Well, this is a common story that I hear from runners. Here's an example:
Just as the weather was starting to get nice, “Mike” decided to take up running again because he wanted to add in something different to his workout routine.
He started slowly, running gently for 15 minutes at a time, every weekend and sometimes after work. After each run he finished with a slow walk to cool down.
Gradually over the weeks running felt easier, so he decided to pick up the pace one weekend and run for a few extra minutes up hill until all of a sudden…OUCH! Shooting ankle pain came out of nowhere and “Mike” hasn’t been able to run since.
In fact his ankle pain has been so bad that he hasn’t been able to go out and run for a whole 6 weeks – which feels like a long time when you’re missing out on doing something you enjoy!
In an ideal runner’s world, every step of every mile would be one hundred percent pain-free. There wouldn't be any aches, twinges, or lingering soreness from the previous day’s activity. (Actually...this is every active adult's dream whether they run or do another form of working out!)
The reality is, this is one of the most common problems I see from people who enjoy to run or walk long distances.
Here’s the thing: we’re not designed to run and walk up hills for long periods of time, and nor do we need to!
Sure, you might work a bit harder by running up a hill, but this is adding huge stress to your ankle and Achilles tendon by doing so.
Of course, if you have an event coming up that involves a lot of steep hills, then doing this type of activity would likely help you achieve that goal, but let me explain why it’s likely to do more harm than good:
Your Achilles tendon is like an elastic band. When running or walking up hills this elastic band gets stretched too far. The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the back of the heel. When under too much stress, the Achilles tendon tightens and becomes irritated which is why you feel pain each time you go for a run or walk up the stairs.
This is not an injury to run or walk through. If you catch a minor strain early, a few days off might be sufficient healing time, but if you keep running as usual, you could develop something more serious that may even take up to six months to go away!
So what’s the number one thing to do right away if you’re suffering from this pain right now, or if it strikes?
Complete rest for a few days and lots of ice!
Swap your footwear for soft, comfy shoes, there’s no need to wear an ankle brace or wear supports, just apply ice. I recommend applying ice for 10 minutes each hour if possible.
After 2-3 days I’d begin some deep massage and very gentle stretching and work on the ankle joint to prevent any stiffness or get rid of any swelling.
Another Important Tip: If you’re going to walk or run up hills (because sometimes it can’t be avoided), stand up as tall as possible (this will stretch your Achilles less). Also, a month before you start running again, do core and pilates or yoga exercises to make your back and ankle strong so that you can safely run up/down hills and give you the best shot at avoiding Achilles problems from happening to you too!
For more tips like this and to learn more about sports injuries click HERE – to get your free copy of my Sports Injury E-Book which reveals 6 Steps Injured Athletes Must Do To Return To Sports ASAP.
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Info to help you move better, feel better, get back to the workouts and sports you love...and lots of other things...
Dr. Christine Walker
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