot toward the wall, and one foot away from the wall. Make sure that the foot on your back leg has the heel to the ground. Next, you want to lean forward and place your hands on the wall.
Keep your back leg straight, and do not let your heel leave the ground. Your front leg should bend, and you will feel a stretch in your Achilles tendon. Make sure both toes are pointed toward the wall and are not splayed out.
Be sure to do this stretch at least 2-3 times a day if your Achilles tendon is sore. You can also increase the difficulty of this stretch if it is too easy. To increase the difficulty, bend your back leg without letting your heel leave the ground.
This will increase the amount of tension on your Achilles and give a deeper stretch.
This exercise will not only stretch your Achilles but will also strengthen them as well.
For calf raises, you’ll need to find a small ledge that you can step up onto. This ledge should be between 3-6 inches. Stairs are a great choice for calf raises because they are sturdy and offer banisters and walls to use as support.
Walk to the stair and place the balls of your feet on the edge of the step. Half of your foot should be on the step, while your heel should hang off of the edge. Make sure that you are comfortable and balanced before moving on to the next step.
Also, be sure to use a wall or railing for support to make sure you don’t fall. Next, you want to slowly let your heels drop down while remaining on the step.
Once your heels have dropped all the way down, slowly but steadily go onto your tiptoes. Once you are on your tiptoes, hold your position there for a few seconds.
After a few seconds, lower your heels back down into the starting position. This can be very difficult if you use proper form. If you want to increase the difficulty of this exercise, stand on one foot.
You can also increase the difficulty by doing slower, more gradual lowering of the heels. This exercise will strengthen your ankles and calves and make you less prone to Achilles tendon injuries.
3. Resistance Band Exercise
For this exercise, you’ll need a resistance band. Make sure to use one that is thin and very flexible rather than something thicker and harder to stretch.
Start by sitting down, either on the floor or at the edge of a couch or bed. Wrap the resistance band around the ball of your foot so the band is located near the top of your foot.
Next, pull back on the back so it creates tension at the end of your foot. Push your toes forward so that it puts more tension on the band. Make sure to do these movements slowly to avoid injury and give yourself a good workout.
This exercise will strengthen your calf and your ankle. This reduces your chance of experiencing pain during a run and will even help you perform better.
4. Bosu Ball One Foot Balance Exercise
For this exercise, you will need a Bosu ball. A Bosu ball looks like an exercise ball cut in half, with a platform on the flat side.
To start, place the rounded side of the Bosu ball on the ground. This platform should be facing up.
Next, you want to place one foot on the platform. Very carefully, place all your weight on the foot that is one the platform. This may feel unsteady, so make sure to have support nearby.
You can use a wall for support by placing the Bosu ball next to a wall. You can also use a walking stick or railing for support as well.
Once you’re comfortable, try lifting your other foot off the ground so you are balancing on the Bosu ball. Try to keep your weight balanced and centered.
This will force your ankle and Achilles tendon to keep your balance. To start, try holding your balance for 3 seconds. Gradually increase the amount of time you hold your balance to increase the difficulty.
To make this exercise even more difficult, try holding a 2-pound weight in each hand. This will increase the resistance on your ankle and increase the strength in your Achilles heel.
Learn the Best Achilles Heel Exercises
Now that you know more about Achilles heel exercises and how they can help your running, you can start strengthening your Achilles heel. Make sure that you visit with your doctor before doing physical therapy to ensure there isn’t a more serious problem.
If you are looking for a second opinion or your preference is to want the best for your ankle, click the button below and fill out the form to have a Sports Medicine and Ankle Specialist guide you to full recovery.
Danh Ngo PT, DPT, OCS, SCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Specialist in Orthopedic and Sports Medicine
Mind Body Health Results Coach