Heel drops are an exercise that will significantly strengthen your achilles tendon. Every runner should be doing this regularly.
I've always had a very low bar when it comes to responding to achilles tendon pain. The problem is, if you run you will almost certainly experience achilles pain at some stage because the achilles does so much to power efficient running. Pair that with life in general (hard shoes, high heels and lots of sitting) and you have a recipe for achilles pain.
However, this doesn't mean that running is bad for you. Instead it means that your lifestyle doesn't stress your achilles enough and you need to take action to make it stronger.
This heel drop exercise, also called Alfredson heel drops, is a study in unexpected consequences.
If I recall the story correctly, in the 1990's, Dr Hakan Alfredson was having trouble with his achilles tendons. He tried various what would be considered conservative treatments without success and asked the boss of the clinic where he worked to book him in for achilles tendon surgery.
His boss refused, both because he didn't feel that Alfredson's condition was severe enough to warrant surgery and because he didn't want Alfredson off work.
Naturally, Alfredson was more than a little unhappy about this, but instead of just complaining to his friends, he set out to remedy the situation by making his achilles injury worse (just like we'd all do, right?).
To do so, he performed a bunch of eccentric exercises that have become known as heel drops.
Did he get his surgery wish?
No, he didn't, because his achilles tendon pain got better and the Alfredson eccentric heel drop protocol for treating achilles tendon injuries was born.
The heel drops demonstrated here are a staple of my regular body maintenance routine.
- I'm not a doctor or physio and I don't know your individual case. If you're in pain or concerned, please see a professional.
- Raise on two feet, drop on one: these are not heel raise exercises, they're only heel drops.
- If you add weight, only do so on a flat floor, never off a step.
- If you have a sore achilles tendon, it may get worse before it gets better.
- Don't do these just before running. Fatiguing your achilles tendon just before running is a little bit silly.