Achilles tendonitis is a painful inflammation of the Achilles tendon which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. It can stop people from running and cause recurring problems for those who are prone to Achilles injuries. While running in the wrong pair of shoes can lead to flare-ups, the right pair can help to alleviate pain. It’s a good idea to pick shoes which have a larger drop and don’t place so much stress on the inflamed tendon when recovering from this condition.
In this article we will be reviewing the top 5 best running shoes for runners with Achilles tendonitis.
What To Look For
Here are some shoe design features you should be aware of which can either help or harm recovery from this condition:
- Hard/rigid heel counters
- Heel drops of less than 9 mm
Shoes with soft heel counters, or shoes which lack them completely, allow for more freedom and flexibility around the back of your foot. This relieves pressure, and aids recovery from injury.
- A higher heel-to-toe drop
- Flexibility in the midfoot and forefoot area.
The heel drop is the most important feature. A higher drop (9 mm +) reduces the amount of stretch experienced by your Achilles tendon while running. If the tendon does not have the flexibility or strength to deal with the stretch produced by flatter shoes problems can quickly develop.
Nike Air Zoom Structure 18
Nike’s Structure 18s tick a lot of the boxes that make a shoe great for Achilles pain. The heel drop is a touch lower than the other shoes we reviewed, which could make it the best choice for some runners, and the heel area is snug (yet soft), which avoids rubbing issues. The design is also really nice, which is a big plus in our books.
Heel-To-Toe Drop: 9.2 mm.
Testimonial: “… I can tell they are likely a better fit for my needs than others I’ve been wearing. The cushion also feels great, not only in the foot bed, but also in the toe box. All this, while still being lightweight! I think I’ve found my new go to shoe!”
Saucony Shadow 6000
Like the Vomero 9s, the Saucony Shadow 6000s feature a 12 mm drop and are perfect for tendonitis sufferers. This level of drop may be too extreme for some, in which case you should try out the ASICS Gel-Cumulus 16s or the adjustable Z-CoiLs below, or the Structure 18 above, but for others this level of drop is the minimum they can run with before experiencing pain. The Shadow 6000s also work well as regular sneakers, so you can use them as an everyday shoe too.
Heel-To-Toe Drop: 12 mm.
Testimonial: “… Been running with the Shadow 6000 for years, which is a 12 mm drop. I tried a lower, lighter shoe like the Kinvara and suffered severe Achilles injuries EVERY TIME I SWITCHED SHOES. I will never switch back again.”
Nike Air Zoom Vomero 9
Nike is known for producing quality products, and the Vomero certainly shows their passion for their craft, being one of the best neutral shoes out there. Being a neutral shoe with a 12 mm heel drop, the Vomero 9 does a great job of relieving Achilles pressure. They’re also extremely comfortable, which makes them ideal for long runs as well as walks around town.
Heel-To-Toe Drop: 12 mm.
Testimonial: “… My podiatrist recommended that I go to a running shoe store to be fitted for a pair of running shoes. The sales person recommended the Nike Air Zoom Vomero. That was over 5 years ago. I have now gone through five or so generations of Vomeros. They are a great shoe, and I have been very pleased with them through all the various upgrades to this model. …”
ASICS Cumulus 16
The ASICS Cumulus 16 is a neutral shoe with a relatively average drop which relieves tendon pressure during runs. It also has brilliant flexibility in both the midfoot and the forefoot while the flexibility of the sole means the tendon doesn’t have to work as hard while you rack up those all-important miles.
Heel-To-Toe Drop: 10.8 mm.
Testimonial: “Purchased a pair of these for my mom who suffers from tendinitis, she has a special insert she uses in shoes. Out of all shoes she tried on these were her top pick! The comfort level exceeds all others purchased in the past.”
Z-CoiL Liberty 1.0
By far the craziest looking shoe we’ve ever seen, but would you believe they are the most amazing running shoes around for relieving tendon-related pain? Unlike regular shoes, the Z-CoiL features a built-in orthotic with an adjustable coiled heel which reduces the impact with the ground by as much as 50%! This gadget (yes, we think it classifies as a “gadget”) is a must buy for anyone with problem feet. We love it!
But the benefit doesn’t stop there! Aside from relieving tendonitis, these shoes are also able to protect and help runners with a host of other problems including bone spurs and plantar fasciitis.
Heel-To-Toe Drop: Adjustable (12.7 mm uncompressed, can be lowered).
Testimonial: “Worn them since 2003. Been a wonderful experience … I once wore regular shoes with orthopedic inserts and developed tendonitis. Went back to the Z-CoiLs and all pain went away. Thank goodness and my Z-CoiLs.”
Apart from buying yourself a better pair of shoes there are other ways you can help yourself to recover from this condition. Here are just a few of them.
The best and most effective exercise is the eccentric calf raise. To perform this exercise you should position yourself on the edge of a raised object (obviously nothing too high up from the ground, we don’t want to cause injuries!) with the backs of your heels hanging over the edge. Now go up on your tip toes, raise one of your legs back behind you, then, using your remaining foot, slowly lower yourself until the back of your heel is beyond parallel with your forefoot.
This video does a good job of demonstrating the exercise:
Caution: It’s always a good idea to seek the opinion of a medical professional before beginning any corrective exercise program.
Following the injury you should apply an ice pack onto the affected area. Ice will help to reduce the swelling and inflammation associated with tendonitis. by constricting the blood vessels in the area. Take a break every 15 – 20 minutes, take a quick walk around then do it again.
Avoid applying heat to an inflamed area as this will have the opposite effect of increasing the amount of swelling by dilating the blood vessels.
Wearing night braces to bed can help to heal this painful condition. Once the feet are strapped into this device they are held upwards to stretch the tendon and prevent it from contracting. The angle at which your feet are held can usually be altered by either you or your doctor into the most optimal position for recovery.
If you go for the Z-CoiLs you probably won’t have to worry about this, as the shoe comes fitted with an orthotic by default. However, for other shoes you may want to look into orthotics which add height to the heel and prevent pronation. Protective sleeves which fit along the back of the heel are also especially helpful.
When you’re desperate for some fast and easy relief, take your shoe and carve a cutout into the back of the shoe where your heel usually goes. Don’t cut all the way down, just removing a small section at the top will often provide instant relief. But even with this simple trick, if you have a pair of shoes which simply don’t work for you, then you will need to find a more suitable choice of shoe (such as those reviewed in our list).
Although runners with very mild cases can heal quickly, for the unlucky few with more severe cases, the road to recovery can be a long one – but hey, we’re used to long roads, right?
Once the injury has been healed it’s a good idea to stick to using your new shoes. It’s possible that your original shoes were the culprit and wearing them again could cause the condition to come back. If it was your running style which caused the problem you should take some time to correct your technique. Heel strikers who overpronate tend to put a lot of strain on the Achilles tendon which can quickly lead to Achilles tendonitis.
If you find the problem keeps recurring despite running with correct form you should book an appointment with a podiatrist for professional help.