The Achilles tendon is an important part of the human body since it helps us with propelling movements like running, jumping, and cycling. However, it can be prone to injuries if Achilles tendon stretches aren’t part of your routine.
The Achilles tendon runs along the back of the lower leg and then connects two major calf muscles to the back of the heel bone. Without this tendon, we wouldn’t be able to point our toes. If you are active, then you likely put a lot of pressure on your feet and legs, which means you need to take good care of your Achilles tendon. While it can stand a lot of pressure, the Achilles tendon can tear or rupture. It can also weaken after years of overuse or from exposure to high-dose corticosteroids. Achilles tendinitis occurs most often in runners.
Stretches and Exercises for Achilles Tendon
There are many different Achilles tendon exercises and stretches that you can benefit from. Achilles tendon exercises make sense for all of us but are particularly important if you are active. If you want to stay in the game, then Achilles tendon stretches are vital.
Here are some common Achilles tendon exercises and stretches:
- Standing Achilles stretch – also referred to as the lean-and-lunge, this Achilles tendon stretch isolates the tendon and the soleus muscle, which is located in the ankle. To do this stretch, you stand about arm’s length away from a wall, lean forward with both hands on the wall, and extend one foot back, making sure the heel is flat on the floor. The other foot stays closer to the wall, and you lean forward and press down on the back heel with your knee slightly bent. You hold for about 30 seconds and then switch sides.
- Seated towel stretches – for this Achilles exercise, you sit on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you. Place a towel under the balls of your feet and grab each end with a hand. Now, sitting up straight, pull the towel toward you until you feel a stretch. Hold for up to 30 seconds and release. You can repeat this movement a few times.
- Standing toe raises – this exercise for Achilles tendonitis uses gravity to stretch the tendon slowly. Place a three-inch-high board near a wall or counter. Alternatively, you can use the stairs. Put the ball of your foot on the edge of the board or stair so that your heel hovers freely. You can hold the wall for support and let your heel dip below the edge of the board until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold for five seconds. Lift your heal until you are on your tiptoes and hold for five seconds. Switch legs and repeat the exercise.
- Sitting egg stretch – as stretches for Achilles tendon go, this one sounds odd but is really a specific type of squat. First, you stand with your feet hip-width apart, and then you lower your body until your bottom makes contact with your heels. Place your hands on the floor in front of you and put your elbows between your knees. Now, lean forward as you press your elbows outward against the knees. As you remain on your toes, gently push your heels downward until you feel a slight stretch. Hold from 10 to 30 seconds and then lift your bottom.
- Sitting heel raises – sit on a chair for this Achilles tendon exercise. Raise your toes as high as you can and slowly lower your heels. You can make it harder by pressing on your thighs or holding a weight on your thighs. Doing this exercise several times a day can be beneficial.
- Bilateral heel drop – for this exercise you stand on the edge of a stair and put the front part of each foot on the stair. Holding on to the railing for support, slowly lift your heels off the ground and slowly lower your heels.
- Unilateral heel drop – this is like the bilateral heel drop only you do one leg while the other leg is bent. Raise your heel off the ground and slowly lower it and then switch legs.
- Gastrocnemius muscle stretch – the gastrocnemius is a calf muscle that connects to the Achilles tendon. If you stretch it, you will also be stretching the Achilles. One way to stretch the gastrocnemius is to face a wall with your left foot forward, and your right foot stepped back approximately one foot. You can brace your body against the wall using the palms of your hands. Bend your left knee and straighten your right. Lean forward into the wall and bend your left knee until you feel a stretch in the right Achilles. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds and switch sides.
- Calf door stretch – this Achilles tendon exercise can be carried out by placing the ball of your left foot against the bottom of a door with your heel on the ground. Step your right foot back. Straighten both of your legs and put your hands against the door. Shift your hips and torso forward until you feel a stretch in your left Achilles. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds, switch sides and repeat.
Safety Tips While Performing Stretches for Achilles Tendon
Stretches for Achilles tendon sound safe enough, but there can be a tendency to overdo it and cause more stress to an affected tendon. If you have never done Achilles tendon exercises and are thinking of trying them, review some of the precautions outlined here.
- Don’t overstretch
- Do gentle stretching after your exercises
- Massage with ice for 15 to 20 minutes after Achilles stretches
- Rest to relax the Achilles tendon
- Follow professional advice and other treatments while doing exercises for Achilles tendinitis.
While the exercises and stretches outlined here are relatively gentle, it is best to consult with a doctor before engaging in any new exercise routine, especially if you know you have a health issue such as, Achilles tendinitis.
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