Beating Insertional Achilles Tendonitis

1359701390228It has now been one month since I turned a corner in conquering my Insertional Achilles Tendonitis. Having struggled with it since February, to the degree that it made me not want to run and certainly not enjoy it in any way if I did, I made rapid improvements within days once I started using Superfeet for extra support.

I also got some new footwear, as I felt that the running shoes and football boots I was using were a size too small. While increasing the size did reduce any pressure on the back of the heel, and probably did help in the soothing of any aggravation going on, for actually running around it just made me prone to blisters. I ended up going back to my original size and without any ill-effect.

With the Superfeet in use, I have been able to gradually build up my running with zero achilles pain. The difference is remarkable. Prior to using them, I could not even run about in the garden with my daughter without the achilles playing up in an annoying and sore way. Very quickly, I was able to do a full football match with the achilles not even being noticeable. However, because of my lack of training over recent months, everything else hurt!

I have had a lot of fitness to build up again. I’m not back at pre-injury levels yet but am noticing strong gains all the time. However, I don’t really mind that, as I can run around and enjoy it with a smile on my face again! I think a strong indicator of being over an injury is when you just look forward to getting out there and training again, and the idea does not worry you.

Now, while using the support of the Superfeet to get over the injury has been great, I don’t want to become reliant on them forever. I have therefore been transitioning to removing them over time. As an example, doing one half of a football match without them, then doing the second half with them in. When they are not in use, I ‘feel’ my achilles more, so it is a case of being careful.

This has gone really well. For the last two days in a row, I did two 5k training runs in minimalist (inov-8) footwear and without the Superfeet. The achilles was noticeable but not painful. More importantly, after the run and the next morning it was absolutely fine. I have had to build up to this point and may now go back to using the Superfeet for a few sessions just to avoid doing Too Much Too Soon.

My key learning points to being successful in dealing with this horrifically stubborn injury are:

  1. SEE A SPECIALIST, GET A SCAN: In my case, nothing scary was revealed by getting this done. I feel a scan is important to rule out any complicating factors which could be present. Perhaps it is bursitis, and not the achilles? Is there a severe tear that needs immobilisation and/or surgery?
  2. REST: This is important to a degree. Certainly rest is required until any obvious acute pain is gone, and you should NOT RUN THROUGH PAIN. You know the difference between pain and soreness. Don’t be stupid. Rest on its own did not help me though: I took 3-4 weeks off running and when I went back to it, it was just the same as before. The problem is that you are not truly resting the achilles anyway if you are still walking around. Which leads me to…
  3. SORT OUT PAIN ON WALKING: This was the key for me. If the achilles is sore as you are walking around, it is not getting the chance to heal. This is where the Superfeet added enough support for comfort during the day, and gave the achilles that chance! Heel raises, orthotics… find out what you need. Some specialists may immobilise the achilles for a week or two to force this issue.
  4. CHECK FOOTWEAR: In my case, I went up a size, even if on a temporary basis. This added extra space around the heel so there was no tightness causing aggravation of the heel area. Those new shoes were not suitable for running and led to blisters, but for walking around during the day, they were absolutely perfect. If you can get away with ultra-cushioned running shoes at work then even better. Yes, such cushioning is a crutch, but that’s fine because you are injured!
  5. TAKE YOUR TIME: Depending on the extent of our lay-off, you will have lost fitness. Both in terms of cardio but also muscle strength and stability. Come back slowly. Take rest days as you need them. Enjoy the runs you are having pain-free and remember that you want to preserve that. There is no rush! Avoid hill running and sprint training to begin with and introduce over time as your confidence comes back.
  6. REMOVE TEMPORARY SOLUTIONS WHEN READY: As stated earlier in this article, I do not believe in using orthotics long-term. For helping an injury heal, sure, and I feel the same way about heel-raises, lots of cushioning and so on. Once everything is feeling good, work on removing those temporary fixes. Again, take your time. Mix it up a bit.

I hope you find this guide helpful, and please let me know your own stories!

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