How to Safely Stretch Your Achilles Tendon

4 Simple Stretches You Can Do Anywhere

Calf stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The Achilles tendon runs along the back of your lower leg and connects the two major calf muscles, known as the gastrocnemius and soleus, to the back of the heel bone. You need Achilles tendons to not only point your toes but to propel yourself forward in an explosive movement, such as sprinting, diving, jumping, or cycling.

The Achilles tendon may be prone to injuries, such as tendonitis and rupture, if it is not strong enough to handle the demands placed on it. It can also start to weaken after years of overuse or when exposed to high-dose corticosteroids.


Watch Now: The Correct Way to Stretch Your Achilles Tendon

Even if you are not an athlete, keeping your Achilles tendon flexible can help prevent a flat-footed gait that some people develop. Before embarking on a stretch of any sort, it is important to follow three simple rules:

  • Do not bounce. This can lead to microtears and soreness.
  • Move slowly. Stretch a little, release, and stretch a little more.
  • Stop if you feel any pain. Never force a stretch.

Standing Toe Raises

This simple routine uses gravity to slowly stretch the Achilles tendon beyond its neutral position. It is also great at strengthening the calves. Evidence shows that strengthening muscles is even better than stretching them for reducing injury risk. This exercise gives you both.

How to Do a One-Legged Standing Toe Raise

  1. Find a board around 3 inches high that you can stand on solidly. Place the board near a wall or counter. (Alternately, you can use the stairs.)
  2. Place the ball of your foot on the edge of the board, allowing the heel to hover freely.
  3. Holding the wall for support, slowly dip your heel below the edge of the board until you feel a stretch.
  4. Hold for 5 seconds, and then lift your heel until you are up on your tiptoes. Hold for another 5 seconds.
  5. Repeat 8 to 10 times, and switch legs.

If the stretch feels excessive or unsteady, you can do it with both feet instead of one. Be sure to keep the movement slow and controlled to avoid hyperextension.

Sitting Egg Stretch

The sitting egg, also known as the "heel-sit," is a slightly more difficult variation as it requires you to squat (a position that some people find difficult). It uses your body weight to exert downward pressure on the Achilles tendon while contracting the calf muscle. Like standing toe raises, it also incorporates strengthening, so it is a doubly effective move.

How to Do a Sitting Egg Stretch

  1. Stand with the feet hip-width apart with your toes pointed slightly outward.
  2. Standing on the balls of your feet, lower your body until your bottom makes contact with your heels.
  3. Place your hands on the floor in front of you, positioning your elbows between your knees.
  4. Lean forward as you press your elbows outward against the knees.
  5. Remaining on your toes, gently force your heels down until you feel a slight stretch.
  6. Hold for 30 seconds, then lift your bottom to release.
  7. Repeat the stretch one to three more times.

Standing Achilles Stretch

There are many different ways to stretch your Achilles tendon, but one of the more common is the standing Achilles stretch. Also known as the "lean-and-lunge," the warm-up isolates both the tendon and the soleus muscle.

How to Do a Standing Achilles Stretch

  1. Stand about an arm's length away from a wall.
  2. Lean forward and place both hands on the wall, roughly a shoulder-width apart.
  3. Extend one foot back, placing the heel flatly on the floor.
  4. Keep the other foot closer to the wall.
  5. Lean forward and press down on the back heel with your knee slightly bent.
  6. Once comfortable, sink into your hips to deepen the stretch. Keep the hips square, and avoid bending at the waist.
  7. Hold for 30 seconds, and switch sides.
  8. Repeat one to four times for each leg.

Keeping the knee bent helps isolate the Achilles tendon. Straightening the knee diverts the stretch to the calf.

To increase the intensity of the stretch, place the forefoot against the wall and move the back foot further away. Your heels should be placed solidly on the floor with the toes pointed forward. If your feet are misaligned, you won't get as deep a stretch and may end up putting undue strain on the ankle.

Seated Towel Stretch

The seated towel stretch places mechanical stress on the toes to dorsiflex the foot and stretch both the Achilles tendon and calf muscle.

How to Do a Seated Towel Stretch

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended forward.
  2. Place a gym towel under the balls of your feet, grasping each end with a hand.
  3. Sitting up with a straight spine, pull the towel toward you until you feel a stretch.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds and release.
  5. Repeat one to three more times.

People with short hamstrings, men especially, often find it difficult to sit on the floor without falling back. If this is you, you can either sit on a cushion to elevate your hips or press your back against the wall to support yourself. If one calf is tighter than the other, you can wrap a towel around each foot individually rather than both.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Egger AC, Berkowitz MJ. Achilles tendon injuries. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2017;10(1):72-80. doi:10.1007/s12178-017-9386-7

  2. Knapik JJ. The importance of physical fitness for injury prevention: Part 2. J Spec Oper Med. 2015;15(2):112-5. PMID:26125174

By Elizabeth Quinn, MS
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.