The Best Shoes For Insertional Achilles Tendinitis

Having suffered from insertional achilles tendinitis in the past I thought I would share a crucial component of my recovery: the running shoes. Please note that, although I try to reference as many leading research articles as possible, I’m not a physician.

Insertional Achilles Tendinitis is a nasty and nagging running injury. It’s an inflammation of the tendon at the point where it attaches to the foot.

Unlike the classic version of Achilles Tendinitis that designates pain above the foot, Insertional Achilles Tendinitis does not respond as well to eccentric loading exercises. Even more frustrating is the fact that rest alone often does not work.

Additionally, it’s quite common with Insertional Achilles Tendinitis to develop a painful bump on the back of the foot (Haglund’s deformity), which can be aggravated by shoes with a stiff or tight heel counter.

Should you keep running with Insertional Achilles Tendinitis?

It may seem counter intuitive to run with such injury but as noted above rest often doesn’t help. The achilles tendon has a poor blood supply and, therefore, it could help to keep it active to support the healing process. In this 2007 study, Silbernagel et al. found that “no negative effects could be demonstrated from continuing Achilles tendon-loading activity, such as running and jumping, with the use of a pain-monitoring model, during treatment.” In this research, runners were allowed to pursue their activity provided their pain level didn’t exceed 5 on a scale of 10.

In other words, listen to your body and check with your doctor but some running is potentially safe while recovering from Insertional Achilles Tendinitis.

What are the best running shoes for Insertional Achilles Tendinitis?

After reading the experience of many runners recommending the Nike Free 5.0, I decided to give it a try and was not disappointed. Thanks to a soft and loose heel counter it didn’t bother my achilles and I was able to run while my tendon was healing.

However, the Nike Free 5.0 have now been discontinued and replaced by the Nike Free RN Flyknit. While the counter of these shoes is also flexible, it felt very tight to me and actually caused some pain.

Cutting the back of the running shoe

Say what? Yes, you have read correctly. Most running shoes, even the ones that have a flexible heel counter, are likely to cause some pain if you suffer from insertional achilles tendinitis. Therefore, the best solution is to cut the back of the running shoe.

So how do we do this?

A single cut with scissors or a box cutter should be enough. You just need to identify the part of the shoe that rubs against your achilles tendinitis and causes pain.

Below is an example of how I perform this operation on my Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 32:

cutting back running shoe insertional achilles tendinitis

Do you have any shoe tips to deal with insertional achilles tendinitis? Please share them in the comments section below.

Kevin is the founder and editor of Runner's Lab. He started running in 2015 and completed his first marathon in Rotterdam in 2016. He's also worked for Under Armour from 2016 to 2018 and helped launch their running collection in Europe (in particular the HOVR shoes). In addition, Kevin is a 300-hour certified yoga teacher (Sivananda) and uses this experience to run more mindfully with a focus on well-being over performance.

8 Comments
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  1. Going to Basic Training in one month- severe insertional achilles tendonitis (With Haglunds Deformity).
    Glad I read this little gem. Lets go!

  2. My Salomon Spikecross are hurting my insertional tendonitis. I don’t want to cut into them! But, no donuts or similar padding help. Thinking about using a high end drill bit with cutting spurs to cut a clean hole in the heel below the top of the heel collar to retain feeling of heel lockdown. And the shoes are SO pretty!

    • Hi AHK,

      Yes, it may be especially tricky for trail shoes as it could reduce the lockdown. Cutting a clean hole sounds like a good idea. Please keep us posted! There are many of us with this issue. Personally, I feel like the worst is behind, but I still avoid stiff counter as much as possible.

      All the best,
      Kevin

  3. ummmm What is the answer to the question?

    The Best Shoes For Insertional Achilles Tendinitis = ???

    thank you

    • Hi Mark, shoes with a flexible counter like the Nike Free 5.0 (discontinued, unfortunately) may be suitable. However, there’s no guarantee; it’s really a matter of personal experience.

      The solution I recommend is to cut the heel. It can work with any shoe, even the ones with a hard counter. If you’re afraid to ruin your new shoes, I would recommend giving it a try with an old pair and see how it goes. For me, it has been an enormous relief!

      I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have questions.

      All the best,
      Kevin

  4. Salomon Sonic Confidence, Soft heel counter, good 10mm drop, great comfort.

  5. The Solomon Predict has been the best running shoe for my haglunds, but I am looking for a trail shoe with a similiar flexible backing.

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