Ice or Heat?!?

Hi guys, been running about 40miles per week, longest run being 10miles once or twice a week. Recently had very tight left calf but eased off after a couple miles and stretched a bit. Just been out 7miles today and ended up having to walk the last mile due to VERY tight achilles. Tried to stretch it but it felt like it would snap if I did. Is fine walking (can't een feel he pain) but as soon as I bounce into a jog or walk up/down stairs, the tightness is like a severe pinch,

Do I use heat or ice? It doesn't look noticably swollen so I was thinking heat to ease off then stretch?! But not too sure.

Any help would be greatly appreciated image


  • If there's no swelling then it doesn't sound sound acute so ice probably won't help (but I'm not a physio).

    Give it a few days rest, then before the next run try heating up the achilles/soleus with a gel pack before running - when I had a similar stiffness recently, usually my lower leg used to stiffen up at the start of a run and then stay stiff, but if it was warmed up beforehand it wouldn't ever develop to be too stiff over the course of a run. For me, over about ten or fifteen runs eventually the problem went away, as I guess the achilles wasn't placed under so much stress at the start of a run (cumulative benefit). I run about 30 miles per week.


  • When I had Achilles tendonitis was told ice by Sports Massage guy.
  • I think I remember being told that aternating the two can really help, boosting the circulation and easing pain. Why not give it a go some evening when you are resting and let us know how you get on?

  • Sole Runner, I feel for you.  But I would not stretch it right now!  That very severe tightness is a warning sign and I'd say stop running straight away. I had an achilles tendon problem that started as a dull ache and then got much worse during a single run, to the extent that I could not walk without limping and had 7 months off running. 

    I'd go with ice, as it's inflamed, and ice will help.  You could stick your whole foot in a bucket of water with ice to make it as cold as you can bear. You don't have to have swelling to have a very serious achilles problem.  Sounds like you're on the cusp, and what happens next is down to the decisions you make.

    So, what'll it be - a complete week off running to see how it feels after a rest, or plough on and risk severe damage? 

    There is a place for stretching in rehabilitation (see eccentric calf stretches) but only once soreness and tenderness are below a certain threshold...

    Good luck and let us know how you get on.  

  • Thank you so much to everyone who has replied. I iced and heated yesterday and don't really expect there to be much change today (which there isn't). It did feel slightly better going up the stiars to bed and that was after a while of icing.

    questforspeed - thank you for the bucket of ice tip, I will definitely give this a try as I think with the place that it is in, it might reach the spot better image

    Do you think cycling would still be okay to do?? I don' have access to a gym until 2 weeks from now (I am travelling in NZ) and I will go crazy if I can't do ANYthing image

    Thanks again all, I'll let you know how I go!

  • Don't you think you should go to a physio? There are so many reasons for an Achilles to start playing up and no one on a forum - even if they're qualified - can really judge what the prob is and therefore what the treatment should be.
  • yeah I agree with this copletely Artful Hen but unfortuately I am on a backpacker budget at the moment and a Physio doesn't really fit into that image I think ice-ing is a very general rule of thumb and if itt doesn't work and my pain gets worse then I may have to splash out. But I will try the ice and a little rest and see how I get on image

  • SoleRunner. Also try massaging the calf muscles - not the sore area itself - being sure to work on both the inner and the outer gastrocnemius muscles and the deeper soleus muscle. Hand cream works as a lubricant for this, or baby oil (Boots' baby oil doesn't smell too bad). Try getting the leg warm beforehand, then e.g. sit on a low stool or on the floor - so your calf muscles are relaxed, and massage with long strokes up from just above the sore area right to just behind the knee. Start gently, and massage more firmly if it's not too sore.

    You can also use e.g. ibuprofen BUT if you do that then you must REST, or you risk doing further damage (that is, if you're using an anti-inflammatory, make sure you're using it as an anti-inflammatory to help settle down the problem, NOT as a painkiller to let you keep doing more damage.

  • Hey everyone, just a wee update on this and it's good news image So I kind of tried a little of everyones advice. First of all iced it a little, then rested for a few of days (well one day I hiked but the other 2 I did nothing) ... over these 3 days I got my boyfriend to massage the calf muscle for me and I think this was the main thing that worked.  It was pretty sore during the process but afterwards felt great and was able to stretch out a little. The first run I did after the intial pain was just a slow, easy 5k which was fine for the first mile or so and then stiffened up towards the end but stretched out afterwards and no lastng pain. Did 4 miles hilly the next day, felt pretty good and then cycled about 10 miles the next day (no problems there). Did a fast 5 miles yesterday and felt perfect image I think the problem has been fixed.

    I think it was probably a tight calf but pain was just lower. I have learned my lesson about not stretching properly though! Will continue to build up slowly over next couple of weeks and keep stretching image

    Thanks to you all for all your help and advice, just glad it wasn't the achilles!!

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