Some stretches, including the calf stretch, along with strengthening exercises like heel raises can help support recovery from conditions affecting the Achilles tendon.

If you have Achilles tendonitis, or inflammation of your Achilles tendon, you can do stretches to help recovery.

Achilles tendonitis is usually caused by intense and excessive physical activity. Symptoms include tightness, weakness, discomfort, and limited range of motion.

Sometimes, Achilles tendonitis is called Achilles tendinopathy, but the two conditions aren’t the same. Achilles tendinopathy is the degeneration and damage of collagen in the tendon. It develops when Achilles tendonitis becomes chronic.

Other conditions that can affect the area include Achilles tendonosis, or micro-tears in the tendon, and an Achilles tendon rupture, a partial or complete tear. These conditions are more likely to develop if Achilles tendonitis isn’t treated.

To speed up healing and improve mobility, try these Achilles tendon stretches.

1. Runner’s stretch

When the Achilles tendon is inflamed, it can tighten and cause discomfort. The runner’s stretch, or calf stretch, will provide relief by loosening the tendon.

To do this exercise, you’ll need a wall or other support, such as a chair.

  1. Place your hands on the wall or chair. If using a wall, put your hands at eye level.
  2. Step the leg you want to stretch behind you. Keep your back heel on the floor and point your toes straight ahead.
  3. Bend your other knee toward the wall, keeping your back leg straight.
  4. Lean toward the wall until you feel a gentle stretch in your calf. Don’t lean so far that you feel pain.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds. Complete 3 reps.

If it hurts to straighten your leg, try a runner’s stretch with bent knees. Start closer to the wall and bend your back knee until you feel a stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times.

2. Toe-to-wall stretch

The toe-to-wall stretch is ideal if the runner’s stretch makes your shoulders uncomfortable. It places less pressure on the upper body. Like the runner’s stretch, this exercise helps mobility by reducing stress on the Achilles tendon.

Follow these steps with the leg that’s causing discomfort.

  1. Stand facing the wall and place your toes up and against the wall. The higher you place your toes, the deeper the stretch.
  2. Lean forward, keeping your heel on the floor. (Your other leg is behind you, toes forward and heel on ground.)
  3. Hold for 30 seconds. Complete 3 reps.

3. Heel drop

Another Achilles tendon stretch is the heel drop. You can do it on a staircase or stepladder. If you want to use a stepladder, make sure it’s locked in position.

Do this stretch with the leg that has an Achilles tendon issue.

  1. Hold on to the railings of the staircase or ladder.
  2. Put the ball of your foot on the edge of the bottom step.
  3. Let your heel drop down, allowing your other foot to relax.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds. Complete 3 reps.

If you have trouble balancing, do this exercise under supervision of a healthcare professional.

For optimal relief, stretch your Achilles tendon regularly. You should continue to stretch even when you don’t feel stiff or sore.

To get the most out of each stretch, keep these tips and tricks in mind:

  • Take your time. Move slowly, whether you’re deepening into a stretch or changing positions. This will limit the risk of injury and discomfort.
  • Avoid bouncing. Quick, sudden movements will only worsen Achilles tendon issues. Stay relaxed during each stretch.
  • Keep your heel down. During a calf stretch, plant your heel on the ground. If you lift your heel, the Achilles tendon won’t stretch properly.
  • Stop if you feel pain. Stretch until you feel minor discomfort, then relax. Don’t strain or force your muscles. If you feel sharp pain, stop stretching immediately.

Stretching is just one part of Achilles tendonitis recovery. Your doctor may also tell you to rest, apply ice packs, and wear heel lifts in your shoes.

Generally, you should avoid running and jumping activities until you don’t have any symptoms.

When you’re ready to exercise, do it slowly. Start at 50 percent of your original level. If you can exercise without pain, increase your activity by up to 20 percent each week.

Depending on your symptoms, you might be able to stretch in the early stages of Achilles tendonitis.

It’s best talk to a doctor or physical therapist before doing any type of Achilles tendon stretch or exercise. If they understand your condition they can offer expertise and confirm useful exercises.

You can also do exercises to strengthen your calf and heel muscles. These muscles are attached to your Achilles tendon, so it’s important to keep them strong. It will reduce stress on the tendon and prevent future problems.

Doing muscle strengthening exercises will also make your Achilles tendon stronger.

1. Seated heel raises

During seated heel raises, the muscles in your calves work together to lift your heel. This improves strength and provides support for the Achilles tendon.

  1. Sit on a chair or at the edge of a bed. Place your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lift your heels as high as possible, pause, then slowly lower them.
  3. Complete one set of 20 to 25 reps. Repeat 5 to 6 times each day.

2. Standing heel raises

If it feels comfortable, you can do heel raises while standing up. This variation also engages the muscles attached to your Achilles tendon.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold on to a chair or counter top for support.
  2. Lift your heels and rise onto the balls of your feet. Pause, then slowly lower your heels.
  3. Complete one set of 20 to 25 reps. Repeat up to 5 or 6 times each day.

3. Resistance band calf exercise

You can also use a resistance band to tone your calf and heel muscles. This exercise strengthens these muscles by forcing them to work against resistance.

Start with a light resistance band. As your tendon gets stronger, you can use a thicker band with more resistance.

  1. Sit on the floor or on a bed. Extend your legs straight out in front of you.
  2. Wrap a resistance band around the ball of the foot you want to stretch, bending your knee slightly. Hold the ends with your hands.
  3. Pull the band to flex your foot toward you.
  4. Pause, release, and point your foot away from you.
  5. Complete 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.

If you have Achilles tendonitis or other Achilles tendon issues, you can do stretches to help recovery. These moves improve mobility by loosening up the tendon.

Strengthening exercises can also tone the calf and heel muscles attached to the tendon. The stronger the muscles, the less stress will be applied on the tendon.

Talk to your doctor before doing Achilles tendon stretches and strengthening exercises. During recovery, it’s important to rest and limit activity. Your doctor can explain the safest way to return to your normal routine.

If your Achilles tendon doesn’t get better, seek medical attention.