Cycling is a low-impact sport, but that doesn’t mean it is entirely injury-free.
While it can be a great way to build up strength in your joints and tendons, there is still a risk of developing an injury in your Achilles tendon.
We’ll go over how cycling can cause Achilles tendonitis and exercises you can incorporate to help with the recovery process.
Does Cycling Stress the Achilles Tendon?
Yes, cycling can stress the Achilles tendon. This is especially when you’re riding uphill because there is greater pressure put on the tendon. (Source)
If you experience any pain or discomfort while cycling, you should stop and get it checked out by a physical therapist or other medical professionals. Even if it turns out to be minor, it’s better to catch it early in order to prevent it from turning into a worse injury.
If you go right into riding up a challenging hill without warming up first, you’re more likely to put stress on your Achilles tendon. You’ll also want to make sure you have the correct equipment. If your pedals are causing your foot to pronate or remain pushed too far forward while you ride, you may strain the tendon (Source).
There should be a slight movement in your shoes as this allows your feet to move through the full range of motion. If your feet are locked in place, you’ll likely begin to experience some pain or discomfort in your tendon.
Can Cycling Cause Achilles Tendonitis?
Yes, cycling can potentially cause Achilles tendinitis. This can be a common injury for cyclists to develop. It occurs from the impact of the tendon that connects the heel of the foot to the calf muscle, located behind the ankle. (Source)
Achilles tendinitis can be the result of overtraining, which can cause the muscles in the area to become inflamed. It can also be due to a sudden increase in training volume or intensity, especially if there are a lot of hilly sessions.
It can be a particularly difficult area to treat due to poor blood flow to the tendon, so it’s important to deal with this injury as soon as you start noticing any pain or discomfort in the area (Source).
What Exercise Is Ok with Achilles Tendonitis?
If you’re experiencing Achilles tendonitis, your first step should be to check with your physical therapist or another medical professional. They’ll be able to give you specific recovery exercises that you’ll be required to complete over a certain amount of time.
This will help you gain back your strength without making the injury worse. Here are a couple of strengthening exercises you may be given (Source):
This exercise can be done in three sets of 10-15 reps, completed twice daily.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with your hands resting on a counter.
- Keep your knees straight and lift both heels as you raise up onto your first two toes.
- Lift your unaffected foot off the ground and slowly lower your standing foot.
This exercise is more advanced and can be done in three or four sets of three repetitions completed three times per week. It requires the use of an exercise machine that you can find in most commercial gyms or at your physical therapist’s office.
- Sit in the seated calf raise machine with both feet on the plate and the resistance pad over your knees.
- Choose a resistance level that is comfortable enough to complete up to 15 repetitions.
- Rise onto your toes of both feet over the course of three seconds.
- Slowly lower your heels back to the foot plate over the course of three seconds.
In addition to these physical therapy exercises, you may be able to incorporate cardiovascular training.
Generally speaking, cycling is considered a safe activity for your Achilles tendon because it is a low-impact sport.
The same goes for swimming, which can be a great option for those dealing with discomfort in their Achilles tendon.
Running should typically be avoided by anyone recovering from an Achilles tendon injury as it puts a lot of stress on the calf and ankle.
Should I Stretch a Sore Achilles?
Stretching can be a great way to relieve some pain and discomfort of your Achilles tendon. Even if you aren’t experiencing soreness, this can be a useful area to stretch. You should aim to stretch this tendon regularly and carefully in order to improve your recovery time and not worsen the injury. Here are a few tips to keep in mind (Source):
- Move slowly. You’ll want to take your time when stretching your Achilles tendon in order to limit the risk of further injury or pain.
- Keep your heel down. When performing a calf stretch, be sure to keep your heel anchored to the ground. If you lift your heel, your tendon won’t be able to fully stretch.
- Don’t bounce. Your movements should be slow and relaxed. Sudden movements or changing positions can exacerbate the pain in your Achilles.
- Stop if it hurts. Do not try to “push through the pain.” Relax into the stretch once you feel minor discomfort, but don’t continue beyond that.
How Long Does Achilles Tendonitis Take to Heal?
While it ultimately depends on the severity of your injury, you can expect Achilles tendonitis to take two to three months to fully heal. Fortunately, this injury can often be treated without having to undergo surgery, but the recovery process can take some time.
This is why it’s critical to catch the injury early. The sooner you notice the problem, the faster you can get to the recovery process.
Injuries don’t have to be an inevitable reality for athletes, but they can happen. If you begin to experience pain at any point in your training,
you should pause and take the time to examine it further. A lot of times you will be able to recover with enough rest, but some injuries will need to involve the guidance of a physical therapist.