Foam Roller Techniques for Achilles Tendonitis


If you struggle with a tight, painful Achilles tendon, learning foam roller techniques for Achilles tendonitis can provide some easy, quick relief.

Not treating the symptoms of Achilles tendonitis as soon as possible can make it worse, leading to having to take time off from running.

To keep running pain-free, practice your foam rolling. It will get easier with time, as the muscles respond faster every time to foam roll your Achilles.

What Is the Achilles Tendon?

Your Achilles tendon is the largest, thickest, and strongest tendon in your body.

It attaches to the middle of the two main calf muscles, extending down the back of your lower leg, connecting the calf to the heel of the foot.

The Achilles tendon is responsible for transmitting power from the calf muscles to the heel and foot. Every time your calf muscles flex, the tendon pulls on the heel, allowing us to walk, run, jump, and stand on our toes.

Practically all of the force that’s created during the “toe-off” phase of running gets transferred directly to the Achilles tendon. That means it takes on almost three times your body weight every time you toe-off.

But this also means that the faster and more you run, the more strain you place on the tendon.

The Common Causes of Achilles Tendonitis in Runners

Achilles tendonitis is an overuse injury that’s often caused by a combination of factors, including being placed under excessive stress.

If you have weak or tight calf muscles or if your calf muscles are fatigued, this will then place the Achilles under excessive strain.

This can be brought on by not stretching the calves properly before your run, increasing your speed or mileage too quickly, or overtraining.

If you’re a forefoot striker, you could have a higher risk of developing Achilles tendonitis as more strain is placed on the Achilles.

But even if you land with a rearfoot strike pattern, you could be at a high risk of developing Achilles tendonitis if you’re doing a lot of speed training or excessive hill running.

Running in stiff running shoes can cause the Achilles to twist or not fully extend during the gait cycle, which will cause inflammation in the tendon.

You can cause an overload on the Achilles tendon by running in footwear that’s worn or that doesn’t provide your foot with support. If your shoes provide poor shock absorption, then you’ll be at an increased risk of developing Achilles tendonitis.

Runners who overpronate need to make sure that their shoes provide adequate support, as overpronation increases the strain on the tendon.

Try to avoid running on hard or sloped surfaces, as this aggravates and puts excessive strain on your tendon.

Other contributing factors that could cause Achilles tendonitis include:

  • Wear and tear to the tendon due to your age
  • Biomechanical abnormalities like leg length discrepancy
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Gout
  • Inflammatory arthritis

It’s important to treat Achilles tendonitis when you first notice the symptoms. An irritated tendon can partially or completely tear in a short amount of time.

If you’ve noticed a dull or sharp pain along the tendon or close to the heel, stop all running activities.

Other signs that you may have Achilles tendonitis are redness on the tendon, a burning sensation in the Achilles, or limited ankle flexibility.

It’s important to note that the lower portion of the Achilles has a limited amount of blood flow. So pain in the lower portion of the Achilles is more serious and you may want to consider cross-training for a while.

After all, you don’t want to make a bad injury worse by running through it.

Foam Roller Techniques

Foam Roll the Calves for Achilles Tendonitis Relief

This foam roller technique will focus on the calves and you won’t roll directly on the tendon. This will help reduce the tension on the tendon and improve tissue elasticity.

For this technique, you can use a standard size foam roller.

Start by sitting on a mat or the floor and stretch both legs in front of you. Place the foam roller underneath your calf muscles. Then place both your hands behind your back, lift your buttocks off the floor, and push yourself forward.

Roll over the length of your calf muscles, making sure not to roll on the tendon towards your ankle.

When you feel a trigger point, you’ll stop pushing forward and slightly rotate the leg, and bring your opposite leg over so that it rests on the lower part of your leg. This will help you to apply more pressure to the trigger point until it relaxes.

Once it’s relaxed, go back to your starting position and then repeat this movement on the opposite leg.

If the pain increases while you’re applying pressure with your free leg, you can always sit down. You will still be able to apply comfortable pressure to the trigger point with the top of your leg until it relaxes.

Foam Rolling Technique to Relieve Tension in the Sole of the Foot

For this technique, you’re going to need a mini-sized foam roller.

While standing, place the mini foam roller on the floor in front of you. Then place your foot on the roller so that it’s in the middle of your foot, so you can let your toes hang downwards.

Use your body weight to apply comfortable pressure as you slowly roll your foot forwards and backwards, all the way to the back of your heel on the foam roller. Make sure to keep the pressure constant and consistent throughout the roll.

When you come across a painful or tender area, hold that position with comfortable pressure for 10 to 20 seconds. You should feel the trigger point relax.

As you’re rolling, rotate your foot to the right and the left so that you can also target the inner and outer edges of your foot.

Do this motion for two minutes on each foot.

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Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.