Bracing for Achilles Tendonitis

I should probably issue a disclaimer. This post is not going to be pretty or home-related. There are pictures of my feet. I’m so sorry. There is a happy ending though, so there’s that.

If you’ve ever read the “about me” page on this blog (it’s riveting), you’ll see I mentioned something about running, but not being a runner. I do it 3 days a week because it happens to be the most efficient and effective way for me to exercise and I do like how it makes me feel – after. The during part isn’t my most favorite part.

1336213716575_7036419Image Credit: Someecards.com

What came next really chapped my hide. Last year, there was a time when I swore my achilles tendon was on fire and was going to snap in two. That feeling was accompanied by on-going stiffness and aching. It rocked my foundation. There may have been some well-founded melodrama going on. I had finally found an exercise that worked and I completely despised, but now I was going to be deprived of it! The gall!

So after living with it for awhile and whining about it a lot, I saw the orthopedic doctor and he diagnosed achilles tendonitis. I think there is a more medically accurate term than that, but achilles tendonitis works for me. He prescribed physical therapy. So, off I went. It wasn’t my first time in physical therapy. I’ve been there twice for recovery from ACL reconstruction and once for patella tendonitis. I’m a real lucky duck.

And, yes, I actually did follow the rules. I did the exercises, applied ice, foam rolled and avoided running. I made great strides in improving my hip strength so that it would improve my running form. Except the pain was still there after 6 weeks, then 8. I even asked for those little electrodes to send the anti-inflammatory gel into my skin. It only brought temporary relief. By the time I had finished my stint in physical therapy I was 3 months into no running. Yet the pain was still there and I was getting desperate.

So I did what any logical person does. I Googled my problems and tried to find a cure myself. That’s when I stumbled on the Aircast Airheel Foot and Ankle Brace. I found mine on Amazon, but I’m sure you can get it elsewhere too. (P.S. I’m sorry you have to look at my foot.)

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I was skeptical, but the reviews trended toward the more favorable side. And remember, I was desperate, so it was worth a hail mary try. The first time I used it I was able to run a mile and a half before I started to feel any discomfort. I almost cried, I was so happy. And, yes, the irony of being happy to get back to something that I don’t enjoy doing is not lost on me.

I will say, it is weird wearing the brace at first. It feels very, very odd because you are walking on an air bubble. However, I think it might actually facilitate a more natural heel-toe foot placement.
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Right where my thumb is (see below) there is an air-pocket that goes under your arch. When you step down, your foot pushes the air from under your arch up to the air-pocket that surrounds your achilles tendon to give it support.

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The blue pad I’m pointing to in the below picture is the air-pocket that surrounds the achilles tendon. You can see there is a little tube that sends the air from one spot to another and back.
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The only downside to wearing the brace is that little tube. On my particular foot, I found that it rubbed my ankle in an uncomfortable way. I could put a piece of moleskin there to protect from the rubbing, but it was just as easy to wear a taller sock instead. This is one of my husband’s socks. Glamorous, I know! 😉 I’ve had my brace for a little over a year, so hopefully they’ve improved it since then.

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Right now, the Aircast Airheel Foot and Ankle Brace is selling for $34.70 on Amazon and it is Amazon Prime eligible.

I wore the brace as much as possible during the first couple of weeks of using it (even when not running). After that, I transitioned to wearing it just during my runs. Eventually, I was able to wean myself off of it altogether. Every once in awhile I will experience some achilles discomfort and so I will wear the brace again until I’m pain free.

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I don’t think the brace alone solved my tendonitis issues, I think it helped give me the nudge I needed to finally heal correctly. I still had to do the hard work to improve my muscle strength and running form. I also had to give my body time to let the inflammation go away. Will it work for everyone that suffers from achilles tendonitis? I can’t answer that. I can only share my story and I’m so happy it worked for me. I hope it can help you too.

P.S.  I am not a medical professional. Please consult your doctor for all medical questions and treatment. Also, the Aircast company has never heard of me. I am only sharing my experience using their product because I felt so inclined. The end.

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