Achilles tendonitis is one of the most common injuries among runners. If you keep running through the pain, you may suffer a tear or rupture of the tendon, which could sideline you for months and maybe even require surgery to repair. Thus, it is important to take action at the first sign of Achilles pain. In addition to backing off of your training routine until the pain subsides, you should also perform some of these stretches to loosen your Achilles and speed the healing process.
Seated Toe Stretches
This is the mildest stretch of the three, so it is a good one to start with as soon as you notice your Achilles injury. Once the pain has subsided somewhat, you can add the other two exercises to your routine, but always start with this one to warm up a little.
Sit on the floor with the affected leg bent at the knee and your foot resting flat on the ground. Grab your toes with your hand, and gently pull up; you should feel the stretch through your Achilles tendon and the sole of your foot. Hold this position for 10 seconds, and then release. Repeat this stretch 5 times with each foot. (It's important to stretch the uninjured Achilles, too, since this can prevent future injuries.)
This exercise provides a deeper stretch through your calf and your Achilles. Make sure you continue performing it even after your Achilles pain is gone in order to prevent future injuries. Tight calves often contribute to Achilles injuries, and this stretch can fix that.
Stand on a set of stairs, facing upwards and holding onto the railings. Step back with one foot until only your toes are supported by the stair. Then, sink your weight down in your heel. Hold the position for 10 seconds, and do five repetitions with each foot.
Dynamic Jump Stretches
Always save this stretch for last since it is the hardest on your Achilles, and if it feels overly painful to do it, stop and try again the next time. It will help loosen not only the Achilles, but the tendons and ligaments throughout your legs. Once you're recovered, it's a good stretch to include in your pre-run routine to help prevent injuries.
Stand with your feet planted flat on the ground and about shoulder-width apart. Bend slowly at the knees until they form a right angle. Then, jump gently upwards, swinging your arms forward as you do so, and pointing your toes towards the ground as you leave the ground. Land as gently as possible. Start with about 5 jumps per session, and build to 15 as your tendon heals.
If your Achilles pain does not go away on its own within a week or two of stretching and rest, talk to a podiatrist, like Collier Podiatry PA. He or she can recommend additional exercises and treatments to get you back on the road sooner.