Achilles Pain and Glute Performance Linked

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I have discussed how I had some tightness and discomfort during the Wineglass Marathon in my calf that I was concerned was the beginning of an Achilles injury, so I slowed down, and even walked (ugh) and stopped a couple of times between the 15 – 20 mile markers before finishing extra strong.

For the next couple of days I definitely felt tightness in the calf, and as I started running again I was very cautious and aware of my calf and achilles, which felt better every day until I didn’t even notice it anymore.

This week at Runner’s World there was an article talking about a study out of Australia that links Achilles pain to poor glute control. Here is a snip:

Australian researchers gathered two groups of male runners who were similar except that one group had been free of Achilles problems for at least the last year, while the runners in the other group had Achilles tendon pain when they ran and did other activities. While the men did short runs at about 6:40 per mile pace, the researchers measured the runners’ neuromuscular control of the glutes–that is, when the muscles were activated, and for how long.

In the men with Achilles pain, glute activation in relation to heel strike occurred later than in the pain-free men, and glute activation lasted for a shorter time.

This is potentially significant because poorer glute activation can cause increased hip internal rotation and adduction (movement toward the middle of the body). That instability in the hips, in turn, can lead to more pronation, which is thought to contribute to Achilles problems.

It got me thinking – after the PA Grand Canyon Marathon my quads and glutes took a beating and were sore for a while, which I also felt doing the loads of hill work – including the 22 mile ‘mega-hill combo’ I did 3 weeks before Wineglass.

Maybe I strained my glutes and my body compensated by altering my gait slightly … then I strained them further and so they were compromised during Wineglass? Not really sure, but I am definitely keeping myself aware of them going into my next race!

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