How Can I Fix My Tight Achilles?

Q  In December 2008, I had dual hernia surgery upon returning from a year serving in Iraq. I have spent the last 18 months trying to get back into a normal running routine but suffer from Achilles-tendon tightness the day after any type of run. I haven’t logged a run further than 8km since the surgery but I am trying to slowly build up my mileage again. I don’t seem to hit a good stride until I run for a minimum of 20 minutes. After that, it’s smooth sailing. Should I be warming up on a bike before going for a run? – PHIL

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A  Achilles tightness may lead to tendon problems and may not. The stretching literature suggests that stretching well away from exercise will make a difference in your tendon length. If you run at 6am, for example, you should stretch at 6pm.

I would recommend trying toe raises with eccentric heel drops off the end of a stair or on an incline board. This may improve your strength and help overcome any discomfort in your tendon. I would also see if you have a physical therapist on base, one who is skilled in the evaluation of the kinetic chain and in manual therapy of the pelvis, knee and foot/ankle. Poor mobility in any of the joints along the kinetic chain will potentially put extra stress on the Achilles tendon and increase the sensation of tightness. A 0.48cm lift under the heel may also take away the tight sensation. You can place it under the shoe insole.

I doubt the hernia repair is responsible for your current problem. I think it takes time to warm up the muscles, more time for some. A gradual warm-up with running will set up the correct muscles for your activity, while the bike will warm your muscles for biking and not as well for running.

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