Running while doing Heel Drops

Should I still run while doing them?

10 messages
28/03/2012 at 16:39

I'm on week three of doing a program of eccentric heel drops to combat achiiles pain in my left leg's mid-tendon area (my leg is 46 years old). Everything going well, I can already see an improvement in running and also generally walking about, and doing the heel drops instantly gets rid of any achilles stiffness I have.

But should I continue to run while doing the heel drops? I did run when I had a similar problem in my other leg, and it did clear up, but I recently read a couple of articles online suggesting not to run until well into the 12-week program, as concentric movements while running may undo some of the good work done by the eccentric heel drops. I am only currently running 2 miles every other day, at a slow pace, and while I can feel an occasional slight tightening of the achilles while running, it's not painful and doesn't bother me too much. And after doing more heel drops a few hours after the run, everything feels good still, with almost no tenderness or swelling when I pinch the achilles.

Any advice you can give would be good - thanks!

28/03/2012 at 17:48
Hi Ian,
Where we these articles from? Are they Scientific Journals?
I think the reason people have avoided concentric exercise with Achilles problems is because it can aggravate symptoms. If done at the right level I can't see why it would be a problem. The same applies with running.
The tendon is constantly either breaking down or building new collagen tissue. The art is striking a balance where tissue breakdown (caused by excessive load e.g. From running) is not greater than tissue synthesis (the body building new tendon tissue and increasing the tendon's strength). If you are not running any great distance and you aren't getting an increase in your pain then I would say it's probably ok to continue as long as things are still improving overall.
Another factor is frequency of running. A rest day between runs allows time for tissue synthesis. Hope that all makes some sense!
28/03/2012 at 18:18

Great, thanks for the quick response Tom. it does make sense! I like getting into the scientific side of things .

I can't remember specifically where the articles were, but I think they were articles rather than scientific journals - they just mentioned in passing not do any running - but there's a lot of stuff on the internet that might not be true! Depends on individual circumstances I guess, and the level of the injury.

I will continue with my gentle running, and you have a good point about the rest days - it's always a temptation to do more running if your legs feel good, but I will continue to take every other day off at least, listen to my leg, and also use a massage stick to keep things loosened up. I'll keep an eye out for similar forum posts and pass on the benefit of my experience after my program is complete.

28/03/2012 at 19:34
If you like the science behind these things, this is a great article;

http://www.med.nyu.edu/pmr/residency/resources/Clinics_sports%20med/clinics%20NA%20sports_overuse_tendin_stress_compartment_shin.pdf

It's very technical in parts but I'm sure you'll make sense of it!
It covers a number of injuries and has a section on Achilles tendonopathy
28/03/2012 at 20:20

Thanks again Tom, this looks good - every injury I've ever had has been overuse-related (same as most people probably), so this will be good to read through.

Just been for a two mile run, did some heel drops before going and no problems to report!

29/03/2012 at 09:25

I've had problems with tightness in the achilles and do heel drops daily.  The only thing that I'd suggest is that you do them as soon as you get back from your run (if you don't already) instead of leaving them a few hours (well, that's how you describe it in your post, perhaps you do more than one lot?).  And in spite of the temptation to run more often, do leave rest days.

My physio suggested heel drop exercise carrying light weights (on the back, in a rucksack) as this puts a bit more load on the achilles, but with exercise, strengthens it.  (however, if you're unsure, then check with your physio first).

I started by running x 3 per week, now up to 4, but I've changed it to run 2 days / rest / run 2 days ie:

Mon - run
Tues - run
Weds - rest
Thurs - run
Fri - run
Sat / Sun - rest

It still allows rest, but puts slightly more pressure on the achilles.  I try to avoid hilly bits and keep pace down.

30/03/2012 at 09:22

thanks for the advice Jeepers - I hadn't actually been doing the heel drops straight after the run, I will do that; I've been stretching straight after a run, but leaving the heel drops till later, for no particular reason - what you say makes sense. I've been doing them three times a day so far, mid-morning, mid-afternoon and then later at night

I'm about ready to start adding weights - I'm going to book an appointment with the physio next week first just for him to give me the OK, as you suggest above, and he can dig his fingers into the leg as well to loosen things up more.

I intend to be the fittest and most injury-free person on the planet after all this - not realy listened to my body properly over the last few years.

I hope the rest of your program works out well. 

30/03/2012 at 09:46

Thanks - it's worth listening to your body!  I used to run regularly 45 - 50m per week, then in October 2010 became ill.  I was unable to train for about a year, then started back, with advice from a "professional".  I followed the advice and ended up with an achilles injury (having never had an injury at all following my own instincts in previous years).  That took me out for 3 months, so following physio etc, I'm starting back on that plan, taking it very slowly and making sure that I'm not tight afterwards.

By all means keep doing the heel drops during the day, but it would help to do them immediately afterwards.

I also invested in a step platform - I found doing them on the stair at home wasn't totally successful due to the carpet, so decided to invest in one - it only cost £20, but was worth it.

I also do calf stretches, presume you do too and, when out, try as much as possible to avoid hills.  It's fairly steep where I live and I can't get home without going up a number of smallish hills, but if it's going to be too much, then I slow right down and will, if necessary, walk, rather than incur another injury.

I know hill training is recommended, but I'm going to give it a miss.  My legs are older than yours and they were working perfectly well until this idiot gave me a stupid programme.  I should have followed my instincts and not done it, so in a way, serves me right.

30/03/2012 at 10:59

Excellent, thanks for the extra advice Jeepers.

Been doing the heel drops on a step ladder as I live in a flat, but it's not sturdy enough so ordered the other day a Reebok step platform. Worth the investment as I can see me doing heel drops indefinitely, to keep muscles / tendons in order and keep injury away, and will look better in the living room than a step ladder.

Yes, been doing gastroc and soleus stretches since the first physio visit with the other leg (hip-fexor and various other streches too), and graduated now to balance excercises and core-strengthening excercises. There's one small hill on my run, I've been walking up that, to give both my lungs and my tendon a breather. I've been more than happy walking, keeps me mobile and helps keep the waistline down. I've had various injuries for a few years now and pushed things too far too quickly before, I'm going to nail it once and forever now, hopefully, as I find running very easy when I'm fit and it's frustrating not being able to do it.

30/03/2012 at 11:24
Ian Howells 2 wrote (see)

 I've had various injuries for a few years now and pushed things too far too quickly before,


Always the way!

I developed severe plantar fasciitis the first time I started running - too many miles, too quickly and no stretching.   Once I'd got that sorted, I followed the "take it easy" approach.  I ran 25 - 30m per week for a while, then joined a challenge on here, based on monthly mileage.  I do HR training where the emphasis is on the majority of running at <70% (HR) effort, and in that month, but taking it easy, managed to double my mileage so that by the end of the month, I was churning out 45 - 50 m per week.  I then maintained that, injury free until I became ill.  I'm doing a "return to fitness" programme and hopefully, once I'm fit again, I'll be able to get back to that mileage, but it will be by increasing gradually and sensibly.

I'm old enough and ugly enough to know the wisdom of experience!

Good luck with your running.


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