Achilles tendonitis is a common issue among runners, characterized by inflammation and pain in the Achilles tendon – the band of tissue connecting the calf muscles to the heel bone.
As a sprinter in track & field, I have often dealt with Achilles tendonitis, and sometimes the fix was as simple as finding the right shoes.
This Achilles injury can be debilitating, potentially hindering your ability to maintain an active lifestyle.
However, the right pair of running shoes for Achilles tendonitis can make a difference by providing the necessary arch support, cushioning, and stability to alleviate discomfort and promote healing.
In this article, we will explore the causes of Achilles tendonitis, how proper footwear can help address this issue and present our top picks for the best running shoes for Achilles tendonitis.
My goal is to help you get back on track and enjoy running without worrying about further injury or pain.
The 3 Best Running Shoes For Achilles Tendonitis
Here are our top 3 picks for the best running shoes on the market in 2023 for Achilles tendonitis.
Brooks Ghost 15
The Brooks Ghost 15 is our top-rated pair of running shoes for Achilles tendonitis. With a 4.6 out of 5 customer rating based on over one thousand customer reviews, the Brooks Ghost 15 is a supportive shoe and a safe bet for your next running shoe.
This neutral shoe features mid-level cushioning, a 12mm heel drop, strong heel support, and a very stable sole that helps you strike the ground in a balanced manner while providing enough cushion to minimize the impact on your joints and tendons.
Athletes on my track team who use the Brooks Ghost 15 have remarked on their comfort level, relatively low weight, and adequate cushioning. Whether you are running fast workouts or going on long runs, the Brooks Ghost 15 is a durable, capable running shoe that can help take the stress off of your sore Achilles tendons.
Brooks Hyperion Tempo Specifications:
- Weight: 9.8 oz
- Heel Drop: 12mm
- Shoe Type: Neutral Running Shoe
- Comfort: Engineered mesh upper provides a secure fit and breathability, while the wide toe box accommodates a wide range of feet.
- Midsole: Full-length DNA Loft V2 midsole gives runners comfort and shock absorption for longer runs.
- Foot Type: Suitable for runners with low, medium, or high arches.
- Cushioning: Mid-Level Cushion for light and responsive cushioning
- Training Style: Perfect for everyday running and training on roads and paved trails
- Price: $139.95
Where To Buy The Brooks Ghost 15
New Balance Fresh Foam X 880V13
The New Balance Fresh Foam X 880V13 comes highly rated, with a 4.8 out of 5 customer rating. This shoe features the same heel drop as the Nike Pegasus 39, with a slightly more firm foam cushion.
Runners who like to feel a neutral foot strike, a lightweight running shoe, some ankle support and a moderate heel drop will enjoy running in the X 880v13.
Reviews of this show that runners who have switched from the Pegasus to the 880v13 found that these shoes took very little time to break in, were great for short and moderate distance running, are light, comfortable, and leave the runner feeling good throughout their workout.
New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v13 Specifications:
- Weight: 10.6 oz
- Heel Drop: 10mm
- Shoe Type: Stability Shoe
- Comfort: Supportive Upper with engineered mesh for breathability and comfort with no-sew overlays to reduce friction.
- Durability: Enhanced Durability with blown Ndurance rubber
- Cushion: Mid-level Cushioned Midsole with Fresh Foam X and Bio EVA
- Running Style: Suitable for neutral runners
- Training Style: Perfect for training on tracks, treadmills, or roads
- Price: $139.95
Where To Buy The New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v13:
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 40
The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 40 is an all-around lightweight shoe and good running shoe for runners to try if they suffer from Achilles tendonitis. The Pegasus 39 features a neutral stance, a moderate 10mm heel drop, and a rocker design, which help take the strain off your Achilles and keep you moving forward.
In college, we were provided with Nike Pegasus running shoes, a durable shoe which could withstand the pounding of long track workouts and intense sprints.
The Pegasus 39 is best for runners training for shorter races such as the 3k, 5k, or 10k or athletes who want running shoes that are great for tempo runs.
If you want a light, versatile versatile running shoe, that helps reduce Achilles tendonitis pain, the Nike Pegasus 39 is a good choice as one of the best running shoes for achilles tendonitis.
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 40 Specifications:
- Weight: 8.8 oz
- Heel Drop: 10mm
- Shoe Type: Neutral Running Shoe
- Comfort: Comfortable upper material hugs your foot while allowing it to breathe and stay dry.
- Cushion: Thick heel cushioning with a moderate drop helps promote rolling through the foot while reducing impact.
- Running Style: Suitable for neutral runners and forefoot runners.
- Training Style: Great for training on tracks, treadmills, or roads
- Price: $77.97
Where To Buy The Nike Pegasus 40
What Causes Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis, also known as Achilles tendinopathy, is a painful condition resulting from inflammation of the Achilles tendon.
According to scientific research, Achilles tendonitis can be attributed to various intrinsic and extrinsic factors.
- Anatomic factors: Individual differences in bone structure, muscle, and tendon.
- Age: As we age, tendons lose elasticity and become more susceptible to injury.
- Sex: Males and females may have different risks of developing Achilles tendonitis.
- Metabolic dysfunction: Conditions like diabetes can impact tendon health and impair nutrient delivery to tissue such as tendons.
- Foot arch: High arches can place additional stress on the Achilles tendon.
- Leg length discrepancy: Unequal leg lengths may lead to imbalances and strain on the tendon.
- Muscle weakness: Weak calf muscles can increase the load on the Achilles tendon as the muscle fails to handle ground contact forces.
- Imbalances: Muscle imbalances in the lower leg can contribute to tendon strain.
- Gastrocnemius dysfunction: Dysfunction in the calf muscle may place extra stress on the tendon.
- Plantaris muscle anomalies: Anomalies in the plantaris muscle can affect the Achilles tendon.
- Tendon vascularization: Reduced blood flow to the tendon can impair its healing ability.
- Achilles tendon torsion: Abnormal twisting of the tendon can cause strain and inflammation.
- Fascicle slippage: Disruption of tendon fibers can lead to weakness and injury.
- Ankle instability: Lateral instability can place additional stress on the Achilles tendon.
- Mechanical overload: Excessive force applied to the tendon during activities.
- Repetitive stress: Constant strain on the tendon can lead to inflammation and injury.
- Inadequate equipment: Poorly designed or ill-fitting sports equipment can contribute to tendon strain.
- Obesity: Excess body weight can increase the load on the Achilles tendon.
- Medications: Corticosteroids, anabolic steroids, and fluoroquinolones can impact tendon health.
- Improper footwear: Shoes that don't provide adequate support or cushioning can contribute to tendon strain.
- Need for more warm-up or stretching: Inadequate preparation before exercise can increase injury risk.
- Hard training surfaces: Running on hard surfaces can exacerbate the impact on the Achilles tendon.
- Direct trauma: Injuries from direct impact or accidents can lead to Achilles tendonitis.
How Can Runners Prevent Achilles Tendonitis?
While aches and pains can be a normal part of the training process, chronic pain or worsening inflammation in your Achilles tendon must be addressed.
To prevent Achilles tendonitis, runners should focus on running with good technique and proper foot strikes, gradually manage and progress training volume and running mileage, and strengthen their feet and calves with appropriate strength training.
Improve Your Foot Strike
When someone presents with Achilles tendonitis, they often run in a way perpetuating the issue.
For example, if you run with a forefoot strike during long-distance running, you are placing added strain on the Achilles tendon. Over time, this chronic stress leads to microtears and inflammation, which makes your tendons hurt.
Suppose you run on your forefoot for thousands of steps. In that case, the Achilles is placed under a lot of tension in a shortened position, increasing the likelihood of irritation and chronic pain.
Runners should emphasize either a mid-foot strike or a heel-first, rolling ground contact, depending on the speed at which they run. The slower you are running, the more you should contact with your heel and roll softly through each step. The foot should still strike the ground in a downward and backward manner, making sure that you do not let your heel crash forward into the ground. If you are running faster than a jogging pace, you can contact on the mid-foot and roll through the foot at takeoff.
By using the mid-foot or rear of the foot when you contact the ground, the forces going into your leg will be absorbed by the entire foot and lower leg rather than going straight into your Achilles tendon.
Progress Your Training Volume Gradually
One of the easiest ways to get hurt running is to ramp up your training volume or running mileage too quickly.
It is easy to get excited and want to run a lot, but often our body cannot keep up with our level of motivation. While we may be able to get ourselves to run long distances mentally, our body's tissues need time to adapt to the stress of training before increasing the training load.
If you have a particular goal for weekly mileage, start by running 25-50% of that mileage in your first weeks of training so you can see how your body responds.
If you can run at 50% of your goal mileage for a few weeks with no pain, you can progress up to 60% or 70% of your goal mileage for another three-week training cycle.
Over time, you can incrementally increase the training load and running mileage in your program, only increasing mileage when your body stays pain-free and you feel it is safe.
Utilize Strength Training
While running is a significant part of how we train, we as runners must also perform strength training. Strength training has been shown to improve running economy, reduce injury risk, and improve one's health when combined with cardiovascular exercise.
Performing exercises such as calf raises, squats, lunges, and hip thrusts will develop the body's muscles, making them more prepared for the demands of running.
Further, isometric strength training will help strengthen your tendons and reduce pain levels when adequately performed. If running is painful, you should perform some isometric calf-raise holds in a standing and belt leg position, holding for 10 to 20 seconds per set. This can help strengthen your Achilles tendon so you can run without pain.
What Types Of Shoes & Accessories Can Help With Achilles tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis sufferers who are training properly but still deal with heel pain can give themselves a better shot at pain relief by picking the right running shoes or using heel lifts.
For short-term relief, shoes with a moderate heel drop and extra cushioning under the heel can help take pressure off of the Achilles tendon. A higher heel drop elevates the heel during ground contact, limiting the tendon's lengthening as you run. By limiting the amount of stretch that the tendon has to deal with, wearing shoes with heel and arch support can help prevent further damage and pain.
If buying new shoes for Achilles tendonitis is not realistic for your budget, you can consider adding a heel insert into your running shoes to achieve a similar effect as shoes with a high heel drop. Once again, we can ease Achilles pain by elevating the heel to reduce the tension that is going through the ankle as you run.
Frequently Asked Questions About Running Shoes For Achilles Tendonitis
What running shoes are best for Achilles tendonitis?
Typically you want running shoes that have a neutral stance, a moderate to high heel drop, a medium cushioned midsole, and solid durability. The high heel drop will prevent excessive lengthening of the Achilles tendon, while the neutral stance will ensure the tension is not exposed to excessive torsion at impact.
Can running shoes cause Achilles pain?
Old and worn-out shoes can increase your likelihood of experiencing Achilles tendonitis pain. Also, some shoes, such as zero-drop running shoes, can initially increase the pain you experience as they stretch the Achilles tendon, making running painful. Over time, these shoes can actually help improve this injury, but zero-drop shoes should be introduced gradually to prevent further damage.
Do heel cups help Achilles tendonitis?
Heel cups can help temporarily relieve Achilles tendonitis. Still, long-term recovery requires that you reduce your training load, improve your running technique, and reintroduce the training load gradually once the pain has improved.