Getting Help With My Back

3 Things Cyclists Need To Know About Achilles Tendinitis

by Renee Ruiz

The Achilles tendon is a thick band of tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Its job is to help you flex your foot downwards, a motion that is essential for a variety of sports, including cycling. When this tendon is subjected to repetitive stress, it can become inflamed, leading to Achilles tendinitis. Here are three things cyclists need to know about Achilles tendinitis.

How does cycling cause Achilles tendinitis?

Every time you flex your foot downwards to push your pedals, your Achilles tendon is under strain. When this strain becomes repetitive and excessive, the tendon becomes inflamed. Repetitive strain may occur if you're riding long distances and not allowing your body to rest and heal in between rides.

Low saddle height can also lead to Achilles tendinitis in cyclists. This occurs because a too-low saddle forces you to hold your foot and ankle in an unnatural, flexed position, which puts strain on your tendon. If you haven't already done so, have your bike professionally fitted and adjusted. 

What are the symptoms of Achilles tendinitis?

Generally, the first sign of Achilles tendinitis is mild pain. This pain is located in the area of the Achilles tendon, along the back of the leg or on the back of the heel. This pain will occur following your rides, so at first, it's easy to assume that your muscles are just tired after your workout.

Another early sign of Achilles tendinitis is stiffness and tenderness in the area, typically in the morning. This stiffness will go away once you get up and moving, so like the pain after your rides, you may not think much of it.

As the tendon becomes more inflamed, the pain will get worse. You may experience persistent pain in the back of your leg and heel. This pain will make it hard for you to keep riding, and it may make it harder for you to do daily activities like climbing stairs, too. 

How is this injury treated?

Rest and activity modification are the mainstays of treatment for this injury. This means that you won't be able to ride your bike, and your doctor may also tell you to avoid cross-training workouts. If your tendon is very inflamed, you may need to wear a tall walking boot to protect the tendon while it heals.

Once the inflammation is under control, you'll need physical therapy or Orthopedic Rehab. The goal of this therapy is to stretch your tendon to protect it from future injuries.

If the back of your leg or heel hurts after a ride, you may have Achilles tendinitis and should see a sports medicine doctor right away.