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Achilles Tendonitis Exercises to Avoid

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT November 18, 2020 0 Comments

gym exercise

When dealing with an acute Achilles tendon injury or moderate to severe pain, there are certain movements that can aggravate it. Knowing what Achilles tendonitis exercises to avoid is an important part of building a safe and effective exercise program. Keep scrolling to learn which exercises you should NOT do.

Avoid These Exercises!

The calf muscles (and attached Achilles tendons) are specifically made to point the toes and lift the heels off the ground. This provides the power you need for pushing off movements like walking, running, and jumping. Minimizing these moves can help relieve pain.

Safe Exercises for Achilles Tendonitis

  • Excessive Running

    Running requires a lot of ankle stability and strength. Each time you push forward your calf muscles are working hard. Taking a complete rest from running may be necessary with more severe symptoms. Otherwise, modification is possible without completely stopping. Try shortening your run distance, decreasing your cadence and avoiding running on hills. You may also want to try shoe insoles or orthotics for greater support.

    Choosing the Best Insoles

  • Excessive Stretching

    Too much stretching can actually cause aggravation. This is particularly true if you have ankle instability or you are very flexible to begin with. If you are having issues with joint hypermobility, some stretches specific for the calf muscles may be enough. Whereas, if you tend to be stiff you can stretch 10-25 minutes as needed each day.  Listen to your body to avoid overstretching.

    Try these calf stretches that are safe for an injured Achilles tendon.

  • Plyometrics

    Jump training and high intensity moves put a lot of strain on the ankle, particularly the calves and Achilles tendon. It’s best to avoid them until you get your pain under control. Then, you can gradually build back into them. After an ankle injury, it’s best to start with coordination and proprioceptive exercises before getting back to full jumping.

    Achilles Tendonitis Recovery Exercises

  • Certain Sports

    If you participate in sports, you will need to modify your activities for a while to get your symptoms under control. Any activity that requires running or jumping may require a rest break from 1-6 weeks depending on the severity of the injury.  Sports to avoid or take a short rest break from include baseball, gymnastics, soccer, softball, basketball, and tennis.

Daily Activities Causing Achilles Tendon Pain

With Achilles tendinitis, it’s also important to pay attention to some daily activities that might be aggravating your pain without even knowing it. Try to avoid these certain movements as much as possible to allow healing and prevent a progression to Achilles tendinopathy. If that’s not possible, get the most support and protection possible. Consider orthotics, bracing or utilizing Achilles tendon taping.

  • Walking Up Hills or Stairs

    Any move that involves climbing or an upward incline requires extra strength and power from the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus). This puts extra tension and strain on the Achilles tendon each time you take a step forward. If you plan to walk, choose a flat route without hills. If you have stairs at home, limit the number of times you need to use them and use an elevator when in buildings. You can also modify the way you’re walking up your stairs by using other muscles in your lower leg like the hips and knees more than your ankle. 

  • Standing on Your Toes

    Any activity that requires lifting your heels up off the floor directly stresses the Achilles tendon as the calf muscles are activated. Thus, this is one of the most aggravating moves you can do, especially when your heel drops back to the ground after lifting it up. Avoid walking on your toes, standing on your toes to reach anything, or wearing high heeled shoes when you can. Do your best to keep your heel bone on the ground.

Tips for Safe Exercises

When it comes to Achilles tendon recovery, the biggest factor is allowing enough rest before getting back to your normal activities (gradually). Keep these tips in mind to maximize your results:

Do These Stretches Before Exercising

  • Choose good shoes. Make sure you have good ankle and foot support in your shoes. Having a slight lift in the heel can give your Achilles tendon a little break with activities like standing, walking, and running too. You can also add an orthotic insert or insertional heel lift.
  • Get pain relief with self-treatment. Use of ice, heat, TENs, gentle stretches, and soft tissue massage are all great ways to promote circulation for healing. Plus, decrease pain without reliance on anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen.
  • Always warm up. After a period of rest, first thing in the morning, or prior to higher-level activities, always try to warm up the ankle with some gentle stretching and movement.
  • When in doubt: modify. If you are experiencing pain with a particular movement, make it easier or change your mechanics to decrease discomfort when possible.
  • Make sure you take enough rest. While too much rest can be detrimental to ankle strength and flexibility, too little rest is a more common issue that can lead to chronic pain and lingering issues.
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices. Recovering from an injury is boosted when you make good lifestyle choices related to diet, stress management, exercise, and sleep.
  • If you need more guidance, consider doing a round of physical therapy to get personalized recommendations and possible recovery quicker.

How Exercise Aggravates Achilles Tendon Injury

When you ignore painful symptoms it can lead to further damage and aggravation, and in this case can even cause an Achilles tendon rupture. Achilles tendonitis is most often caused by overuse- thus recovery will require a reduction in intensity and activity.

Achilles Tendon Injury Overview

Choosing the Right Exercises

Exercising your lower leg after an ankle injury requires a delicate balance of rest and movement. When you tune into your symptoms, you can use them as a guide to decide what’s right for you. If your symptoms aren’t getting better within a few weeks or get worse, make sure to get in touch with your orthopedic doctor or physical therapist for medical advice.


Achilles Tendonitis Products


Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.

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