Can I heal achilles tendonitis without orthotics and clunky running shoes?

by Sam
(Boston MA)

I've had a nagging achilles tendonitis problem for the last 18 mos. It started after 4 months of running in Vibram fivefingers. I've since used some minimal Pumas and the vibrams off and on.

Now I have a therapist saying the only way to get over this is to use orthotics, heel lifts,or motion control shoes.

I can't stand the bulk and weight of these things. I really enjoy the natural feeling and lightness of minimalist shoes. I would prefer to develop enough strength and flexibility to tolerate them and get over the tendonitis.

What do you think?



Joshua Comments:

Hey Sam.

I think I would have walked out of the therapist's office the second I heard 'heel lifts will have you get over Achilles Tendonitis.'

I wouldn't, really, but it's fun to say (I likely wouldn't go back though).

But really. Heel lifts? Someone saying that just doesn't understand the Achilles Tendonitis dynamic: Muscles get tight. They stay tight. Connective tissue shrinkwraps. Muscles get tighter. Repeat. Pain starts. Repeat.

This pulls on your Achilles. Too much, and constantly. And it starts to have your lower leg muscles unable to perform work optimally, so they don't fire correctly, so they can't absorb force, which has to go -somewhere-. Hopefully your Achilles is just irritated from the constant overtension.

Various doctors and therapists prescribe heel lifts.

Why? Because it shortens an already too tight, too short structure, which usually relieves pain...because it removes tension. makes your structure EVEN SHORTER AND TIGHTER. So pain comes back, and worse, and those same doctors then scratch their heads,
and then prescribe the Boot, and immobilization of the ankle. In an Achilles shortened position.

Which is the OPPOSITE of what you want.

It's safe to surmise that before you switched to barefoot shoe running, the structure(s) of your lower legs were already TOO SHORT and TOO TIGHT. That you already had a Pain Causing Dynamic in place, even though/if you didn't feel any pain or tightness symptoms.

Maybe you eased into barefoot running, maybe you didn't. Regardless, you're hurting now.

1. Describe your symptoms. Details, details, details.

2. What are you actually doing for this, self-care wise?

3. Describe how it 'feels' to run in the Vibrams. And how are you running? Heel strike, etc?

One way or another, you need to open up the back of your lower leg.

Please reply using the comment link below. Do not submit a new submission to answer/reply, it's too hard for me to find where it's supposed to go.

And, comments have a 3,000 character limit so you may have to comment twice.

Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

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