Achilles Injuries on Bike
I experienced a bad injury to my Achilles tendon two years ago and have felt some discomfort on the bike ever since, especially if I go hard or climb. Is there anything with my equipment or position that may help?
Achilles injuries can be particularly frustrating as they can take so long to heal. On the bike, you can make changes to your position and equipment that will encourage minimal extension of the Achilles during pedaling, but it is equally important that you understand the role that your pedaling technique can play in the strain on your Achilles.
As discussed in the response about Morton’s neuroma, proper foot support can help some Achilles issues. Check with your doctor to find out any particulars you should be aware of when getting foot support for your cycling shoes. For example, some ruptured Achilles issues should not have the forefoot supported very aggressively and it is important that any footbed or orthotic you use takes this into account or further injury may occur. Larger platform, road specific pedals and shoes maximize lateral stability, which can be helpful for many Achilles issues and it is worth considering a more rear mounted cleat position on the shoe than average too. The further back your cleat is mounted, the more difficult it can be to drop the heel into dorsiflexion and overextend the sore tendon. Also, make sure your saddle is an appropriate height as low saddle positions can encourage the rider to drive the heel down at the bottom of the stroke.
How your bike and shoes are setup can encourage certain riding and pedaling technique, but it is up to you, the rider, to actually master the technique. In the case of many Achilles injuries, you want to minimize the extension of the tendon during pedaling by minimizing dorsiflexion at the ankle. Pedaling with a neutral or slightly plantar flexed (toe down) pedal technique is recommended. Likewise, try not to push or pull too hard on the pedals as heavy/imbalanced loads can increase strain on tendons. Being able to see your pedaling technique can be very helpful and we use Dartfish and Retul motion capture in our bike fittings since the video analysis as they are great communication tools. www.masterbikefitters.com offers a list of some other qualified fitters who employ Dartfish and other motion capture in their fittings.
Ride hard and smart.
Ian Buchanan is co-owner of Fit Werx. Fit Werx has locations in Waitsfield, VT and Peabody, MA and offers cycling and triathlon products, specialty bicycle fitting and analysis services, consultation, and technology research. Fit Werx can be reached in VT at (802)496-7570, in MA at (978)532-7348 or through the Web at www.fitwerxbackup.wpenginepowered.com.