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Achilles Tendinopathy – what you need to know

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What is Achilles Tendinopathy?

Achilles Tendinopathy is a relatively common soft tissue injury that affects the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel. We might not pay this small part of the body too much attention when it seems to be functioning properly, but this is a hard-working area that takes a lot of stress throughout the day. Sometimes, the stress becomes too much for the tendon to comfortably bear and Achilles Tendinopathy can develop, causing inflammation, swelling and pain.

Why do runners get it?

Although Achilles Tendinopathy can affect both athletes and non-athletes, it is most common in those who participate in sports or activities that involve a lot of running. After all, one of the key functions of the heel is to absorb the shock of the foot hitting the floor, so it’s hardly surprising that footballers, tennis players and runners are amongst those most affected.

The exact reasons why Achilles Tendinopathy develops remain unclear – it is not simply a case of too much exercising. However, this condition has been linked to a variety of common training errors amongst runners including: running too far or at too high an intensity; poor footwear; and a lack of variation in training, leading to issues such as weak calf muscles or poor core stability around the hip or knee which can place additional strain on the tendon.

How can it be prevented?

There are a few things you can try to incorporate into your running routine in order to minimise the chance of developing Achilles Tendinopathy. Tips include:

  • Increase running distance and time by 10% each week to build up gradually.
  • Renew your trainers every 300-500 miles or rotate between different pairs to ensure they remain supportive.
  • Switch up your routine and combine different speeds, distances and times into your training to allow the tendon to adapt.
  • Cross-train by incorporating alternative activities such as swimming, pilates or weight training into your routine. This can help strengthen other areas of the body, protecting the tendon and distributing the load to reduce strain.

How is it treated?

When it comes to treating Achilles Tendinopathy, non-surgical treatments are likely to be recommended initially. As treatment can take up to 12-18 months to take effect, it is likely that you will need to avoid activities that may place stress on the ankle. However, approximately 70% of people affected by Achilles Tendinopathy are able to return gradually to their sport at around the three-month mark after following a specially designed exercise programme.

Whilst you are in recovery, this does not mean you have to give up all sports – low impact activities such as swimming or cycling will allow you to enjoy exercise whilst reducing strain on the Achilles tendon.

The exercise programme for Achilles Tendinopathy would be created by a physiotherapist to suit your specific case and is likely to consist of a number of exercises designed to strengthen and lengthen the calf muscle. Be aware that some exercise programmes might increase pain in the tendon at first, but this is normal and should soon settle and begin to reduce.

The majority of patients respond well to physiotherapy, but if it should fail to improve the condition, shockwave treatment, injection therapy, or even surgery are alternative options to explore.

Why come to Wimbledon Clinics?

At Wimbledon Clinics we offer a comprehensive and professional sports medicine service for a wide range of sports-related problems and injuries, ensuring that our patients have access to every option for treatment, not just surgery.

We bring together experienced consultants, surgeons, physiotherapists and other sports medicine specialists under one roof so that no matter what sports-related issue you might be experiencing, at Wimbledon Clinics you can expect to find the best advice and treatment to help you recover.

Call us on: 0208 944 0665 or email us at: [email protected]