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Are squats bad for Achilles tendonitis?

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

Squats can make your pain worse if you have Achilles tendonitis, and so can lunges. The good news is that you can adapt your squats and lunges to take the strain off your injured Achilles tendon. This will allow you to continue with your workouts while your tendon recovers. Remember, if you need more help with an Achilles injury, you're welcome to consult one of our team via video call.

Are squats bad for Achilles tendonitis? No, but they can sometimes make your pain worse. Learn how to adapt them.

The terms tendinitis, tendonitis, tendinosis, and tendinopathy mean the same thing for all practical purposes, and we use these interchangeably in our articles.

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Why squats and lunges hurt an injured Achilles tendon

So, why do things like squats and lunges hurt the Achilles tendon when you're not actually using the calf muscle or the Achilles during that movement? It's because those movements stretch the tendon.

The Achilles tendon runs down the back of your lower leg and is attached to your heel bone. So, any movement (such as a squat or a lunge) where your lower leg goes forward, decreasing the angle between your foot and shin, will stretch your Achilles tendon.

If you have a mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy, which is somewhat above the heel bone, this may not bother your tendon unless it's really sensitive. However, insertional Achilles tendinopathy, which occurs where the tendon is attached to the heel bone, is super-sensitive to the tendon being stretched.

How to take the strain off your Achilles tendon when doing squats

The first and easiest thing to try is to wear a shoe that has a bit of a heel-toe drop, i.e. the heel is somewhat higher than the toe. This increases the angle between your foot and shin, so that the Achilles tendon doesn’t get stretched so much when you do a squat.

If this doesn’t do enough to help you squat pain-free, the next step is to use a heel insert in your shoe, which will elevate your heel even further (put one in each shoe to keep things even).

Lastly, you can also place a rolled-up towel under your heels when you do your squats, which will lift them even further.

When doing a squat, you can reduce the strain on your Achilles by lifting your heels with a rolled up towel

Beware of lunges when you have Achilles pain

It may be better to avoid doing lunges during the early phase of your recovery from Achilles tendonitis, when the tendon is still quite sensitive and easy to flare up. A lunge is harder to control than a squat, and it’s very easy to overstep the mark and stretch your Achilles tendon too much.

If you really want to keep on doing them, or later on during your rehab when your tendon has calmed down somewhat, you can reduce the stretching effect of your lunges by using the advice about shoes and heel inserts above. Do not use a rolled-up towel – it is too unstable for lunges with an Achilles injury.

How we can help

Need more help with your Achilles injury? You’re welcome to consult one of the team at TMA online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.

Meet the TMA physios

We're all UK Chartered Physiotherapists with Master’s Degrees related to Sports & Exercise Medicine. But at Treat My Achilles we don't just value qualifications; all of us also have a wealth of experience working with athletes across a broad variety of sports, ranging from recreationally active people to professional athletes. You can meet the team here.

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About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Master's Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn and ResearchGate.


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