I’m sure you’ve heard of Achilles Tendinitis (sometimes spelled as Achilles Tendonitis). It’s pretty common for runners to get heel pain after running, which can be due to straining or injuring your Achilles tendon.
Unfortunately, amongst active people, including athletes, gym-goers, and in particular, runners like myself, Achilles tendon pain is a common running injury – and used to be the bane of my training blocks.
In this post, I’m sharing the key steps I take to recover quickly from Achilles Tendinitis, including exercises, shoes, and nutrition.
This also includes recovery tools I have bought, and regularly use to alleviate and help reduce soreness in my heel, during and after running, which encourages my body to heal and get stronger in the recovery process.
These tools and techniques are particularly focused on achieving a fast recovery so I can get back to running (and just going about everyday life) without that niggling ache in my heel.
If you’ve had it before, or currently have it, then you know all too well how achilles tendinitis can flare up in the morning after you wake up, during a run, or even after a run during training periods where you’ve just ramped up your distance, intensity, elevation gain, or frequency.
Subscribe to our Newsletter for full access to exclusive, members-only running advice, gear reviews + locked blog content, PLUS the finest gear reviews, deals & outdoor hacks from the Trail & Kale team delivered straight to your inbox, every Sunday.
They also include a couple of tips you may not have seen or heard of in the past (that can also help with a variety of running-related niggles and strains).
If you’ve landed on this page looking for ideas for how you can aid your own running injury recovery, this post should be super useful for you, and will undoubtedly offer some hope and encouragement that you can, and will fix that Achilles heel pain soon!
Ok, let’s dive straight into this post, and get you on the road to recovery, in the FAST lane!
What is Achilles Tendinitis?
Before I get into my roadmap for Achilles tendinitis recovery, let’s take a moment to understand what this injury actually is, what the possible causes are, how long it lasts, whether you should run with it, and the first thing to do if you find yourself getting it.
If your heel hurts after running, it could either be your running shoes rubbing on your heel or worse still, it could be soreness in your Achilles tendon.
If it is your shoes rubbing, that’s an easy fix, buy a good pair of running shoes designed with comfort AND performance in mind – yes they do exist! For trail runners, read our best trail running shoes buyer’s guide next, alternatively, if you’re a road runner check out our best road running shoes buyer’s guide instead.
The Achilles tendon is the large tendon that goes up the back of your heel and connects your calf muscle to your heel bone.
Among runners, pain in the back of your ankle above the heel is often related to an Achilles injury – this is very common among runners so don’t feel dismayed if you’re one of them.
I like to think of it as a rite of passage. 🙂
Achilles heel symptoms are typically aching and soreness in the achilles region.
I also find it can be tender and stiff when I wake up in the morning, requiring some gentle massage, heat treatment, and stretching before I can walk without pain.
I put this down to the reduced circulation of blood around the body as we lay still, asleep.
For more about these types of heel injuries, this post from the Mayo Clinic may also be helpful.
Rather than jumping to conclusions though, consider that there could be other reasons for your heel pain.
This is why it may be important to see a doctor in order to get properly diagnosed.
Other reasons for running-related heel pain include Plantar Fasciitis and even stress fractures, for example.
What are the causes of Achilles heel pain?
For runners and other active people, it’s likely that your heel aching and soreness is the result of overuse – also known as an ‘overuse injury’.
You probably ran too much, too far, or added too many hills into your training, too soon.
For example, perhaps you’re training for a marathon or 50k ultramarathon, but increased your weekly distance too quickly, or did too many runs without sufficient recovery in between.
Or maybe you’re a new runner, you just started running and increasing your mileage and speed, did a load of intensive interval training without adequate recovery time, or are getting into longer-distance hiking and similar activities involving a lot of steps, hills, and time on your feet.
Here at Trail & Kale, we have curious minds and adventurous spirits. This has led us to try some of the most challenging (physically and mentally) events and sports around the world.
As a result of taking on new challenges, we’ve also been hit with some of the most common running or sports injuries including blisters on our feet, shin splints, lower back pain when running, Achilles tendinitis, and the dreaded plantar fasciitis.
Of course, there’s a silver lining here, and that is that our curious minds have been able to seek out the best advice from physios and the web in order to recover from our injuries.
The Achilles tendon can easily be strained in any of these scenarios, among others if you don’t look after it, and follow an appropriate training plan.
For example, I find that I can start to get Achilles pain from running when I:
- run too many hill reps too intensively (running up and down hill intervals and up steps strains the tendon more than running on flat pavement).
- am generally physically tired. If I have weaker glutes, hamstrings, and tired calf muscles from an intensive week or month of running and racing, this can result in excess strain on my Achilles tendon due to bad running form. Here’s how to run with good form and reduce the chance of getting injuries, if you’re wondering.
- wear certain running shoes that aren’t best suited to my feet and running style.
As reviewing outdoor gear, including road and trail running shoes, is a big part of what we do here at Trail & Kale then it’s not surprising that my choice of footwear can contribute to heel pain – it’s an occupational hazard, of sorts!
In my experience, I have only ever strained my Achilles on not done any serious damage.
I have not pushed it to the extent the injury has gone beyond mild or moderate symptoms of soreness and aching.
This is because I don’t want to have such a bad injury that I tear my tendon or rupture it such that it needs to be fixed surgically and I wouldn’t be able to walk or run for weeks.
That would be no bueno.
It’s important to note that pushing it too far and not seeking help from a doctor will likely make the issue worse, and can run the risk of you tearing or rupturing the tendon.
A serious injury such as this will definitely stop you running until you get it fixed – which often means surgery. Ouch.
How long does Achilles Tendinitis last?
A common question you may have is ‘how long is the recovery time?’.
The answer is, of course, it depends.
To learn how to best recover from this injury I did extensive research into the amount of healing time, including rest and recovery you may need to treat the soreness.
And most importantly, how to stop the injury from happening again.
My steps for treating heel pain that I explain later in this post are tried and tested to ensure I recover as quickly as possible whenever I experience the issue.
This means that I can get back to running quickly without too much detrimental impact on my running training.
By applying these, it can take as little as a couple of weeks, to well over a month for me to be able to get back to running again, depending on how bad the strain and soreness is to start with.
Running with Achilles heel pain
The main point to note is that if you have heel pain and you’re a runner, then perhaps you’ve continued to run on it in the hope thats it will just get better.
If you do that, then it’s hard to see how your body is going to be able to recover from the injury.
You need to give your body a break to recover, and some physical therapy, to help the issue improve.
What to do if you suspect you have Achilles Tendinitis
Ok, so you suspect your issue is with your Achilles so you want to know how to heal and stop getting that pain – that’s why you’re here, right?!
Before you read on to learn how I treat myself to recover quickly, remember that I’m not a doctor, nor am I a physical therapist.
So, definitely seek out a professional before doing anything else, so that they can help you diagnose your injury and get the best treatment for your personal needs.
How I treat Achille’s Tendinitis, fast
In this section I explain :
- The specific ways I treat the heel pain that I can get during or after running. This includes simple injury rehab steps, cross-training exercises, stretches and tools I use to recover quickly
- How I know when I’ve recovered enough to be able to start running again without making it worse
- What shoes I choose to help manage and alleviate heel pain while running.
This is quite a long post, so grab a drink and settle in for the read.
There’s also a video of me sharing some of these tips at the bottom of this post, if you’d like to watch that afterwards! Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel! 🙂
Okay, here are my 8 tips and tricks that help me recover from an Achilles tendinitis injury:
1. Stop running to allow your body to recover
The first thing to do is to stop running!
That sounds pretty obvious but actually, this is the best thing you can do if you’re feeling Achilles tendon pain. It’s not going to get better with you running on it.
You need to recover enough to get it to a manageable point before you can try running again. I explain later how I know when I’m ready to do that.
But first, do it some good by strengthening your body around that area so that you can actually recover sensibly without overdoing it and putting yourself back to square one or worse than it was to start.
2. Maintain fitness with cross-training
While you’re not running, you can mix up your training to maintain your cardio and work on strengthening your body more holistically.
For example, use a static trainer with a bike (or use a Peloton, if you have one), or go for a mellow hike where you’re not agitating your Achilles.
A bike is really good because it’s a very non-aggressive, low-impact way to move your Achilles and it will also help with circulation.
Cycling has a smooth motion, with no impact and I find it to be a great therapy for my Achilles tendon.
Cross-training is also a great way to build cardio and strength without the impact of running, so it’s good to build into your training regimen going forward, injured or not.
3. Find different running shoes
If you are at a point with your recovery where you feel you can do very gentle runs then I would definitely recommend mixing up your shoes so you’re not always running in the same pair.
This is what’s called having a shoe rotation. I always have 2 road shoes and maybe 3 trail shoes in my rotation at any given time.
Having a shoe rotation helps prevent running injuries but is also useful to have if you run a variety of trail types, or incorporate long runs as well as road interval or track runs into your training.
The best shoes for Achilles Tendinitis are those that alleviate some pressure points on your feet specifically on your Achilles, that’s towards the back of your shoes.
If you mix up your shoes, maybe you can get a pair of running shoes that has a low back wall where it wraps around your Achilles tendon area.
A pair with more cushioning underfoot will help too, or one that’s got a slightly higher heel-to-toe drop, that’s also going to help your recovery phase.
If you need some suggestions for new trail running shoes, read our guide to the best trail running shoes post which also includes details on how to choose the most suitable ones for you.
Here’s our road running equivalent, ‘Best Road Running Shoes For Men & Women.
4. Do gentle stretching and exercises
Improved circulation helps recovery. Many people have poor circulation in their feet and ankles, so you can help your body out by encouraging better circulation.
I find that gentle movements, such as really gentle stretching of your lower legs and ankles can help here.
It obviously needs to feel good, not painful, so no aggressive stretching, especially if your body is cold.
Examples of stretches I do are the typical runner’s calf stretch, as well as ankle rolls and heel raises. Here is a post where we demonstrate 10 Easy Yoga Stretches For Runners.
These stretches are so worthwhile during your recovery phase but it’s important to keep doing them once recovered to ensure the injury doesn’t come back – here are the same stretches on our YouTube channel.
Once recovered, if you are heading out for a run then it also pays to do these stretches for runners before and after to help with your warm-up and post-run recovery.
The downward dog yoga position (as demonstrated by Helen in the photo above) is also a great way to stretch all down the back of your leg and the soles of your feet, if it feels good to you.
If my legs and feet are cold and stiff, like they can be first thing in the morning, then applying a heat pack before stretching can be beneficial – and the heat itself helps encourage blood flow in the area, too.
Also, things like yoga, and maybe some balance training, body weight exercises (these can be done at home with now equipment needed); bodyweight squats are good just to stretch the Achilles as you squat down.
I wouldn’t suggest putting any weight into those or additional weight into those squats, though – I’m very careful when I do this.
5. Seek out anti-inflammatory support
Another thing you should be thinking about is anti-inflammatory support.
You can get anti-inflammatory benefits from eating berries, for example, so I like to do this the natural way so rather than taking any medication use berries.
Blueberries are a really good one, make sure you have lots of those.
You can also use cold pads so you could just put a cold pad in a freezer and just wrap that around your Achilles and leave it on there for maybe five to ten minutes just to alleviate some of that pain but also reduce the inflammation in the area.
I have a couple of these hot/cold packs shown in the image above. You can keep some in the freezer to use as cold compresses, and come ready to warm in the microwave for hot compresses, too.
You could also try going the full way and take the plunge in an ice bath. Ice baths have been known to provide a variety of mental and physical benefits for runners and other athletes, including reducing inflammation and soreness. –> Learn more about the benefits of ice baths for runners.
I also like to use a CBD roll-on stick or a CBD balm.
There’s a really good one from Level Select CBD, for example. The Level Select brand specializes in strong CBD products for athletes, so they’re a good choice if you’re feeling overwhelmed at which one to try.
There are others CBD brands we’ve reviewed that feature in our CBD topicals buyer’s guide, if you’d like to check them out too.
You just apply that CBD balm and literally within a few minutes I find it helps alleviate some pain in the area and also helps with anti-inflammation.
6. Encourage improved blood circulation
Another awesome tip is to use a TENS machine or e-STIM device (e-muscle stim).
I’ve been using Compex devices for years now for injuries such as this.
What they’re really good at is actually getting that blood circulation, twitching your muscles so you’re actually getting some low-impact muscle recovery workouts going on there, right in the area where you need it.
I really like that you can just stick it on set the mode set it and forget it and they usually last around 20 minutes for the programs on these e-stim devices.
They’re really good at alleviating pain and you’ll find that you’re actually giving that Achilles area a little bit of a workout as well as a little bit of a stretch through the device as well so definitely recommend checking out a TENS device.
Here’s a link to my review of the Compex Sport Elite 3.0 which explains more about how they work and what they’re good for.
With the TENS device, I aim to use it twice a day.
If I do go for a little run to test out my Achilles I’m going to be using that when I get home as well. I just find it really helps get over that initial kind of strain from the Achilles after the run as well.
Once you’ve been doing all these things for say five to seven days up to a week whilst you haven’t been running make sure you do these things daily because that’ll really speed up your recovery.
7. When you’re ready, go for a ‘trial run’
Ok, so you’ve patiently been doing the steps above (some or all of them – whatever works for you and depending on whether you invested in a TENS machine or not) for at least a week.
You need to judge how you feel and how the heel feels. Do steps 1-6 every day for several weeks or however long it takes until you feel like you’re not really feeling the Achilles tendinitis pain anymore.
Maybe there’s a really subtle amount of pain there but you feel like you could run on it without getting worse.
At this point, I go for what I like to call a ‘trial run‘ – no I don’t mean a ‘trail run’…
A trial run is literally going out in your most comfortable pair of shoes – don’t do any hill training – just try and find some flat terrain to run on where you can really focus on your running form.
Rather than going fast or doing anything too much too soon, what you want to be doing is seeing how many miles you can put in before you feel like any soreness is getting worse.
As soon as you feel like it’s getting worse that’s when you stop and you know you haven’t had enough time off from running so what you want to be doing on these ‘trial runs’ is running as long as you can before it starts getting worse.
If it hurts or feels like it’s getting worse then you need to go back and spend some more days (or even weeks) doing the rehab steps, rest, and recovery.
If you feel like it’s not getting worse and it’s manageable then keep running gently focusing on your form where you’re not feeling any pain from your Achilles tendinitis and don’t overdo it too soon!
Quit the run before it gets worse so you can finish feeling good, and maybe have a day off after that run then have another trial run and do exactly the same thing so you can gradually build up your running from there.
This kind of recovery is worth doing. It is going to take time, you have to take time off running.
8. Stop repeating the injury pattern
Be smart about it, be sensible, take a little bit of time off now and enjoy more running in the future.
This is a much better approach than putting yourself in a situation where you keep going back to square one as maybe you’ll miss some of those future races that you’ve got planned.
The best way to not get these kinds of injuries in the future is to:
- Have consistent running training and never ramp up too quickly never do too much too soon
- Do extra cross-training as well as being on a bike and doing balance training to strengthen up your ankles and your glutes and all your muscles that support your running muscles
- Wear running shoes that are comfortable, fit properly, and provide you with the right amount of support, without agitating your heel.
Achilles Tendon Pain Recovery – Video Guide
I really hope you enjoyed this guide to recovering from achilles tendonitis, please feel free to drop a comment to say hello, or just to let me know it has helped you!
I am a real person and love chatting with our readers! 🙂
Please share this post with a friend, if they have experienced achilles tendinitis in the past – it may help them too!
Good luck with your recovery, and I hope to see reading and commenting on another one of our advice or gear review posts. -Alastair