Today’s question is about an ankle tendonitis issue from cycling and what could be causing it…

Fortunately, there are ways to determine the underlying cause. And once you do that, you can fix it – and prevent it from happening again!

How do I fix Achilles tendonitis?

A reader asks:

I am have a tendonitis issue with my right ankle. I have a Specialized Tarmac, carbon shoes and ride with zero speed plays…any ideas??

Thanks,
Tender Timmy

Hi Timmy,

I don’t have any personal experience with this injury, but generally, ankle issues like Achilles tendonitis are caused by poor pedaling form (which could be a physiological issue or a bike fit issue).

If you were having problems with both ankles, then I’d think it was most likely your pedaling style. (I answered a question earlier this year about shin splints from riding, and that was caused by poor pedaling form.)

It could also be from a basic bike fit issue such as having your saddle too high or your cleats too far forward.

But, since it is only one ankle, it leads me to believe the issue stems from poor bike fit in a less noticeable way. That could be anything from a single misaligned cleat to an undiagnosed leg length discrepancy.

Treating Ankle Pain: Your plan of action

My plan of action would be two things: professional treatment and KT Tape.

1. Get checked out by a sports therapist

Get checked out by a sports therapist, especially one familiar with runners and cyclists, to see if there is something they can do. They should be able to check you out for leg length discrepancies and any muscle imbalances that could be changing the mechanics of your right leg (or your left leg, because it’s entirely possible something with your left leg is causing the pain on your right side).

They may also be able to help out with some sort of massage, stretching, or special exercises to ease the pain you’ve experienced thus far.

2. Get a bike fit from a qualified professional

Once you have the therapist’s ‘okay’ to get back on your bike, get a professional bike fit.

Get a bike fit from a qualified professional that has the knowledge and equipment to do a good job. This will probably cost $250-350, but it is much, much better than the typical $50 bike fit at the average shop where they mainly just check your saddle height and fore/aft position.

A good fitter will fully analyze your pedaling mechanics, so they will be able to diagnose any leg length discrepancies and account for them. Perhaps your cleat placement is off, or you need an extra shim of some type in one shoe but not the other.

3. Use KT Tape

Finally, once you are cleared for activity, and your bike fits properly, it’s time to get back in action.

However, you might still be dealing with some instability. (Because it can take many months of corrective exercise to totally fix muscle imbalances.) So, consider adding some extra support to your ankle.

To improve stability without having a wear a brace – which would restrict your ankle’s motion and might not fit in your cycling shoes – try wrapping your ankle with KT Tape.

KT Tape is a practical solution for managing achilles tendonitis. The tape is relatively inexpensive, and you don’t have to be a professional to do a pretty good job taping up the ankle joint.

Just follow the instructions in this video:

Hopefully you get this resolved!

Preventing Future Injuries

Going forward, make sure to take care of your legs. Stretching and foam rolling are good ways to prevent injuries.

Calf stretches are really easy. One of the best – and simplest – is to stand on the edge of a stair with just your toes on the stair, letting your heels drop. You should feel a gentle stretch in your calves.

Foam rolling your calves is also very easy.

Tender Timmy Writes Back…

I got this response:

Thank you for your response. I do have a leg length issue.. I will look for a sports therapist.

So it was a leg length discrepancy after all!

For anyone else out there with some sort of pain like this, I highly suggest getting a good bike fitting and/or seeing a knowledgeable sports therapist. I can assure you, it’s better to spend the money and get it fixed now, rather than deal with it and end up not being able to ride!

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