Achilles Tendon Stretching – The Key to a Limber Lower Leg

Achilles Stretch

Achilles tendon stretching is a simple stretching routine, but when performed consistently, will help to maintain the strength and health of your lower leg.

It is the largest tendon in the body measuring 6 inches in length, and connects the gastrocnemius and soleus (your two calf muscles) to the heel bone.

Benefits of Achilles Tendon Stretching

Achilles Tendon StretchThe benefits of stretching this tendon are important, as an Achilles injury is painful and very debilitating: (1)

  • Improve leg circulation
  • Improve your lower leg flexibility
  • Reduce the risk of injury
  • Improve the range of motion of the ankle (helpful in sports and physical activity)

Stretches for Your Achilles Tendon

Prior to performing these static stretches below, always start with the golden rule of stretching by always doing 1) light cardio and 2) dynamic stretching:

Light Cardio

Perform a few minutes of light cardio to warm-up and prepare your muscles, and get the blood flowing:

  • Jump rope
  • Jog in place
  • Jumping jacks

Dynamic Stretching

Perform some dynamic stretches focusing on the legs and lower body:

  •  Knee raises
  •  Leg raises
  • Leg swings

Now you are ready for stretches for your achilles tendon.

These stretches are in order from least strenuous/strain to most strenuous/strain.  If you have not stretched your Achilles tendon for a while, then you will want to start slow and be very gentle. (2)

Standing Achilles Heel Stretch

Standing Achilles Heel Stretch

  1. Stand upright with one leg forward, and one leg to the rear.
  2. Slightly bend your rear leg at the knee.
  3. Slowly push down on your bent, rear leg until you feel the stretch in your achilles heal. Your upper body will move slowly in a straight downward direction.
    KEY: The slight bend at the knee isolates your Achilles tendon.
  4. Stretch until you feel mild discomfort.
  5. Hold stretch for 20 seconds.
  6. Alternate legs.

Achilles Wall Stretch

Achilles Heel Wall Stretch

  1. Standing approximately arm’s length from a wall, place one foot near the wall and one foot extended behind you as shown. 
  2. Slightly bend your rear leg.
  3. Slowly lean into the wall with your rear leg slightly bent. 
    KEY: The slight bend at the knee isolates your Achilles tendon and lower calf, versus a straight leg which isolates the upper calf. You will feel the difference between the two stretches.
  4. Stretch until you feel mild discomfort.
  5. Hold stretch for 20 seconds.
  6. Alternate legs.

Achilles Stretch With Step

Achilles Stretch With Step
  1. Using a stair or step, place the toe of one foot on the step, and let your heel hang freely over the step.
  2. Make sure your knee is slightly bent to isolate your achilles heel.
  3. Making sure you are properly balanced, slowly push the heel down to stretch the calf muscle and Achilles tendon. Be careful not to put too much force on your stretch, as you will have your full unsupported weight pushing down on your ankle.
  4. Extend the heel to a point of slight discomfort, hold for 20 seconds, and recover.
  5. Alternate legs

Kneeling Achilles Heel Stretch

Kneeling Achilles Stretch

  1. Kneel as shown with your right leg to the rear, and keeling over your left leg.
  2. Slow move your body forward putting weight on your lead leg.
  3. Feel the stretch in your achilles and hold for 5-10 seconds.
  4. Reverse and stretch the other leg.

Kneeling Achilles Heel Stretch

Seated Achilles Heel Stretch

  1. From a seated position with your legs in front of you, bend your knees and grab your upper feet.
  2. Slowly pull your feet toward you until you feel mild discomfort in your achilles heel.
  3. Hold for 5-10 seconds and release.
  4. Repeat 3-5 more times.

Achilles Heel Foot Stretch

Achilles Foot Stretch

  1. Sitting on the floor or in a chair, place the heel of one foot on the ground with the toe pointing up.
  2. Grab your toes (or the end of your shoe) and pull towards you.
  3. Pull into you feel very slight discomfort in your Achilles tendon.
  4. Hold this position for 20 seconds.
  5. Alternate feet.

Calf-Plantar Fascia Stretch

  1. Sitting on the floor in an upright position with good posture, extend both legs in front of you.
  2. Take a towel and loop around the upper half of one foot.
  3. Slowly pull towel towards you to extend the Achilles tendon and calf.
  4. Stretch until you feel mild discomfort.
  5. Hold stretch for 20 seconds.
  6. Alternate and stretch the other leg.

Achilles Stretching Summary

Always follow stretching basics as part of any workout routine:

  1. Never stretch cold muscles
  2. Always do light cardio to warm the muscles
  3. Dynamic stretching prior to static stretching

Return to stretching routines.

David Williams

David Williams

A diet and fitness enthusiast, David Williams is an ex-Army Airborne Ranger and Infantry soldier with decades of fitness and wellness experience. A West Point graduate with a degree in engineering, he focuses on technical research related to fitness, nutrition, and wellness. He loves the beach, and spending time with his wife and daughters.

References

1. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020). Achilles tendon rupture. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/achilles-tendon-rupture/symptoms-causes/syc-20353234.

2. Nunez, K. (2019). 6 Achilles Tendon Stretches & Exercises: Recovery, Strength & Tips. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/achilles-tendon-stretch.

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