The 2 key strategies to prevent Achilles tendon soreness while running is to 1. Avoid heel strike and 2. avoid running with an upright trunk.
1. Land Forefoot, Not Rearfoot
The stride parameters of forefoot running effects force distribution on the Achilles tendon in ways the may reduce Achilles tendon soreness. For example, forefoot running reduces over-pronation because ground contact time is much shorter as compared with heel strike running. As a result, harmful impulsive forces are less likely to accumulate during stance in forefoot running.
In many cases, Achilles tendon soreness is mainly the result of inappropriate foot movements during mid-stance whereby heel strike running tends to prolong mid-stance because ground contact time is extended. Moreover, Lake et al. (2008) found that heel strike runners had high amounts of Achilles tendon stress concentrated above the calcaneal insertion. This finding jibes with earlier reports that found 80% of Achilles tendon ruptures occurred in this area (Aroen et al. 2004).
2. Stop Running Upright and Lean Forward More
Typically, most runners who heel strike run with an upright body posture which causes the center of mass to stay behind initial foot strike position. This not only increases mechanical work on the legs –the legs work harder to pull the center of mass along during running, but it increases braking as well. This could reflect a consequence of Achilles tendon soreness that persists.
Lorimer and Hume (2014) believes that directing the center of mass further forward reduces braking and may lower the occurrence of Achilles tendon soreness during running.
The Take Home Message
Even though running increases peak stress on the Achilles tendon, the mechanical parameters of heel strike running appears to add extra stress on the Achilles, which causes peak stress to markedly increase beyond a tolerable limit. Because forefoot running involves less mechanical work and safer foot-ground interactions, suggests that forefoot running may improve biomaterial fatigue performance of the Achilles.
More From Run Forefoot:
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome – Many runners suffer this dreaded injury, but many runners don’t know why. This article covers the main cause of knee injury in runners.
Achilles Heel – Found out why heel strike running is such a daunting task for the Achilles tendon, resulting in injury to the tendon.
Eccentric Exercises – We often hear about eccentric exercises, but you can achieve them just by running barefoot; find out how.
Forefoot Shoe Review – Read my review on the FeelMax Osma 2, an under-appreciated forefoot running shoes that is a great tool to help you mechanically run your best.
Aroen A, Helgo D, Granlund O, Bahr R. Contralateral tendon rupture risk is increased in individuals with a previous Achilles tendon rupture. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science Sports 2004; 14:30–33.
Lake et al. The mechanical response of the Achilles tendon during different kinds of sport. Commun. Numer. Meth. Engng 2008; 24:2077–2085
Lormier, AV and Hume, PA. Achilles tendon injury risk factors associated with running. Sports Med, 2014; 44(10):1459-72
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.