Have you heard the phrase “my achilles heel”? Where does this come from? In Greek mythology, when Achilles was a baby, he was told he would die young. To prevent his death, his mother took him to a river which was supposed to offer powers of invulnerability, and dipped his body into the water. Since she held Achilles by the heel, it was not washed over by the water of the magical river. Do you have an achilles heel?!
The achilles tendon is quite large and is the extension of the calf muscles. The achilles attaches the calf to the foot. It helps to lift the heel off the floor, like in a calf raise exercise. Of course, we do this all day long: walking, running, climbing stairs, and more.
When we overuse our feet or do more activity than we are used to, the muscles around this area, especially the achilles tendon, can become weak. If our flexibility begins to decrease from less activity or poor choices in footwear, the achilles tendon must work harder to achieve the same result.
Because the tendon is so large, when it gets sore, it can really be debilitating. The pain is usually right at the base of the heel, feeling like it’s right on the bone. The pain can be achy and last all day long. Going for a walk or run can aggravate the area and cause sharp pain during the activity.
We see achilles tendon problems when running sports typically get started, or when the nice weather comes and people are getting outside and ramping up their fitness. Beginning an exercise program, or increasing the volume or intensity of an existing program can lead to overuse injuries. The body simply is not ready for the load that we want! And because we need our feet to walk around all day, it becomes difficult to rest them.
In the video, you will see some strengthening exercises designed for the foot and ankle mostly. You can also do more single legged work in your other exercises as well. Standing on one foot for shoulder work or one leg for lower body work, is very functional and can help you meet the needs of an increasing program. Adding in calf raises at the end of an exercise can make your foot, ankle, and calf stronger.
Flexibility is an issue for most people. Sitting all day then going for a run, or sleeping all night then getting a walk in before work can be a difficult transition for the ankle. Our joints function best when they can move in their full range of motion. Increasing your flexibility in your ankle, knee, and hip decreases the strain and overuse in your foot!
You’ll likely be surprised how much easier walking, running, and playing sports is when you have strong and flexible ankles. These exercises and stretches are a great way to help rehabilitate a sore heel or prevent the occurrence of this happening to you!
If you want to learn more about reprogramming your body or need guidance putting a routine together, let me know! I would love to help.