10 Effective Achilles Tendonitis Exercises to Relieve Pain and Strengthen Your Legs

man doing Achilles Tendonitis Exercises
man doing Achilles Tendonitis Exercises

Achilles Tendonitis Exercises are your first line of defense in combating the nagging pain that characterizes this common condition.

If you’ve found yourself grappling with a sharp sensation at the back of your ankle upon waking, you’re likely navigating the challenges of Achilles tendonitis. As a physical therapy clinic owner in Washington state, I’ve seen firsthand the impact Achilles tendonitis can have on quality of life. But there’s good news: with the right exercises, you can alleviate the pain and strengthen your legs.

In this blog, we’ll explore 10 effective Achilles tendonitis exercises designed to bring you relief and fortify your lower body.

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Understanding Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles tendon, the largest tendon in the body, plays a pivotal role in walking, running, and jumping. Connecting the calf muscles to the heel bone, it’s no surprise that it’s prone to overuse and inflammation, leading to what we know as Achilles tendonitis. Symptoms typically include pain and swelling in the heel or along the tendon, especially during and after activity or when stretching your calf muscles.

Achilles tendinopathy is a broader term that encompasses both tendon inflammation and micro-tears that occur with more chronic conditions. Regardless of the term or specific diagnosis, understanding the root cause of your discomfort is crucial to selecting the right treatment and exercises.

The Role of Exercise in Achilles Tendonitis Recovery

Exercise is a cornerstone of recovery and prevention of Achilles tendonitis. Targeted stretches and strengthening exercises can improve flexibility, reduce strain on the tendon, and support the surrounding muscles, mitigating the risk of further injury. However, it’s important to approach your exercise regimen with caution; too much too soon can exacerbate the problem.

With that said, here are 10 simple stretches for the achilles tendon that can give you relief:

10 Effective Achilles Tendonitis Exercises

woman doing Achilles Tendonitis Exercises

1. Standing Calf Stretch

Calf stretches are foundational in treating Achilles tendonitis as they elongate the muscle fibers in the calf, reducing pressure on the Achilles tendon. A simple yet effective stretch involves standing an arm’s length from a wall, stepping one foot back, and gently pressing the heel to the floor until a stretch is felt in the calf.

2. Seated Towel Pull

Perfect for early stages of recovery or for those experiencing significant pain, the seated towel pull provides a gentle stretch for the Achilles tendon. Sitting with your legs extended, loop a towel around the foot and gently pull towards you, keeping the leg straight.

3. Eccentric Heel Drops

One of the most recommended Achilles tendonitis exercises, eccentric heel drops focus on slowly lengthening the calf muscle and tendon. Standing on a raised surface with your heels hanging off, slowly lower your heels below the level of the surface, then lift back up with both legs.

4. Ankle Dorsiflexion with a Band

This exercise improves mobility and strength in the ankle, which supports the Achilles tendon. With a resistance band around your foot, press your foot forward without moving your leg, stretching the band and working the muscles around your shin.

5. Toe-to-Wall Stretches

An effective stretch targeting both the Achilles tendon and the calf, the toe-to-wall stretch involves standing facing a wall with your toes touching the wall and your heel on the ground, then gently leaning forward until you feel a stretch in the Achilles tendon and calf.

6. Bilateral Heel Drops

Stand with the balls of your feet on a step, stairs, or a raised platform, with your heels hanging off the edge. Slowly lower both heels down below the step level to stretch the Achilles tendon and calf muscles, then raise back to the starting position. This exercise not only stretches the tendons but also strengthens the surrounding muscles with controlled movement.

7. Soleus Muscle Stretch

The Soleus muscle plays a crucial role in your lower leg and is often overlooked. To specifically target this area, stand facing a wall with one foot behind the other. Keep your back heel on the ground and bend both knees, leaning into the wall until you feel a stretch in the lower part of your calf. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds and switch legs. This stretch helps alleviate tension directly in the Achilles tendon by focusing on the muscle that lies underneath the larger calf muscles.

8. Seated Ankle Circles

Sitting comfortably with your leg extended in front of you, lift your foot off the ground. Begin rotating your foot at the ankle, making large circles in a clockwise direction. Focus on smooth, controlled movements to encourage mobility in the ankle joint without placing weight on the Achilles tendon. After completing 10-15 circles, switch directions and rotate counterclockwise. Repeat with the other leg.

This exercise helps maintain ankle joint mobility and promotes circulation to the Achilles tendon area, which is crucial for healing and preventing stiffness. Ankle circles are especially beneficial for individuals looking for a low-impact way to support their Achilles tendon recovery process.

9. Plantar Fascia Stretch

Sitting with one leg crossed over the other, use your hand to gently pull back on the toes of your crossed leg, stretching the plantar fascia on the bottom of your foot. This stretch is beneficial because tightness in the plantar fascia can contribute to Achilles tendon stress. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and switch feet.

10. Strengthening Exercises for Foot Muscles

Strong foot muscles support the Achilles tendon. One simple exercise is to place a towel on the floor and use your toes to scrunch it toward you, then push it away. This can be done while seated and helps build strength in the foot muscles, providing better support for the Achilles tendon.

How Physical Therapy Can Help Achilles Tendonitis

Physical therapy offers a comprehensive approach to managing Achilles tendonitis, providing tailored assessments, expert-guided exercises, and advanced pain-relief techniques to target the root causes of discomfort. Through a combination of personalized care, specialized treatments like manual therapy and custom orthotic support, and education on prevention and safe activity resumption, PT helps correct strength and flexibility imbalances around the Achilles tendon. If Achilles tendonitis is impacting your daily activities, consulting with a physical therapist can be a great step towards regaining mobility and enhancing your quality of life.

Ready To Get Help With Physical Therapy?

If you’ve been struggling with heel pain and achilles tendonitis and you’re ready to get the relief you deserve, our team of dedicated physical therapists is here to help. Reach out to us today, and let’s take the first step towards a more active and pain-free life. You can also call: (360) 474-3274

Or, if you’re not ready to speak on the phone yet, click here to download our FREE foot and ankle pain tips guide.

Inside you’ll discover 7 different ways to ease foot and ankle pain, even if you’ve suffered for months and years. Click HERE to download your free copy.

Andrew Vertson