8 Achilles Tendon Exercises To Avoid For Tendonitis

You’ve been working hard, hitting the gym religiously or giving it your all for your sport…and then along comes that dreadful Achilles tendonitis to ruin your day.

Should you stop training?

Are you just making things worse by working out? Is there maybe something specific you should avoid?


Certain exercises will aggravate your Achilles tendonitis and should be avoided until the tendon can handle them, which can change depending on how injured you are and where you’re at in your healing journey.

Achilles tendonitis can be a tricky thorn in your side (or heel?) and can quickly derail your train to Gains Town, but let me explain what sort of things can act as rust on those tracks and what exercises to avoid so that you can get back to full speed on making those sweet, sweet gains. 

Let’s jump in!

What Aggravates Achilles Tendonitis?

Imagine you’re cutting up some vegetables with the new Gorillaz album playing in the background (hearing the Tame Impala feature hit me with some proper nostalgia, not gonna lie). 

As you get enthralled in the funky mix that spans several genres, you lose focus and SLICE into your hand.

What’s the first thing you’d do? I bet it’s not reaching for the salt and sprinkling it over the wound (there’s better ways to feel emotions, trust me). 

This is a similar concept to how we deal with Achilles tendonitis — you don’t want to “sprinkle salt” all over it and do things that hurt it.

Achilles tendonitis usually has some sort of “fraying” or micro-trauma in the tendon, which causes too much friction in those fibres when we move — especially with REPETITIVE movements. 

It’s like rubbing two sticks together trying to start a fire, except with Achilles tendonitis the fire is inflammation and you DON’T want to feel that type of heat.

We need to get a clear understanding of things that could aggravate our Achilles tendonitis, which include:

  • Repeated Stress — Constantly pushing through the pain and doing things that overstress your tendon will make you pay with EXTRA pain. 
  • Big Stretches — With the tendon being stiff and inflamed, you don’t want to throw overly big stretches at the calf, which I know sounds a bit counter-productive. 
  • Hard Surfaces — Walking on harder surfaces like concrete or pavement will shoot more forces into your heel, making it more likely that the tendon will get aggravated.
  • Bad Footwear — You might have to ditch the heels or flats for a bit, as these can put your tendon in an uncomfortable position and don’t distribute the forces of stepping very well. Wearing worn-out shoes could also aggravate things (here’s your excuse to buy new shoes). 
  • Quick Movements — Think of stretching an old, stiff rubber band very quickly. It probably won’t like that very much. 
  • Foot Position — Being in a position where your calf is held in a constant stretch could make things feel pretty rough. 
  • No Cross Training — Mix/switch out your high-intensity training with lower-intensity stuff (e.g. sprint training mixed with light swimming) to avoid pounding the same movement over-and-over again. 
  • Only Resting — On the other end of this spectrum is too much resting. Doing nothing will cause that tendon and calf to stiffen up and cause more pain.

All of this isn’t a hard rule book — these things are likely to aggravate your tendon, but you might be able to handle some of them better than others depending on where you’re at with your Achilles tendonitis.

We don’t even want to avoid moving around and going on bed rest (although doing that and binge watching “The Office” sounds pretty good to me). 

It’s more about respecting things that can irritate the tendon as we’re trying to heal — don’t poke the bear over-and-over!

That being said, you can get a decent idea of how long it’ll take you to heal your Achilles tendonitis, and even do a couple things to speed that process up. 

8 Achilles Tendon Exercises To Avoid

You’ll avoid unnecessarily aggravating your Achilles tendonitis by following the concepts discussed above, but let’s start by looking at those key movements to avoid on Training Day (great movie by the way)?

Here are 6 exercises you should avoid the same way I avoid emotional attachment and clowns (they’re scary, don’t judge me).

1. Hill Sprints

Great exercise… terrible if you have Achilles tendonitis.

You’re constantly on your toes with your feet flexed, putting a ton of stretch on the Achilles tendon while explosively pushing up and forward.

It’s a good idea to slowly work towards these as a goal, but your tendons will be begging you to stop with these if you try them too soon (or they’ll respond by driving a pitchfork into the back of your heel).

2. Box Jumps

You’re probably doing these (or should be) if you’re an athlete or trying to increase your vert.

You also probably stopped (or should) doing these if you’re dealing with Achilles tendonitis.

Exercises like these called “plyometrics” are wonderful, but they’re a bit outside of what we should do with Achilles tendonitis initially because of the impact and stretch-reflex in our tendon.

Again, let’s work towards these slowly.

3. Long Jogs

This is where that repetitive stress I was talking about comes in. 

Light jogging can be alright, but you have to be careful not to go past your limits here. 

If you can jog (for numbers sake) 2 miles before any pain comes on afterwards, DON’T JOG 10 MILES! 

You’re just trapping your tendon in a cycle of pain and agony that it desperately wants to get out of, and feeding it more miles on the road won’t help.

4. Jump Rope

I know with Creed 3 out now our inner fighters are on fire and want to start jumping rope and boxing so that we can look like Michael B. Jordan (we can dream, right?)

But this one is like box jumps and jogging in one. It’s not gonna feel great. 

Constant repetitive stress + long work times = steak knives in our Achilles tendon.

5. Calf Raises 

Hear me out on this one — we absolutely do want to train calves to deal with Achilles tendonitis.


We need to do it in a strategic way.

That means we shouldn’t go and throw our max weight on the calf raise machine and start repping out a juicy calf pump.

There’s levels to this, and we gotta start at level one and work our way up — you have to walk before you can run (or your Achilles tendonitis will make sure you don’t run for a long time). 

6. Agility Ladders

Agility ladder exercises require a lot of stability, moving your ankle around, and creating quick, explosive movements through your ankle. 

I’m sure you can see the pattern here as to why these won’t initially do your Achilles tendonitis any favours.

Starting off with slow and controlled ladder drills MAY be alright, but even then I’d be careful not to aggravate things.

7. Excessive Stretching

Light stretching can be good, but excessively pulling around on an already angry tendon isn’t going to spell good news for you.

This is especially true if one of the reasons you’re dealing with Achilles tendonitis is because you have a hypermobile foot — creating more movement where there is already a ton of movement is not going to fix any problems. 

8. Sprints

Not a hard puzzle here: big stretch on the tendon, quick and explosive movements, hard surfaces…you get the idea.


I absolutely don’t want to scare you from moving or doing any exercises, that’s not the point here at all. 

The point is that certain exercises will cause pain and aggravate your Achilles tendonitis, slowing down your healing process.

And we’re all about getting back to doing the things you love PAIN-FREE as soon as possible. 

As the saying goes: everything in moderation.

These are NOT things you should avoid for forever, just for the time being as you’re taking the right steps to get back to these tougher exercises and HEEL that tendon up (I can’t believe I haven’t made this pun earlier). 

Listen to your body, respect its boundaries with activities, and try to limit the things that cause it pain.

Achilles Tendonitis Exercises FAQ

Check out some of these common questions that I get in the clinic:

What exercise is okay with Achilles tendonitis?

Most things within tolerance that can be done slow and controlled — usually we start off with eccentric and isometric exercises and then move up from there.

Don’t worry, you can bench press and hit the upper body no problem.

Can stretching make Achilles tendonitis worse?

Yes, stretching too much can make the tendon become more irritated, dooming it to the cycle of inflammation and pain.

Light stretching should be ok!

Can I do squats with Achilles tendonitis?

Yes, usually this is totally fine, but sometimes squats can aggravate it depending what your range looks like and how far forward your knees go — this will put a stretch on the Achilles tendon.

Feel it out and adjust as needed!

Is walking good for Achilles injury?

Yes, within tolerance! Low-impact activity like walking is good, and can help heal things and reduce the stiffness in the ankle and heel.

Again, it’s NOT a no pain no gain situation here — don’t walk through the pain, start with short walks. 

Eric Richter

Eric Richter

I'm Eric, a physiotherapist with a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and a Master’s degree in Physiotherapy from the University Of Manitoba. I have enjoyed the better part of a decade working with both amateur and professional athletes as a physical therapist. I've also worked as a strength and conditioning coach at an MMA gym!

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