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An Odd Remedy for Achilles Pain

Publisher Tracy Patterson with her dog sitting in the desert resting up from a hike

Tracy Patterson

After reading the article Moving Through Chronic Pain, on page 32 in this issue, I couldn’t help but think about the time I had a major problem with my Achilles tendons.

It all started with the wrong pair of shoes. I have worn zero-drop shoes (barefoot shoes with the heel not higher than the toe, a flexible sole, and a wider toe box—but not the Vibram FiveFingers type!) almost exclusively for years, and a while back I decided in my infinite wisdom that I needed waterproof shoes. At the time, there wasn’t much selection, so I ended up with a shoe that wasn’t a zero drop and had a hard, inflexible sole. I was living in a rainy climate at the time and wore these shoes a lot, which didn’t go well.

I couldn’t figure out why my Achilles tendons were starting to hurt, and it took a while before I realized that the cause of my pain stemmed from the shoes! At that point, it was quite bad, and I began trying everything I could think of to rectify the situation: liniments, stretching, physical therapy, hot/cold treatments—you name it. Nothing was working, and this was now going on more than a year.

Totally unrelated and not part of my Achilles treatment plan was my decision to start Jazzercise. I was so irritated with this chronic pain, but I decided that I was just going to go for it and see if I could do the dance without too much torture. Well, at the end of the class, we would do some other exercises, one of which was a squeezing/tightening of the gluteus maximus muscles (bum muscles!). It was one tough exercise, but after a couple of sessions of that, something miraculous happened—no more Achilles tendon pain! It was the craziest thing, but when I thought back to the waterproof shoe-wearing incident, I realized that I had been walking quite differently and that might have relaxed something in my “glutes,” which in turn caused undo stress on my Achilles tendons. I never did find out the true connection, but I was over the moon to have my tendons back in action.

Needless to say, I’ve been a lot more careful with what I wear on my feet since then, not steering too far from the flexible zero-drop styles. And best of all, I now have waterproof socks that are awesome! I use a thin pair of merino wool socks in them, and I can wear them in any of my shoes (preferably ones I don’t mind getting wet). No more sore tendons!


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