How can I keep my calves relaxed and my achilles tendon happy?

10
Sep

We see lots of people with tight calves day to day and after sports. Tight calves limit ankle movement and sends increased stresses up into the knees, hips and lower back, especially in running and cycling. In some cases tight calves or ankle restriction can lead to muscle strains and achilles tendinopathy.

Calf tightness and achilles tendinopathy are often due to overuse. This can be due to;

  • Increasing your distance or time walking/ running/ cycling too quickly
  • Running/ walking in low drop (flat shoes)
  • Running technique
  • Calf weakness
To reduce your chances of overuse be sure to build your activity levels slowly, no more than 10% per week. This allows your body to adapt to the increased forces and prevents fatigue related muscle strains and reactive tendinopathy.Wear supportive trainers if you suffer from calf tightness or pain, low drop or ‘minimalist’ shoes put far more strain on the calves and achilles tendon as they push you on to your toes and don’t wedge the distance between you and the floor. We often prescribe heel wedges to offload the calf and achilles tendon and these should be worn at all times to reduce the load on these areas, allowing any injuries to settle.

Knowing your running technique is important, if you ‘overstride’ or run on your toes it is likely you are putting increased loads through your calves and achilles tendon. We look to decrease this by promoting a high cadence of up to 180bpm and suggest cues like “pull the ground underneath you” to both decrease load and improve glute muscle activation. This should speed up your times too!

Calf strength is very important. The stronger your calves the more impact you can absorb from the floor and the more spring you have. This reduces your chances of injury and makes you a faster, more efficient runner. A great way to increase calf strength and improve mobility is to use eccentric calf drops. Start with 2 x 10 then increase this to 3 x 15 on 1 leg only. This exercise is great for achilles tendons too, it’s ok to feel up to 5/10 pain whilst doing these. As soon as the above is easy begin adding weight.

Raise up on 2 and drop down on 1 as shown to start;