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Have Achilles pain? Try running down a hill…backward

A recent study showed running backward on a negative slope may be an effective treatment for Achilles tendinopathy

Achilles tendinopathy is a common complaint for many runners. It’s a persistent injury that can sideline training for weeks and then continue to pop up again and again. While conventional wisdom says you should stop running if you have Achilles pain, recent research has demonstrated that running backward down a hill is an effective treatment for runners that allows them to maintain some degree of activity while the injury heals.

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The study, published in the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, had 14 participants complete a five-week rehabilitation program in which they ran backward on a negatively inclined treadmill for nine sessions. According to the researchers, 12 (85.7 per cent) of the participants “achieved their running-related functional goals.” In other words, these participants saw their Achilles pain improve.

While this may sound like an odd way to heal an injury, it’s applying the same principle as the well-known Alfredson protocol, which involves dropping your heels off the edge of a step to eccentrically load the Achilles tendon to improve it’s ability to withstand forces and stressors. Running backward down a moderate hill accomplishes the same goal, but in a more active way.

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This is particularly good news for runners, because it allows you to continue running, at least a small amount, while you treat your Achilles, which will make your return to running that much quicker once it’s healed. The researchers admit that further study is required to validate the efficacy of this method, but if you tend to suffer from Achilles pain and nothing appears to be working, this may be a feasible solution for you.