The Achilles tendon is a long band of tissue that runs down the back of your calf and connects to your heel bone. It can be damaged or stressed from various exercises, particularly running. Achilles tendonitis typically results from overuse of the calves, which can occur during cycling, but is more common in high-impact activities.
Cycling can benefit the Achilles tendon by building surrounding muscles to support the tissue. Injuries and pain occur when you get on a cycle after a long period of disuse and ride for long periods without the benefit of gradual strengthening. The Achilles tendon is also under significant stress when riding uphill. Riding without proper warm-up also can cause pain or damage.
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Incorrect bike equipment can cause Achilles tendonitis in cyclists, according to the Endurance Corner. If your pedal is misaligned so that your cleats do not properly fit in the foothold, you may be placing excessive pressure on the tendon. Pedals that cause your foot to pronate, or stay pushed too far forward while you ride, can strain the tendon and result in pain and discomfort. Cycling shoes should rock when you ride so that persistent stress doesn't occur. Be sure your shoes fit your feet properly and allow the stress of pedaling to spread over your entire foot.
While cycling may be an effective means of building your calf muscles to avoid tendonitis while you ride, if you have an injury as a result of another sport or accident, cycling can exacerbate the condition. You must take care of your legs even when you're not riding. Wearing appropriate shoes to build muscles or to allow the Achilles to rest when it becomes fatigued is an important daily habit. Cycling shoes also should provide enough support to keep your ankle from turning while riding, according to the Stretching Institute. Shoes with a slight heel lift take the pressure off the Achilles tendon and are effective for wearing after a long ride or when your tendon feels sensitive. Wear shoes with lower heels at other times to continue to build calf muscles in preparation for long rides.
Cycling can be hard on the Achilles tendon if you don't prepare properly for a ride. In addition to getting the right shoes and bike equipment, you should prepare with proper stretching. Stretching should be performed twice daily whether you're riding or not. One of the effective Achilles stretching exercises is to lean your hands against a wall while standing about three feet away from the surface. Bend your right knee and lower your body, stretching the calf muscles and tendons in your straight left leg. Hold for a count of 20 and do not bounce. Return to the start position and repeat on the other leg.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.