The symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis are mild or sharp pain or stiffness in the large tendon that connects the heel bone to the calf muscle. Pain can be localized anywhere between the tendon attachment site, at the heel bone, and the bottom of the muscle belly/tendon junction.

What causes Achilles Tendonitis?

Achilles tendonitis is an inflammation of the Achilles tendon that is commonly associated with overuse and degeneration.

When the Achilles tendon is overly stressed, its fibers can break down (degenerate). This creates tiny tears, swelling, and thickening (stiffness). These damaged fibers can calcify (harden) over time and bone spurs can ultimately form where the tendon attaches to the heel bone.

Acute injuries to the Achilles tendon most often result when a person with acute or chronic maladapted neuromuscular foot function makes sharp sudden movements with their feet as they quickly speed up, slow down, or pivot.

Functional problems occur gradually when everyday activities don’t promote healthy function. Poor foot function – in particular extreme pronation – puts excessive, repetitive, and angular (rather than linear) stress onto the Achilles tendon, which leads to recurring local inflammation and a buildup of fibrotic/inelastic tissue.

Often there is no pain or discomfort until the inelasticity builds to the point that the tendon tears (partial tear or complete rupture) with a single excessive movement.

Football Run
Soccer Play

For proper function, our feet require the Right Stimulus and the Right Movement.

Right Stimulus consists of the subtle varied stimulus that the soles of our feet receive when we walk, especially when we walk barefoot on natural terrain. With each step, there are subtly different sensations.

These subtle differences in stimulus keep our brain on high alert so that our body’s protective reflexes function properly with optimal muscle function. When our brain is uncertain about what will happen, it triggers protective reflex muscle activations that support our arches before our feet contact the ground to ensure that our feet and legs can safely manage the forces generated by the intensity of our bodies’ activity.

As activity-related stimulus intensifies, a progressively higher arch is created. That’s why, when they are functioning properly, our arches and toes rise and fall dynamically, in response to the varying activity stimulus intensities. This uninhibited dynamic movement is Right Movement.

Repetitive strain on the Achilles tendon caused by unbalanced muscle function contributes to collapsing arches, poor bone alignment, and unbalanced muscle use throughout the legs and hips.

Right Stimulus and Right Movement prevent the unbalanced muscle function that creates the repetitive strain on the Achilles tendon.

Right Stimulus

Conventional footwear impairs optimal foot function in two ways:

First, most conventional footwear dampens Right Stimulus.

This is particularly true for shoes or insoles that support or cushion our feet. They spread the forces evenly across the soles of our feet, creating sensory input that’s muted and repetitive, step after step. Within a short period of time, our brain tunes out the stimulus and stops responding to it.

As a result, our brain doesn’t sufficiently activate the muscles that stabilize our arches and properly align our feet, legs, hips, and lower back, before our feet contact the ground. This “tuned-out” brain response is natural and happens all the time. For example, the same thing happens when we walk into a room and first smell coffee that we no longer notice after only a few minutes.

Second, most conventional footwear, especially footwear that’s tightly laced with snug toe boxes or stiff midsoles or outsoles, restricts the Right Movement dynamic raising of the arches and toes that is critical in the creation of a strong stable arch system and healthy linear propulsion with the toe off forces spread across the forefoot.

Impaired Right Stimulus and Right Movement increase the strain and damaging stresses on the Achilles tendon.

Conventional treatment methods for Achilles Tendonitis include:

  • Therapeutic exercise
  • Supportive products such as orthotics
  • Taping/bracing
  • Foam rolling
  • Massage and Injections
  • Therapeutic ultrasound, laser, electro-therapy, and shock-wave therapy

While these methods may temporarily alleviate symptoms, they don’t address the poor neuromuscular function that is the cause of the problem. In fact, the more we artificially support or cushion our feet, the weaker and the more dependent we become on these types of products.

These “old school” support and cushioning treatment methods are not recommended in any other area of musculoskeletal medicine as a viable long-term treatment option.

In fact, today’s modern treatment methods for poor neuromuscular function focus on increasing mobility, muscle strength, and proper alignment via Proper Technique exercise, which requires both Right Stimulus and Right Movement. Science has shown that simply challenging the body to “do its job” is the best way to restore and enhance function.

This principle is the foundation for virtually all of today’s sports training/rehabilitation programs.

Recommendations to address the poor neuromuscular function that causes Achilles Tendonitis and prevents it from reoccurring:

  • Walk barefoot on natural terrain as much as possible. This provides the optimal Right Stimulus and allows for the Right Movement required for healthy neuromuscular function.
  • To attain Right Stimulus in your conventional footwear, use BioPods® Stimsoles® and, for best results, use them in loosely laced, soft, flexible footwear that allows your arches and toes to rise easily.
  • Consult with your healthcare practitioner to ask about employing soft tissue mobilization therapies to address the fibrotic scar tissue that may have formed, prior to using BioPods products.