Does Increasing Plantar Flexion Really Help Achilles Tendinitis?

New research might make Achilles tendinitis sufferers take a step away from one common piece of advice.

The study involved men walking on a treadmill barefoot and in running shoes that have a 10-millimetre heel-to-toe drop. The researchers measured loading rates on the men’s Achilles tendons, as well as peak vertical ground reaction force, and stride rate and ground contact time.

When the men walked in the shoes, their stride rate was slower and ground contact time longer than when barefoot. This finding is consistent with lots of research on these measurements concerning barefoot and shod running.

What was perhaps surprising was that there was greater loading on the Achilles tendon when the men were shod than when they walked barefoot. That was the case even though when the men were standing, the shoes increased their plantar flexion, or foot pointing away from the shin, by 4%. This position is often thought to take pressure off the Achilles tendon, and is behind the common recommendation that people with Achilles tendinitis wear heel lifts or shoes that increase plantar flexion.

While this small study doesn’t necessarily negate that conventional wisdom, it does encourage taking a fresh look at ways to address Achilles tendinitis.


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