Foam rollers – a ‘cure’ for my ongoing Achilles tendinitis/tendinopathy problem?

Hey all – today’s blog is going to be about Achilles Tendinopathy (also known as Achilles Tendinitis).

If you have it I’m sure you know all about it, but if not here’s a link from the UK health company Bupa which outlines the issue –

http://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/directory/a/achilles-tendinopathy

Since upping my mileage about 18 months ago I’ve suffered from ongoing issues with my Achilles tendons.  It’s more pronounced in my right leg but my left leg also suffers to some degree.  Last year (2015) over the late summer and autumn it almost became debilitating to the extent that I struggled to run more than 6 miles without experiencing significant pain in both tendons.  I was already signed up for the Chicago Marathon (October 11th 2015) so persevered through the discomfort rather than try anything radical.  Fortunately my tendons held out for the race…and most of the rest of me did too 🙂

Shortly after completing the marathon I decided to try out a couple of solutions – eccentric heel drops and intensive massage. Neither really worked for me and actually made my tendinopathy worse, so I resumed my search for an alternative ‘cure’.

I’d already heard that the use of foam rollers could help recovery from runs but to my understanding they were primarily for removing lactic acid and other unwanted waste products from the muscles.  It was during a bit of general browsing on the subject that I discovered foam rollers also help relax muscles and as I already knew tight calf muscles play a part in Achilles tendon issues I thought I’d give one a go.

This isn’t really intended as a plug for a product – but this is what I bought:

Master of Muscles Foam Roller

It’s a Master of Muscle foam roller and is about 18×5 inches with two distinct areas – one which imitates fingers and one which is a solid massage area.

I now use it first thing every morning, before and after a run, and last thing at night.  I’d estimate two minutes maximum on each leg (working on the tendon and calf) because I lack the patience for more.  It’s not overstating things to say that it has transformed my ability to train. My ‘comfortable’ mileage for a week was limited to about 30-35 miles but now I have the roller I’m managing 60+ mile weeks without acute Achilles tendon pain.  I still experience a low level of discomfort when I wake up in the morning or sometimes if I drive a long distance but whilst running I am pretty much pain free.

Next up is to resume speed work – that can really put pressure on the Achilles tendon so I’ve deliberately stayed away from track sessions, parkruns or any race which is less than 10k.  I’m planning to change that soon and hopefully my tendons will hold out!

I’ve got a heavy summer of training ahead leading up to the Berlin Marathon on 25th September 2016 and as things stand I’m very hopeful I will be able to build my weekly mileage whilst staying mostly pain free.

The foam roller isn’t a cure but it has reduced the symptoms significantly and enabled me to get back to the mileage I need to do to complete my marathon training.  I’d recommend trying one if you have chronic Achilles tendon issues.

Author: Simon Denson

Semi-obsessive runner, PC gamer, uncommitted pianist and Labrador walker.

3 thoughts on “Foam rollers – a ‘cure’ for my ongoing Achilles tendinitis/tendinopathy problem?”

  1. Wow – it’s amazing how much one thing can sometimes transform our running! I’m hoping to significantly increase my weekly distances this year as well (if my recovery from a knee problem goes okay) so I found this very interesting. I’ve always been very bad at the maintenance side of running – I don’t stretch much, I do very little cross training, and have an awful core. More frequent foam rolling is definitely on my list of things to improve.

  2. Definitely give it a go Ben – foam rolling isn’t a miracle cure but really helps me.

    Hope your knee injury clears up soon. I bet it’s from pushing that buggy around crazy parkrun courses 😉

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