Achilles blog, I can’t quit you. The anniversary of my rupture is fast approaching. Single leg heel raises are slowly but surely improving. I think I’ll start incorporating two-legged raises off a step, as well.
I’ve retired from marathons (tendonitis) and basketball (can’t go through this again), but have filled the void with other interesting activities (hiking, beginner gymnastics, and mountain biking), which have made me a more well-rounded athlete. With a ROUNDER waistline, too, haha - I’m still working off that Cinnabon weight.
What actually inspired me to post today is how impressed I’ve been with my new hiking / trail running sneakers, the Under Armour SpeedForm XC Mid Trail. I think they came out a while ago, because they are hard to find and expensive. I bought mine for $180 from a guy in Lithuania off eBay.
What’s so great about them is the upper is a built-in brace that wraps, supports, and protects your ankle and Achilles. It also serves as a gator, keeping rocks and dirt out of your shoe, and is barely noticeable when running with no “hot spots.” The sole is lighter than it looks, moderately cushioned, and very flexible. I’m so impressed with them that I’m thinking of buying another pair for when these wear out. They’re a better performing sneaker for running and walking than the Kobes I posted about earlier, and in the black colorway, they aren’t obnoxiously styled.
Under Armour made a similar sneaker called the FTHR Shield TRC Storm last year, but it must have been a limited run for the niche mud running market, because they are even harder to find. If anyone sees a pair of these in size 13, or knows of a similarly-designed running shoe, please let me know in the comments!
Oh yeah, one more product endorsement. When I had the boot on, it was really tough to make it to the gym, so I used dumbbells and elastic bands for resistance training. Those are better than nothing, but I have also been really impressed with the $40 WOSS Attack trainer I bought off Amazon. If you’ve heard of TRX, it’s the same thing, but ~$200 cheaper. Basically, you suspend some heavy duty straps with handles in an outward-facing door jam or around a tree, and use your body weight to do chest, shoulder, back, and core movements. The lower and slower you go, the harder it is, up to your full body weight. For me, it’s 90% as good as the cable setup they have at my gym, which for $40 is a tremendous value. I used YouTube and experimentation to settle on my favorite movements - atomic pushups are killer!
(this isn’t me in the picture)
Hope this helps, guys. To you new members in the club, hang in there and stay positive. Happy healing, everyone!
6/26/16 UPDATE: Got myself a pair of Hoka Clifton 1 running shoes, and these are better for the road. Not the most stylish shoe by any stretch, but the extra foam really does help reduce impact on the joints including the Achilles. No more tendonitis, thank you!
The Under Armours are still useful on the trail, where loose dirt and mud serve as natural cushioning, and the high upper helps keep dirt and rocks out.
Now that I’m running pain-free again, I’m hoping to work myself back to a half marathon at 18 months post-ATR.
I’m just over 7 months post-op, and had my last PT appointment this morning. My “graduation” was bittersweet. I would happily keep going to see “Punisher Jim” if my insurance would cover it, but alas, they only cover a set amount of appointments. It is nice to get past one more milestone, even if my Achilles only feels 85% recovered. He actually had my do one-legged heel raises as high as I could, and I measured 12 cm with the right (good) side, and 6 cm with the injured left side - half as high.
I can’t sprint or jump yet, but I do some of Brady Browne’s agility drills every other day, along with two-legged heel raises. Twice a week, I’ll do body-weight CrossFit-style metabolic conditioning workouts, and twice a week, I’ll join an hour-long yoga class. I try to hike, golf, or stand-up paddle board once a week, and managed to jog 50 meters very slowly and carefully at the beach this weekend.
In addition to being weak, my Achilles is still sore and tight, at times. I gained some weight during my down time… and it wasn’t all muscle. Part of the problem was not being mobile, the other part was junk food. My goal for the next year is to lose 2 lbs per month, and if my body allows, transition from weight training to outdoor running as my primary means of conditioning.
As another month passes, I am approaching the six month anniversary of my injury. As with many things, it feels like it went quickly in retrospect, but I still have vivid memories of every second of pain and immobility feeling like an eternity. Hang in there, guys!
I had another early milestone this week, as I was able to successfully “summit” the hill behind my house last Monday. It’s a steep half-mile or so that requires scrambling up loose rocks towards the end, and offers a view of Torrey Pines State Beach in the distance. I couldn’t have dreamt of walking up there just a few months ago, so it was extremely satisfying to be able there and pain-free.
My next milestone (Jan) is to run on an alter-G treadmill, but I think I will save the money and just run in the pool until my PT gives me the green light to start short treadmill runs. I did catch myself speed walking after my daughter while hiking over the weekend, but I don’t have the guts (or calf strength) to come completely off the ground yet.
Was anyone else’s fantasy football season ruined by Arian Foster rupturing his Achilles yesterday? Poor guy. I actually doubled down on him, trading for him in both of my leagues, so part of me is afraid that I hexed him somehow. =P
Hello again, Achilles Blog friends. I’m 22 weeks post-op now, but it feels like I’ve aged 10 years in terms of the wisdom and patience gained, and the adversity I’ve overcome.
It’s been 4 weeks since I last posted, and I don’t think I’ve checked the site once since. I’d rather be outdoors experiencing life and reconnecting with friends / family than returning back to the “scene of the crime” where I spent countless nights obsessing over my injury. This site is a great resource to get educated on ATR recovery and rehabilitation, and it certainly helped me to connect and communicate with other ATR sufferers. But it should be everyone’s goal to graduate from this site, leave it behind, and let it become a distant memory.
One thing that I’ve been less excited to give up was my handicap parking placard. I live in crowded Southern California, so it was a godsend while I had it! Towards the end, it started to feel more like a sense of entitlement than a necessity, and I didn’t realize that it expired on 9/7/15 (as opposed to 9/30/15), so I accidentally used it illegally for 3 weeks. Sshhhh! Don’t tell anyone!
Physically, I’m pain-free, but healing short. I work daily to stretch my left tendon and build calf strength. Most nights, I’ll wear my Elasto-Gel ice pack to mitigate swelling, out of habit and in the hopes that it aids recovery.
I did a short, steep hike up the hill behind my house today for the first time. This is a milestone I didn’t expect to hit in my excessively conservative protocol until December, so I’m pretty happy about that!
I’ve also been doing yoga twice a week, and stand-up paddle boarded today, both of which are great workouts for the stabilizers in your foot and ankle. I still protect my injured side in yoga, being careful not to overstretch or overload it, but over the course of an hour it does seem to loosen up a bit. I feel like these are a healthy injury prevention activities for my “good side,” too.
One of the neighborhood families left a children’s basketball hoop and beach ball in the deep end of our community pool, so I’ve actually been “shooting hoops” with some regularity, jumping and dunking and all. This has been a fun way to rehab with my 2 year old daughter, I’ll lift her in her floaty and let her dunk sometimes, too. Time will tell if I ever have the courage to shoot hoops on solid ground again.
Did anybody else on here gain weight from your injury? As if the sedentery lifestyle and atrophy wasn’t enough, I took to eating Cinnabons for two weeks after my surgery. As a result, I am 10 lbs heavier than I was pre-injury, and probably about 30 lbs above where I’d really like to be. For the most part I try to eat low-carb and not overindulge, but end up having a “cheat meal” or three per day. If anyone knows of an easy way to lose 30 lbs without going hungry, please let me know in the comments below!
Firefighter Ninja Dennis Lappen qualified for the Vegas finals of American Ninja Warrior (video here), but didn’t make the televised broadcast because he fell on the first obstacle. It was still an amazing comeback for at 39 year old who ruptured one year ago. Congrats, Dennis!
Dennis’ surgery center posted a video on YouTube, so I tweeted him a note saying what an inspiration he is for us ATR victims, and he sent back a very nice reply. You’re a class act, Dennis! Best of luck next year!
@gerryhong wow!! Thank you so much! If was a lot of work and a long road but sooo worth it!! Stay strong Gerry!
My condition continues to improve every day. As long as I walk slowly and maintain short strides, my limp is gone. I can confidently push off with my injured foot without experiencing the pain of over-stretching the Achilles. In the overly-conservative schedule that I had written for myself while booted, I hadn’t expected to lose the limp until October, so I’m ahead of schedule!
I also enjoyed my first post-injury walk on the beach over the weekend, and it was glorious! We’re having a summer heat wave in San Diego with temperatures in the low 90s, so a breezy beach day is a welcome treat. Walking on the sand is a tough calf workout, so I had to take breaks. I was also extra careful to watch where I placed my feet while wading in the water, as losing my balance or stepping in a hole could be disastrous. I’ve always been an ocean lover, so it felt amazing to feel the wet sand between my toes while soaking my sore Achilles and calves in the chilly Pacific. The beach day came two months sooner than expected, so I am really happy. I can’t wait to boogie board or surf again - maybe in the spring?
My next planned milestones are hiking up the hill behind my house (Dec), which is a realistic goal for next month (Oct), and alter-G running (Jan), which I’m going to ask my surgeon about at my checkup next Friday. It’s hard to imagine regaining these abilities when you’re booted and in pain, but months 3 and 4 - when I started to regain strength and flexibility - are proving to be very rewarding. My PT has me simulate jogging on a trampoline at our sessions, and it feels great to get the arms and legs moving in unison again. Today, I graduated from the recumbent bike to the elliptical at the gym. The last goal I have for myself, to run next year’s Dec 2016 San Diego Holiday Half Marathon, seems within reach.
During weeks 16 and 17, as I transitioned from high top to low top shoes, I noticed random, intense pains that felt like microtearing of my Achilles while resting. They would pass within a few seconds, and now I believe it was constructive pain - possibly nerves reconnecting? Did anyone else on here experience the same phenomenon? Interestingly, a week later, all pain and soreness is gone. I only ice to decrease swelling and accelerate healing now, so I can better prepare for the next day’s calf workout.
My repaired Achilles feels super strong, but not as flexible as it needs to be. I actually catch myself occasionally favoring it over the other side, as I am experiencing tendonitis from the atrophy there now. My PT instructed me to stretch the repaired side constantly, even while at rest, to increase its mobility, and to really work hard on eccentric loading of the other side, to strengthen and overcome the tendonitis. It seems to be helping.
Oh, one more thing. I’m so confident in my Achilles repair that I’ve listed my VACOcast for sale on eBay. It was time to free up some space in my garage, and I figure if I rupture the other side, I can just buy it back from whoever uses it next. Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that.
My Achilles rehab is turning the corner. The repair is still swollen and stiff, but it actually feels stronger and less painful than my good side (with tendonitis). Today I walked and played a pitch and putt golf course - the first golf I’ve played in a year , as I’ve also been battling elbow and neck issues. I was limping, especially while going up hills, and my playing partner graciously commented how “nice it felt to walk slow” (wink wink). I feel so blessed to accomplish this milestone, because I really do love playing the game. Golf will help fill the void left by my forced retirement from basketball and marathon running.
I also had a notably good PT appointment today. “Punisher Jim” gave my Achilles a vigorous massage, and I actually felt him breaking up scar tissue like popping a sheet of bubble wrap. I didn’t notice any dramatic improvement in range of motion afterwards, but it was an interesting and amazing feeling nonetheless. I’m still healing short (only 2 degs dorsiflexion), but I’m confident this won’t be a problem for long.
Does anybody have any advice on how to prevent rupturing your “good side” Achilles? Due to miles of overuse before my injury and atrophy after it, I am battling tendonitis. My PT says to stretch, massage, and do heel raises while focusing on the eccentric contraction, but the only thing that provides any pain relief is icing.
It occurred to me that it might be helpful to write about things I wish I had done differently in the last four months.
Regret #1: Obviously, I wish I hadn’t ignored warning signs and hurt myself by overdoing marathon training and basketball. Would I have eventually popped my Achilles? Probably, but still…
Regret #2: I wish I had given the iWalk a chance. My rationale for avoiding it was the attention it would garner and the expense. In hindsight, my embarrassment and the $150 price tag would have been a small price to pay for the benefits of getting out, staying in better shape, and having the use of both hands for two months. As terrible as this injury is, the atrophy really screws you up, too, so anything to combat it is a good thing.
Here’s some guy who resembles my brother with the same last name as us playing badminton in his iWalk on week 4. He’s got a great attitude! I wonder if we’re related?
Regret #3: I wish I had started bearing weight and weaning off the boot earlier. Everyone’s injury, repair, and recovery is unique, but I felt like my OS’ one-size-fits-all protocol needlessly slowed me down. My swelling and pain didn’t get any better during weeks 4-6, and while I’m obviously glad I didn’t re-rupture, I feel like my body wasted away during these two weeks rather than starting on the road to recovery as soon as was reasonable. Even just light range of motion, Theraband, isometric flexing, and massage would have been beneficial. Just as you should listen to your body and back off activity when you are hurting, you should listen to your body and start rehab as soon as you are ready.
Regret #4: I wish I had purchased the Elasto Gel ankle wraps and good-fitting compression sleeves (I’m partial to these) sooner. Thank G-d I bit the bullet and sprung for my Vaco Cast on day 3; it so much lighter and more comfortable than the DJO MaxTrax my OS prescribed me. Having the right tools for your recovery is hugely helpful.
Regret #5: I should have started bathing earlier. During weeks 1 through 3, I was too afraid to drag my butt upstairs (literally) that I just sponge-bathed from the couch. That first real bath with my leg sitting on the edge of the tub felt so divine that I realized I should have had it in my daily routine from the start. It was especially nice to wash the dead skin off after getting the cast off.
By the way, did you all see the fastest man alive, Usain Bolt, nearly had his career cut short by an idiot cameraman on a Segway? It’s a wonder he was able to walk away unscathed. The man is a freak of nature.
Month four. My PT had me take a break in my rehab exercises this weekend, to let my calf and Achilles *ahem* heal. I had been doing cable walkthroughs and eccentric calf raises every day as prescribed, which was strengthening my foot and calf, but also causing burning and edemas at my surgery reattachment site. It was tough to press pause on my progress, but “Punisher Jim” convinced me that it would be worth it in the long run. During the four days off, my Achilles tightened up and my limp got worse, but the swelling did subside (somewhat), so I am resuming my PT exercises every OTHER day.
Some good karma finally came my way this weekend. I went to a Padres baseball game, and my money clip with $250 fell out of my pocket while leaving the stadium. Upon discovering this late at night after returning home, I drove all the way back downtown and retraced my steps, to no avail. The stadium was closed, but the lost and found returned my voicemail the next morning, saying someone had turned it in with all of the cash. My faith in the universe is (somewhat) restored! (I’m still cursing this darn injury, though.)
Although I was on a break from resisted exercises, the game was the most walking I’ve done since my injury. The surgical repair is healing short, with good tension (supposed to be better for athletic performance), and my calf is still too weak to walk without a burning feeling and a limp. To avoid overstretching my Achilles, I go at half speed with half length strides. One trick that’s come in handy is to use a cane, giving others a visual cue to walk around me, hold doors, and/or cut me some slack.
Knock on wood: I have checked off all of my conservatively-planned milestonesearly so far. I reached FWB without crutches at week 8, started taking my daughter to daycare at week 9.5, and was 2-shoes outside at week 12. I still generally avoid longer strolls, but can at least tolerate going to the mall, a ballgame, or social events… if I’m feeling up for it.
There’s still lots of swelling, especially if I’m on my feet or walk long distances, but the pain has diluted down to tightness, burning, and mild frustration from not being able to walk at a normal walking pace, or with a normal gait. This is of course nothing compared to the physical, emotional, and mental agony of those first few weeks post-ATR. My brain has done a pretty good blocking that phase of the recovery out of my memory, which I am just fine with. Ice, compression, and good footwear helps.
So what’s next on the agenda? I’m currently approaching month 4, and am still working towards my next goal (month 5 - lose the limp). My calf strength improves every day, but my PT, Punisher Jim, says I need to be able to do a single foot heel raise before I can walk normally again.
The summer weather in San Diego has been great this August, so I may try and go for a super slow walk on the beach this weekend, if I can muster the courage. More to follow…
I went to a friend’s birthday brunch at a bar this morning, and had to walk quarter mile or so to get there because of limited street parking. Combined with the heel raises and pool walking I did today, my tendon is pretty swollen, even after icing and compression. The gait continues to improve as slowly as my walking pace.
I’m pretty sure my diet of fast food and frozen pizza isn’t so great for healing, so I searched online for any nutritional supplementation that might help with tendon healing specifically. I suspect a lot of people on here, including myself, are lost due to a lack of guidance from their OS and PT. Here’s a University of Maryland Medical Center article I found that appears legitimate. After reading this, I bought 3 bottles of a Bromelain-Turmeric-Boswellia joint supplement to augment my daily placebo of Glucosamine HCI MSM, Vitamin C, Calcium Mg, fish oil, and multivitamin. Hey, it can’t hurt, right? I’ve also been taking Supper Cissus and eating jello based on another Achilles blogger’s advice, but have found no scientific support that either of these helps heal tendons, just anecdotal reports.