How to Safely Stretch Your Achilles Tendon

Learn How to Safely Perform a Standing Achilles Tendon and Heel Stretch

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The Achilles tendon runs along the back of your lower leg and connects the two major calf muscles, gastrocnemius and soleus, to the back of the heel bone. This tendon helps point the toes (plantar flexion) and contracts during sports the require powerful or explosive movements including sprinting, jumping, cycling, or stair running.

The Achilles tendon may be prone to injuries such as Achilles tendonitis and Achilles tendon rupture if not properly warmed up or if it becomes weak from fatigue or overuse. Tight calf muscles may also be more prone to injury including calf pulls or strains. Stretching your calf muscles may help relieve the tension on the Achilles tendon. Note that these stretches mostly target the muscles of the calf rather than the tendon itself.

These stretches should not be painful. Do them slowly and without any vigorous motion. Don't deepen the stretch if you encounter any pain.

Stretching Your Achilles Tendon

There are many different ways to stretch your Achilles tendon, but here is a simple stretch you can do while standing. It stretches the soleus muscle and the Achilles tendon:

  1. Stand about an arm's length from a wall or another sturdy object.
  2. Lean forward and place both hands on the wall about shoulder width apart.
  3. Extend one foot (the side to be stretched) behind you with your knee bent and heel on the ground.
  4. Keep the other foot closer to the wall.
  5. Lean into wall slightly and bend the knee of the heel to be stretched (keeping the heel down) until you feel a stretch in the back of the lower leg (just above the heel).
  6. Sink down slowly with your hips to deepen the stretch.
  7. Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds and change sides.

To advance this stretch, place the forefoot of your front leg against the wall. Keep the heel of that foot on the ground and push from the knee towards the wall.

Points to watch are that your feet need to be well-aligned forward and not turned out at all. You will not get a good stretch if the rear foot is turned out, even slightly. You also want to avoid sticking your hips out in back and bending over forward. Keep your back and hips in straight alignment.

This stretch is similar to the calf stretch, however, by bending your knee, you focus the stretch on the Achilles rather than the calf.

Gastrocnemius Calf Stretch

This is the straight-legged calf stretch that is similar to the soleus stretch.

  1. Stand about an arm's length from a wall or another sturdy object.
  2. Lean forward and place both hands on the wall about shoulder width apart (this is optional).
  3. Extend one leg behind you, keeping the rear knee straight and both feet flat on the floor.
  4. Lean into the wall, feeling the stretch in the calf muscle of the back leg.
  5. Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat with the other leg.