Achilles pain can be debilitating, frustrating, often long lasting. Traditional exercises for this pain usually include passively stretching your calves with a towel, going against a wall to stretch, and doing some heel lifts once you can do so without pain.
But is this enough? Is it really going to solve the main issue behind your Achilles pain?
Nothing Works in Isolation
Remember, when it comes to our body, nothing works in isolation. There is a reason you are experiencing pain in your Achilles, and that reason can be different for each person. It could be a poor movement pattern, poor strength of the calves or foot muscles, improper footwear, or even a weakness in your glutes.
“Your glutes actually eccentrically control pronation of your feet, and if they aren’t strong enough, this can lead to increased pressure on your Achilles.”
I know many of you are questioning that last statement – a weakness in your glutes can cause Achilles pain? It may sound crazy, but like I said, everything works together and nothing works in isolation.
Your glutes actually eccentrically control pronation of your feet, and if they aren’t strong enough, this can lead to increased pressure on your Achilles. Even more, if you are lacking hip extension power from your glutes, many people will turn to using their calves.
Think about it: have you ever seen someone constantly coming up on his or her toes during a kettlebell swing? Doing this the odd time isn’t too much of an issue, but do this over and over and your poor calves and Achilles will certainly take the brunt of this movement and become sore and overworked.
If you’re suffering from Achilles pain, the best thing to do is get assessed by a professional who can tell you exactly why you’re having the pain and who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to exercises and symptom management. You can also try including these exercises in your training to help combat current or future occurrences of Achilles pain.
Note: If any of these exercises hurt or cause pain (other than the normal pain of foam rolling), do not do them! Pain is not okay during exercises and will actually cause a change in motor programming that could lead to future injury.
With that said, check out these unconventional, or less heard of, exercises to help you combat that pain in the Achilles.
Self-Myofascial Release of Calves and Feet
You can use a foam roller or lacrosse ball for this, and simply work on rolling out your calves, similar to any other foam rolling you do. One of my favorite things to do when people find a sore spot is to have them keep the roller or lacrosse ball on that point, and then make circles with their ankles. Try it, and you will see why I love it so much.
Dynamic Calf Stretch
This is a simple stretch that gets you using and stretching your entire posterior chain. Simply get into a downward dog position and hook one foot on the opposite leg. Then, drop your knee to the ground, and back, really trying to get your heel to touch the ground. You should feel a pretty big stretch in the calves with this. Repeat eight to ten times per leg.
The Modified Clamshell
An easy and effective glute activation exercise that can help you feel the burn in your butt. Simply lay on your side, with your top leg bent up so that your hip is at ninety degrees, with that top foot hooked behind the knee of the bottom leg. Then, keeping your hips forward and keeping your foot hooked, lift your knee up and hold for two to three seconds, then slowly lower. Do this until you can feel your glute activating, and then do ten more.
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Photo 1 courtesy of Shutterstock.