One of the many reasons you live in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest is because you love to hike. Filled with majestic mountains and trails, this area is indeed a hiker’s paradise. Unfortunately, that dream may be dashed if you injure your feet. Two common overuse injuries you may encounter are plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. We’ve already written “The Definitive Guide to Stopping Heel Pain in Hikers”. Today we’re going to cover how you can stop Achilles tendonitis when hiking.
What Is Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis is a cousin to plantar fasciitis. Why call it a cousin? It’s because it has many of the same causes as plantar fasciitis. Many of the preventive measures and treatments are also the same.The Achilles is located in the back of your heel and it attaches to the plantar fascia, the ligament that becomes inflamed with plantar fasciitis.
Causes and Risk Factors for Achilles Tendonitis in Hikers
Learning about your own risk factors and other causes of Achilles tendonitis can help you prevent it.
Some of your individual risk factors can include:
- Men are more prone to getting it.
- Flat feet with a tendency to overpronate or roll your feet in.
- Tight calf muscles which inserts into and can overpull the Achilles tendon.
- Psoriasis and high blood pressure.
- Taking certain drugs like fluoroquinolones.
Other causes include:
- Hill running – some hikers love to run up hills to get in shape for more challenging hikes and climbs. The problem is that this activity is a perfect set up for developing Achilles tendonitis.
- Increasing your hiking time or it’s level of difficulty (too much elevation gain) too quickly after taking time off.
- Inadequate warm-up and stretching.
- Improper boots (wearing boots that are worn out or not the right type for the level of hiking you are doing).
Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis
- Mild pain above the heel to just below the calf muscles that gradually increases with hiking
- Aching, soreness, and tenderness particularly with first steps out of bed in the morning.
- Tenderness or intense pain when the sides of the tendon are squeezed.
- Developing nodules where the tissue is damaged
Treatment of Achilles Tendonitis in Hikers at our Seattle Office
Getting Achilles tendonitis treated as soon as possible is essential for a complete recovery. Two other conditions can occur that are associated with strain on Achilles tendon. These are Achilles tendonosis and Achilles tendon rupture. Both of these conditions are more likely to occur if you haven’t fully healed Achilles tendonitis.
Initial treatment of Achilles tendonitis in hikers includes:
- Rest – continuing to hike will only make this condition worse and it will take longer to heal.
- Ice – Use ice 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off to help bring down the inflammation
- Take anti-inflammatory medication – this can also help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation
Other treatments can include:
- Walking boot – sometimes immobilizing the foot with a walking boot will be necessary to recover from Achilles tendonitis.
- Custom orthotics – either traditional orthotics or 3D printed orthotics (now available at our Seattle office) will help improve your foot biomechanics and make a recurrence of Achilles tendonitis less likely.
- Stretching your calf muscles to relieve tight calf muscles – if you have tight calf muscles using a device like an Achilles splint can help reduce it.
- MLS laser therapy is a cold laser treatment that can help more quickly heal
Preventing Achilles Tendonitis in Hikers
It’s always better to prevent a condition from starting in the first place. And that is certainly the case with Achilles tendonitis.
If you’ve never had the condition or you want to prevent a recurrence here are some things you can do:
- Purchase hiking shoes that match the level of hiking you engage in. To learn more about how to purchase hiking boots download my book, “How to Buy Hiking Boots to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis”, which is also relevant for preventing Achilles tendonitis.
- Stretching – in addition to treating really tight calf muscles with an Achilles splint, it’s important to warm-up before you go out on a hike. These should include static stretches of your calf muscle for at least 90 seconds and dynamic stretches for your whole body.
- Change out your insole – if you don’t need orthotics you should be switching out the insole of your boot with an over-the-counter insert, like Powerstep.
- Increase your hiking distance and elevation gain slowly—no more than 10% per week.
- Add in strength training to get your entire body ready for hiking.
- Participate in other forms of exercise like yoga to increase your flexibility, swimming, and weightlifting.
Preventing and Treating Other Foot Problems In Hikers
Need Relief From Achilles Tendonitis in Seattle, Washington? Request an Appointment Now
Don't let plantar warts or other painful foot conditions cause you to miss out on the activities you enjoy. Complete the contact form on this page or call our office at 206-368-7000 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Berg.
Most new patients are seen within 1-2 week's time. During your initial visit, Dr. Berg will spend up to 30 minutes getting to know you, your podiatry complaints, and your goals so that he can recommend the treatment best meets your needs. Don’t wait—contact us today.