If your Achilles tendon is achy or tight, don’t worry, you’re in good company. This is the body part that felled an otherwise-invincible Greek hero.
Often, Achilles tightness has nothing to do with the Achilles itself. Either the soleus muscle (connecting the calf to the Achilles) or the gastrocnemius muscle (in the lower, outer portion of the calf) gets tight, limiting mobility down lower in your heel. The syndrome that results is known as equinus. In extreme cases, the condition can prevent the foot from pointing upward. It can also cause calf cramping, tendonitis, or plantar fasciitis.
Your best response is the follow the three R’s: Rest, foam Roll, and make Real sure this type of tightness doesn’t set in again by performing a proper stretching routine. The first two R’s need no explanation (but if you want a primer on foam rolling your Achilles, watch this). As for stretching, here are three moves you should try.
- Stand on a step or a box with your heels off the edge
- Press up so that you’re standing on your toes, then slowly lower down to allow the tendon to elongate
Standing Lunge Stretch
- Stand with your hands against a wall
- Step forward with one leg
- Press into the wall in a lunge stance
- Keep your back straight and head up
- The farther you lean forward, the deeper the stretch
- Sit with your legs straight out in front of you
- Place the band around the ball of your foot and hold the ends in your hands
- Gently pull so that your toes begin to point toward your face until you feel the stretch
- Perform as many reps as feel comfortable, then switch legs
Stretching the Achilles should be painless. If you’re experiencing pain, stop. If the pain persists, consult your doctor immediately. Maintaining a flexible Achilles can help you stay on the field instead of the training table.