Officially this tendon is called the calcenean tendon..the calceneus is the heel and this tendon attaches to the heel bone..however, it came to fame when the ancient Greek hero Achilles died when an arrow was shot into his heel. From that story we now are known to have different vulnerabilities that are refered to as our Achilles Heel, but this tip will focus on the actual tendon.
The achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body, it attaches at the heel and travels up the back of the lower leg and attaches to the calf muscle, it is approximately 15cm long and it's main function is to allow the foot to plantar flex(point toes down), therefore it is used most in running, sprinting, hill running etc, anytime the toes are pointed down and the heel is up.
Unfortunately an injured achilles makes up 11% of running injuries, mostly this is due to inflammation or tears, and also the achilles tendon has a poor blood supply so healing in this area can be slow.There are two main causes of achilles tendonitis:
1. Overpronation- when your foot rolls in when you run it places increased strain on the achilles tendon, as discussed over the past couple of months, overpronation can be treated with orthotics and podiatry.
2. Over training- achilles tendonitis can often occur when you increase your training load, by either distances, or intensity of workout, or increase the sessions you workout...things like hill running and sprinting put pressure on the achilles
Treatment can differ depending on the severity of the tendonitis however, the first steps are rest, ice and a topical anti inflammatory. A heel pad placed in your running shoe can help. Ongoing treatment can include ultrasound, massage, taping and altering your training program.
Naturally prevention is always better than cure..so good stretching of the tendon is a must; long warm ups, epecially before sprint or hill work; increasing your distances gradually (no more that 10% weekly); and proper fitting, running shoes with good heel support.