2. Achilles Tendinitis
A closely related cousin to plantar fasciitis, pain that manifests itself at the back of lower leg just the above the heel is often an issue with the Achilles tendon – the thick band of tissue that attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone. Runners who suffer from Achilles tendinitis will often complain of pain and swelling close to the heel, which is oftentimes sharp and can be incapacitating. In my own experience suffering from this injury, I could pinpoint the pain, had significant swelling and recall hearing a “crunchy” sound when I would move my ankle.
What causes Achilles tendinitis? In my case, the injury could be traced to tight calves. Because my lower legs were so tight, a lot of strain was put on my Achilles tendon, and over the course of many months of hard training, this awful overuse injury developed. How awful? It took me nearly nine months to fully recover! With so little blood flow to this area of the body, the healing process is often slow. Aside from tight calves, unsupportive footwear (Note: the definition of “supportive” depends on the individual) can overburden the Achilles tendon over time, or a quick increase in volume and/or intensity can have the same effect much more quickly, so it’s important to pay attention to both your feet and your training – especially when you’re training hard!
The fix: Resting, icing and stretching will all help to relieve symptoms, and things such as orthotics, heel lifts and highly structured shoes are short-term solutions. Long term, however, it’s worth your while to pay close attention to stretching and strengthening the lower legs, as well as what’s on your feet. And of course, keep an eye on your training. Don’t do too much, or go too hard, too quickly.