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mlwarriner 09-24-12 06:44 AM

Achilles issues?
I guess this is as good of a place as any to discuss it. I've been riding semi-seriously for about a year now. Normal distance is about 20 to 25 miles on any given ride. About a month ago, I did a big group ride of about 50 miles, my first time at that distance.

Somewhere along the ride, my left Achilles started hurting pretty badly. Like an idiot, I just gritted my teeth and rode through it. By the end of the ride, it was flat out screaming at me. By the end of the day, I could barely manage to hobble my way across the room.

I stayed off of the bike for about a week, and it seemed to get better. Rode some, and it seemed fine.

This past weekend, I did Day 1 of the MS Ride here in Kansas City, the "traditional distance" of about 72 miles. Somewhere, about 30 miles into the day, my Achilles was bugging me again. I managed to "favor" that side, and make it through to the end, but it's still kinda bugging me today.

So I guess my question is this. Is the pain a result of simply overdoing it, going further than I'm "trained up to", or is there something more at play? Is it possible that it's a technique problem? I ride a Trek 8000 with SPD-style pedals. I've never done a formal bike fit, but overall the bike to rider interface seems OK to me.

Dunno. I'd like to work up to a century ride by spring/early summer, and I'm hoping to do RAGBRAI in 2013, so it'd be nice to see if I can't get this Achilles thing solved...

Please and thanks.

mlwarriner 09-24-12 06:58 AM

PS - at 5'9" and 240 lbs, I count myself among the Clydes, hence the "I guess this is as good of a place as any to discuss it." comment. :)

rdtompki 09-24-12 09:15 AM

You can move your cleats back a bit to take some strain off your Achilles. Do these rides have more climbing than you're used to? If you're under-geared and having to climb at a low cadence you'll put a lot of strain on your Achilles. As you get fatigued on these longer rides you start using different muscles which, again, can put more stain on different parts of your leg.

TrojanHorse 09-24-12 09:18 AM

1 - consider getting a bike fit
2 - consider seeing a doctor about your achilles.

Obviously longer distances reveal issues faster than shorter distances, but you don't want to ignore something serious.

RichardGlover 09-24-12 09:23 AM

I'd definitely get a bike fit done, and make sure to bring your cycling shoes. It's quite possible they'll need to adjust cleat position, shim a pedal further out from the crank, put a shim inside a shoe to slightly raise up one leg or adjust the angle of the foot compared to the pedal.... oh, lots of possibilities, and not something that you can really experiment with on your own without further risk of injury.

mlwarriner 09-24-12 09:26 AM

i've considered a professional bike fit more than once, but i've always been able to talk myself out of it. between the cost, and making small adjustments on my own, i've kept it "close enough" until now. i guess if i'm going to be serious about logging the miles, it might be worth it.

as for undergearing and more climbing - pretty much every time i ride, there's climbing involved. but with the increasing distances i'm doing, there's naturally going to be more climbing. i frequently find myself reaching for "just one more gear" when climbing. i don't know what cassette i've got back there, it came with the (used) bike.

mikehattan 09-24-12 11:10 AM

Achilles tendon problems are pretty common among cyclists, as I found out after I developed one and started researching. Achilles tendinopathy is classified by the American Physical Therapy Association as "Self-reported localized pain and perceived stiffness in the Achilles tendon following a period of inactivity (ie, sleep, prolonged sitting), lessens with an acute bout of activity and may increase after the activity".

If this sounds like what you have, then moving your cleats (all the way) back in your shoe will help to take the load off the tendon. Heel raises are the most recommended exercise/treatment (stand on a step with just the balls of your feet and toes, then lower your heels slowly as far as you can to get a good stretch, then raise up slowly as high as you can). Do this 1-2 times a day, 3x10. I did them first thing in the morning.

Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen help with the pain, but don't appear to help it heal any faster. You can ice your tendon(s) after rides.

It took a good 6 months to resolve for me. I still have occasional minor soreness after long and/or hard rides. But now I can at least walk down the steps in the morning! My soreness developed after I got a new pair of shoes, so cleat placement may have been an issue. And, it also started after I got a single speed and began really grinding up a lot of steep hills. Who knows.

If you have painful thickening of the tendon, you should definitely have it seen. I'm a pharmacist, not a physical therapist or a physician, so use your own judgement.

Good luck!

Ref for guideline: J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010:40(9):A1-A26. doi:10.2519/jospt.2010.0305;

indyfabz 09-24-12 11:32 AM


Originally Posted by mlwarriner (Post 14768107)
i've considered a professional bike fit more than once, but i've always been able to talk myself out of it. between the cost, and making small adjustments on my own, i've kept it "close enough" until now. i guess if i'm going to be serious about logging the miles, it might be worth it.

Compare the cost of a fit to any health insurance deductibles and/or co-pays or the potential full costs if you have no such insurance.

mlwarriner 09-24-12 12:02 PM


Originally Posted by indyfabz (Post 14768634)
Compare the cost of a fit to any health insurance deductibles and/or co-pays or the potential full costs if you have no such insurance.


DiamondDave247 09-24-12 12:09 PM

i was just curious...but, how many miles would you say you have on your current pedals?? as you know, pedals wear out just like all mechanical moving parts subject to friction on your bike. we often don't give them a second thought, but even the best pedals can wear out at different rates due to exposure to the elements, debris, damage, and sometimes just poor quality control and defects. anyway, as soon as i start to have acute foot, ankle, achilles aches or pain, that seems rather unexplained or comes right out of the blue,...i suspect my pedals. i happen to buy rather inexpensive platform pedals, and replace them about every 1500 miles (give or take). some pedals will last longer for me, some will wear out faster, and one pedal i just bought, lasted only 250 miles before i could tell the bearings were defective and slightly grinding. an expensive name brand product SHOULD last longer, but you just never know. anyway, before i consider trying more expensive solutions or going to a doctor, i always look at the simple culprit first. in this case, consider a pedal replacement. just sayin'.

mlwarriner 09-24-12 12:13 PM

i don't know how many miles i've got on my pedals, but i'd guess well under 500. they're the medium quality Performance brand SPD pedals. they're my first clipless pedals, and when i got them i just tried to SWAG my cleats into a basically centered position.

they've been fine on rides up to about 20 miles or so, it's only on the longer (48 and 72 miles) rides that i've noticed the achilles pain...

DiamondDave247 09-24-12 12:33 PM


Originally Posted by mlwarriner (Post 14768800)
...well under 500 (miles)...

at less than 500 miles, the pedals should not be an issue. it may indeed be more of a fitting and cleat location solution you need. i am not familiar with your training experience or history, but it is always suggested that you increase your training distances by no more than 10-15% of what you are well accustomed to riding. for example, if you ride 20 miles regularly with no pain, then you might consider increasing your riding distance to 22-23 miles until you get used to that distance. however, doubling or tripling your regular distance in one shot, puts a lot of stress on all parts of your body. so, as Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry) would say to the empty chair: "...a man's got to know his limitations..." :)

mlwarriner 09-24-12 12:40 PM

i have no doubt that i was undertrained for this ride. my longest "regular" distance is around 20 miles. but. i signed up for it, did the fundraising. and then promptly failed to properly train. :D

i'm sure that at least *some* of my pain is just overdoing it, but i wonder if some of it might also be fit-related...

mlwarriner 09-24-12 01:52 PM

if i'm going to pop for a pro fitting, is any one "system" better or worse than the others? within a few minutes drive from home, i have a shop that does the Specialized BG Fit, a place that does the PowerFiTTE system, and Trek shops that do whatever system Trek shops do. All are relatively close to the same price as well.

Guidance from those more experienced is greatly appreciated. :)

Chitown_Mike 09-24-12 03:58 PM

Funny story, I get a similar sensation in my left lower calf muscle that goes into my heel slightly. I had a knee issue prior but with some of the exercises like matthatten mentioned above I was good to go, I just use those now when I ride. I just did a century yesterday and made sure the week leading up to the ride I was doing those everyday because the weekend prior I did an 80 miler and had to walk several times because my left leg tightened up too much.

But bike fitment is huge. And STRETCH after every ride despite how "short" it might seem. I know even after my 6 1/2" mile commute home when I didn't stretch I was prone to hurt myself a ton more than when I did.

And remember, modern medicine is here to help. I hate doctors......not the people just hospitals and all the cutty tools they I avoid them till I am in waayyyy too much pain, but every time I go I always feel better. And get a lollipop :)

bigfred 09-24-12 11:07 PM

First, you've made a big jump from 20 mile rides to 50 and 70 mile rides. Remember the old rule about not increasing distance or effort by no more than 10% per week. That might be a bit low at 20 miles. I wouldn't worry about increasing rides by more than 2 miles. Try adding approximately 5 miles to your long ride each week for a period of 4-6 weeks. That should have you up to approximately 50 miles. See if the achilles issues rears its head along the way. If not, it was a too much too soon issue. If it does reoccur, proceed with the fitting option and possibly the doctor. Although, most of the advice I've ever recieved from a GP was along the lines of "if cycling is aggravating something, quite cycling".

jyossarian 09-25-12 11:24 AM

Stretch before the ride, especially your calves, quads and hamstrings. When you stretch your calves, that should stretch your achilles. Don't skimp or rush the stretches either. Active stretching before the ride and passive stretching after.

mlwarriner 09-25-12 01:35 PM

scheduled a bike fit for next week. not the super-uber-fancy computerized one, but with a guy that a good friend of mine recommends. said "good friend" is also a fairly hardcore triathlete, so...

here's hoping.

mlwarriner 09-25-12 01:36 PM

ps - i know that getting fitted to my bike isn't going to turn me into Lance overnight, but it can't possibly hurt, assuming this cat is as good as i'm told he is.

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