Achilles tendon is commonly affected by inflammation and strain, either due to the physical degeneration or excessive use (for example, strenuous work-out programs, running, jogging, playing basketball or tennis etc.) and inappropriate footwear; in addition, stiff calf and hamstring muscles can also lead to that disorder, known as achilles tendonitis. To cope with the situation, you can carry out some achilles tendon stretches.
The achilles tendon runs along the back of the lower leg and occupies the region between the two calf muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus, connecting them and linking them to the heel bone. Being under continuous load, even when a person is just standing, and responsible for volatile and forceful movements like jumping or climbing stairs, this particular tendon is very susceptible to attrition and injury (achilles tendonitis or/and rupture). Since the calf muscles and the achilles tendon actually form a unit of the lower leg, it is no wonder that the latter can be considerably profited by performing calf stretches, although sometimes that is not enough.
Achilles Tendon Stretching Exercises
As mentioned above, stretching your gastrocnemius (the upper calf region), your soleus muscle as well as your hamstring muscles with a series of exercises presented here and here, and keeping them in shape, is considered as a fairly reliable way for relieving your achilles tendon. Nevertheless, a bunch of more detailed stretches, particularly designated for the achilles tendon, has been developed; luckily, most of these exercises can be carried out without the need of going to the gym or without necessitating any special apparatuses (yet, supervision is required, primarily when performing them for the first times). Before you apply any of the stretches described below you should read our stretching guide! So:
- Stand in front of a wall, leaving approximately one foot’s distance; now, extend your arms, shoulder-width apart, and lean forward to the wall; put your left leg behind you, at about 1,5-2 feet distance from the right, with its foot in contact with the floor, keeping the right leg close to the wall; now, lean slowly towards the wall and bend the knee of the left leg – without lifting up the heel –; then, drop down a bit with your hips until the point you feel a stretch in the back of the left leg; hold it there, relax and repeat with the other leg. If this particular passive/static stretch (photo 1) reminds you a typical calf stretch, you are not mistaken, however the additional bending of your knee is a small but critical detail, as it makes the stretch work more on the achilles tendon and not on the calf. You can also apply a dynamic version of the previous stretch with repetitions of bending and straightening your knees (photo 2)
- Another great passive/static stretch (photo 3): stand in front of a flight of stairs holding the handrails; step up with both feet but touch the step only with your toes (leaving the heels on the air), and make sure you do not bend your knees; now, bring your heels down gently and, as soon you feel the stretch on the achilles, hold it there for some seconds.
- A trickier dynamic one, which does not target exactly at your achilles (it rather focuses on the calf muscles, but it is intended to significantly benefit the tendon): stand with your legs jointly placing your hands on your midsection; now, slightly bend your knees while at the same time trying to make circular moves without separating your legs and without relocating your feet or lifting them off the floor; keep up with that for 15 seconds (or about 10 circles) and then reverse the motion for another set; perform 3-4 sets.
Hold the static stretches for 20-30 seconds, repeat for 3-4 times, and carry out this routine for at least 3 times a week (obviously depending on your needs). Like always, the static form of stretches we described above can be replaced by isometric, active isolated or dynamic variations of the same stretches!
- It combats the tendon’s tendency to tear
- It alleviates from achilles tendon pain
- It reduces the risk of tendonitis
- It massively decreases the risk of an injury
- It can improve the ankle’s range of motion
- It applies controlled pressure work to the area and significantly strengthens the muscles and tendons thanks to increased blood circulation and oxygenation
What To Consider
- Make controlled and not jerky movements
- Stair stretches are considered effective but they can get painful at times; hence, if you sense pain, it is preferable to abort and perform another exercise
- The fact that you can stretch your achilles tendon at practically any occasion and any place does not necessarily suggest that you will do it properly, and that can provoke more harm than good; so, be sure you use a balanced technique
- Ask for professional advice before beginning
Photos & Videos
In order to fully understand how exactly to perform the aforementioned stretches we are providing a few photos and a video:
Performing stretches for the achilles tendon and applying controlled pressure to this area on a regular basis can definitely provide solid help in the prevention or the treatment of achilles tendonitis. Working on your soleus in particular is a highly effective way of keeping your achilles tendon healthy. However, this particular body spot is, due to its nature, not only extremely susceptible to injuries but also very difficulty to be accurately targeted and isolated in order for the stretching to be truly effective. For these reasons, seeking professional advice before attempting to carry out an achilles tendon stretching routine is absolutely essential, particularly in case you have already experienced an injury in the past, while the stretching exercises should be accomplished under supervision by a skilled trainer, at least during your first endeavors. Besides a look to our general stretching guide would also be proved beneficial!
Category: Stretching specific Body Areas