#340 3 ways to run hills without rupturing achilles - DOC

#340 3 ways to run hills without rupturing achilles

Today the Doc On The Run Podcast, we’re talking 3 ways to run hills without rupturing Achilles tendon.

Today on the Doc On The Run podcast, we’re talking about three ways you can run hills without rupturing your Achilles tendon. 

One of the worst possible injuries you could get as a runner would be a rupture of the Achilles tendon, because whether you have surgery or you don’t have surgery, if you rupture it, even if it heals, I can promise you, you are never going to be the same.

This is one of the things I was recently talking about leading up to the Runner’s Rapid Recovery Summit, where I was having a discussion with a guy named Dr. Steven Schroeder. He’s the team physician for the Portland Timbers. He treats lots of professional athletes, and he does lots of surgical Achilles tendon repairs.

Now, he did a great presentation and preparation for the Runner’s Rapid Recovery Summit, where he discussed all of the things that happen to professional athletes and elite athletes, how they get ruptures of the Achilles tendon, what the mechanism of injury is, and what you have to do afterward in order to rehab it and get back to training as quickly as possible.

So the main thing I took away from that is for those of you listening right now who have pain in your Achilles tendon, you have what you think may be tendinosis in the Achilles tendon, or just a long prolonged case of Achilles tendonitis, I think it’s really important that you understand how you can continue to run and train without really putting yourself at high risk of rupturing your Achilles tendon. So the bottom line is, is that if you listen to the episode where I talked about the specific steps you have to take to actually put your Achilles tendon on maximum stress intention at the highest risk of rupturing it, there are some specific things you should do. Well, what happened is I got a bunch of emails from people saying, “Okay, so those are the steps you take to rupture it. What can you do if you want to run hills and you don’t want to rupture your Achilles tendon or make the Achilles tendonitis worse?”

Well, there are really three simple things that you really need to do if you’re going to run and you have to run up hills so that you don’t put yourself at risk of an Achilles tendon rupture. 

1. Stay on Your Toes

The thing number one to do is to actually keep your heels off the slope, so you should stay on your toes.

That may sound counterintuitive, because you would think that when your foot is flat on the ground and your knee is bent and you’re getting ready to launch off that foot that’s up in front of you on the hill, you would think that that’s going to be less tension on your Achilles tendon, but it’s not. Because when your foot is on the ground, flat on the ground on a hill and your knee is bending forward over your foot and you’re getting ready to propel yourself up the hill as you launch and push off, you’re actually stretching the Achilles tendon around the back of the heel bone, putting a huge amount of tension on it, and basically torquing it around the heel bone, and that’s when the Achilles tendon ruptures. So if you’re running up hills and you’re running lightly and taking shorter steps and you’re staying on your toes and keeping your heels off of the slope, that will actually lower your risk.

The second thing you can do is about changing direction, because during Dr. Schroeder’s presentation, I know that he’s talking specifically about all of these things you have to do at the same time, and he has a bunch of videos to show where he actually shows the moment Achilles tendons rupture in a bunch of different athletes. What’s happening in all of them is all this stuff has happened at the same time. The knee is bent, the foot is dorsal flexed, the foot is pronated, and then you change direction, which further torques, twists, and applies a huge amount of force to the Achilles tendon.

2. Walk the Tight Corners

So, tip number two is to walk the tight corners. What I mean by that is that when you’re going up switchbacks, where they’re really steep, like those almost 180 degree turns, you should walk those. Now, you do not have to be slow walking the corners. I actually won my age group in a half marathon trail race by walking every single one of the corners. So I run up hill, I run downhill, I run on the flats, but when I hit those 90 degree turns on a switchback, I walk it. So I literally run up to the corner, stop, and I take two or three steps to walk the corner, and then I take off again. Because if you’re running on a trail and you’re making that turn, your foot’s pronated, you’re twisting over your foot pronating it further, and if you slip or push off hard as you slip, you could rupture your Achilles tendon.

So number one, stay on your toes. Number two, walk the tight corners, and number three, avoid the angles. 

3. Avoid the Angles

What do I mean by that? Well, when you’re running on a slope, when you’re running on trails, many times the trail itself is sloped to the left or right. When you’re on those sloped angles your foot is pronating or supinating in order to accommodate that slope beneath you. So if you want to run on those trails, it’s okay, but you need to stay on the flattest part of the trail possible. And what I mean is the part that’s sloped right to left right in front of you, not up and down, but right versus left so the camber of the slope or the slope where runoff has eroded it and it’s eroded in the middle like a ditch, you got to stay out of that. So, you want to keep running on the area that is as flat as possible.

Screen Shot 2020-12-02 at 2.24.30 PM.pngSo stay on your toes, walk the tight corners, avoid the angles, and you really will be able to continue to run on hill with keeping the risk as low as possible to rupturing your Achilles tendon or doing further damage to your Achilles tendon when you have Achilles tendonitis.

If you haven’t seen it yet, one of the things I’ve created is the Achilles Tendon Course For Runners. I talk about all of this in great detail, and I go through and actually show you videos on what all of these techniques mean and what you can do to continue to run, not just on hills, but on flat ground, on other surfaces, to decrease the stress applied to the Achilles tendon, help repair the collagen, and get back to running and training as quickly as possible. You can find a link for it at the bottom of the show notes at docontherun.com. Go check it out.