Inflamed Achilles Tendon After Running

Achilles tendon pain from running may be imposed by poor technique. An inflamed Achilles tendon after running might mean that you need to change your foot strike — that is, avoid landing on your heels while you run, and land under your toes instead. Here’s why.

Newer research points out that a sore and inflamed Achilles tendon after running may actually result from the influence of heel strike running on the hips’ ability to maintain forward propulsion.

Inflamed Achilles Tendon After Running

Inflamed Achilles Tendon After Running

Here is one of the mechanisms of how heel strike running threatens the Achilles tendon.

Tired Hips Increase Stress on Achilles

Because the center mass is kept behind initial foot strike position in heel strike running, the hips work harder as compared with forefoot running.

  • In heel strike running, the gluteus medius activates before heel strike and remains highly activated through early stance to stabilize the hip while the stance leg pulls the center mass up to initial foot strike position (Smith et al. 2013).
Inflamed Achilles Tendon After Running
Forward leg extension prior to heel strike may fatigue the hips, placing more mechanical load on the ankle and Achilles tendon.

So how does tired hips cause Achilles tendon soreness after running in heel strikers?

To maintain performance during heel strike running, the hips must be on-point to maintain forward propulsion of the center mass. If the hips burnout, the ankles pick up the slack.

It turns out that heel strike running over-works the hips because more hip extensor power is required to transfer the center mass forward as compared with forefoot running.

  • In the case of a heel striker, hip fatigue causes a reduction in hip extensor power which dumps more mechanical demand on the ankle –this forces the ankles to play a more central role in propelling the center mass forward.

Smith et al. (2013) discovered that heel strike runners with Achilles tendon injury had reduced muscle activation in the gluteus medius which may have caused a greater contribution toward forward propulsion from the ankle joint, thereby increasing concentric loads on the Achilles tendon.

The Take Home Message

The best approach to preventing Achilles tendon soreness after running is to learn forefoot running because forefoot running is a better remedy to relieve stress from the hip and anything that lowers joint stress, helps us run with less injury risk and better performance.

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Smith et al. Neuromotor control of gluteal muscle in runners with Achilles tendinopathy. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2013; Vol. 46 Issue 3, p594 6p.

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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