Achilles tendonitis and step aerobics | hoping step is NOT my Achilles heel

My favourite group fitness class to teach is step aerobics. I love the music, the choreography, the sweat and the fun of teaching new patterns to my class participants.

Achilles tendonitis and step aerobics

Last week, however, step class didn’t love me. In the middle of an ‘L’ step-knee repeater combo I felt a twinge in my left Achilles tendon (the tissue that attaches your heel to the back of your leg).

It started as a dull ache at the back of the heel, most pronounced when stepping back and off the step, but also during jumping jacks, speed skaters, grapevines and lunges. And quickly progressed to full on, tender-to-the-touch pain.

I did what any other instructor would do with a potential injury-in-the-making and 30 minutes of class left to teach; reduce the impact, switch to verbal instruction and modify my lesson plan on the fly. My class was thrilled to spend an extra 10 minutes on abs 🙂 (If you love core training as much as they do, you’ll want to make sure you see this week’s #FatblasterFriday workout video!)

I spent the rest of the day alternating between hobbling around and icing the back of my foot. The pain was even worse the next morning; it took me a good 15 minutes to be able to comfortably walk with both heels on the floor. And of course, my right heel decided to join in, just to keep the left company, I suppose.

Achilles tendonitis and step aerobics

A quick search of Dr. Google (with corroboration from a physiotherapist friend) identified my injury as ‘Achilles tendonitis‘.

Primary causes of Achilles tendonitis include overuse of the foot, improper body mechanics, poorly cushioned shoes, excessive hill running and sudden stops and starts.  Achilles tendonitis is common among runners, dancers, STEP CLASS participants and basketball players.

Since I’m not a runner or a basketball player, I regularly alternate between two pairs of relatively new and well-cushioned shoes, and I think my body mechanics during exercise are pretty good (but of course, we can ALL improve…), the culprit is likely too much step aerobics.

Treatment suggestions include icing 3-4 times each day (check), stretching out tight calf and ankle muscles (check) and taking a break from the activity that caused the injury (NO!).  It’s also advised to avoid sitting for too long (another reason besides accumulating 10 000 steps a day to get up from my desk more frequently).

Thankfully, I’ve already scheduled two weeks away from teaching; serendipity has me heading to a fitness and health blogger’s conference in Portland tomorrow (Fitbloggin, here I come; follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see photos and updates in real-time!) followed by a long, holiday weekend (Happy Birthday Canada!).

I’m hoping that avoiding all movements that trigger the symptoms during that time will leave me ready to head back to class mid-July. Cross your fingers for me?

Have you ever had Achilles tendonitis?

If so, what sport or activity caused it? How long did it take to recover from? (PLEASE tell me ‘2 weeks’…)



  1. Oh no! I’m a runner and I’ve had achilles tendonitis before, both with the R & L achilles. Not fun! Unfortunately, it took me a lot longer than 2 weeks to recover, but I was stubborn and kept trying to run–so don’t do that!
    Have you considered putting a heel lift in your shoe to take some strain off the tendon? That seemed to help me.
    Karen @ the mile report recently posted…The workout that almost wasn’tMy Profile

    • Uh oh. Not what I wanted to hear… I shall try and resist step class for at least two weeks!
      I have been wearing a shoe insert for some time; it lifts the heel and helps with my high arch. Perhaps I need to head over to my favourite specialty shoe store and ask for some advice about a different insert. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Im not much help.
    I TOTALLY TAUGHT STEP in the 80s and have myself bad shin splints doing so…
    Miz recently posted…Im at FITBLOGGIN. Im in love.My Profile

    • Oooh, I’ve had those too.
      I didn’t know you use to teach step; tell me more!

  3. Sorry for your pains. Peanut butter and Tylenol sandwiches…?

    I know that ice is the most championed therapy, but don’t discount heat. More recent data has suggested ice is useful early on to reduce the spread of inflammation, but in the long-term heat is more useful because it promotes circulation. There’s lots of conflicting data on this, but I have always found heat to be much better therapy than ice. Worth a try perhaps….
    Contempltive Fitness recently posted…Gimmie back my playlists!!!My Profile

    • Ha, ha! Roy, I’ve used both heat and ice on injuries in the past and you’re right, sometimes heat is just the thing. This afternoon, I shall experiment.
      Thanks for the reminder!

  4. OH NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So sorry Tamara!!!! I hope it does not interfere with your Fitbloggin fun & I know it will be fun for all. Dang I wish I had any extra money but minus here so… it was even closer this year – maybe next time… Just be careful with all that fun that is going to happen in Portland! Hoping it feels better soon! I have been lucky enough to escape this prob….

    Jody – Fit at 55 recently posted…Setting Goals for #IAmEnough; #WhatsBeautifulMy Profile

    • Jody, no worries. It comes with the job 😉
      A bit better this morning (although it takes me about 10 minutes to be able to put full weight on it…) and lots of sitting on the train tomorrow en route to Portland!

  5. As you know, I also LOVE step – both to take and to teach. Does this mean you are not joining us for the Trampoline workout at FitBloggin’? I think I will arbitrarily blame jumping jacks for your injury. I don’t like them anyway,.
    KymberlyFunFit recently posted…World’s Coolest Marathons: Guest Post for RunnersMy Profile

    • Definitely NO impact for me for at least two weeks. Physio’s orders! I did take the JumpSport class last FitBloggin and it was a blast. Hopefully you get the same instructor; he is something else! See you soon!

  6. Oh no! But it sounds like you’re doing all the right things to help promote a speedy recovery. I know it’s hard to take some time off, but in the long run, it’s worth it.
    Michelle @ Eat Move Balance recently posted…Grilled Fava BeansMy Profile

  7. I’ve dealt with Achilles problems for many years – it flairs up and after a few weeks is better. I’ve gotten used to a certain amount of pain any time I run now – when it gets worse I just back off a little.
    Hopefully, your 2 weeks with no step classes will help!!
    Kim recently posted…StrugglingMy Profile

  8. I had Achilles and rolled my ankle at the same time…darn Insanity DVD too early in the morning. I am also a runner and live in a hilly neighborhood so who really knows. I learned that getting back into any exercise before it heals only makes it worse. Better to just lay off of it completely and shorten the time then limp long term. Started acupuncture this week and WOW it has made a huge difference. Wish I had done that on day 1
    Stephanie Robbins recently posted…Total Training Affiliates: A Summer With No Strings AttachedMy Profile

    • Hmmm, maybe acupuncture is something for me to look into as well?
      I’ve taken the last 5 days off (lots of walking, but no impact and sad to say, no trips to the gym either..), but am still feeling less than 100%. Hoping that I’ll be okay to teach by next Sunday…

  9. Uh oh….Achilles tendonitis is bad! I had it when I was playing basketball, and I’m sorry to say that it had me on the bench for an entire season. I hope you can recover quickly, but it took me a long, long time.
    Erin recently posted…Why I gave up on wearing my Body Media FitMy Profile

    • Erin, I plugged my ears while I read you post and said ‘la la la la la’! I’m thinking that this might take longer than I’d like too… even a weekend off impact (with lots of walking and standing) hasn’t made it better. Fingers crossed!

  10. Oh no! I’m so sorry Tamara and I hope that it gets better soon. I haven’t had Achilles tendonitis but have had posterior tibial tendonitis (from running). It probably took 2-3 weeks. I also went to my physical therapist a couple of times which really helped. Feel better and have FUN at Fitbloggin!
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…Yoga for RunnersMy Profile

  11. How are you and your AT? Aside from my plantar fasciitis, I also had Achilles tendonitis. I already knew that I had those problems but I ignored it, which is why they became worst. I went to a physical therapist, but honestly, the treatment plan didn’t give me any signs of improvement… my left foot remained swollen for several weeks… I switched to stem cell treatment with Dr Grossman (Stem MD). The treatment took 3 weeks (2 sessions a week). Other than experiencing slight fever and soreness, the therapy went fine… I was able to get the beneficial effect of stem cell about 8 weeks after I had my last treatment session…

    • Hi Michael,
      Thanks for asking! A bit better, ever so slowly, although I’m still not sure when I’ll be able to go back to teaching step again…
      I’ve found that the combination of acupuncture and electrical stim seems to help. Oh and of course, ice immediately after walking or exercising! Thanks for your suggestion; sounds interesting!

  12. Carolyn Slippen says:

    As I write this, I have ice packs wrapped around my ankles! I am planning on treating my AT with ibuprofen (only one, with food- but regularly), ice, heel inserts, and stretching. I am working at a summer camp and am walking at least 12 miles during the camp day (so says my pedometer). I only take two step classes a week (along with other weight training/ total body). I did actually run for 5 miles this am. I hope I can work out through it all. I will follow your blog to see what worked for you! Take care!

    • Carolyn,
      Yikes! You sound like you’re exactly where I was about 6 weeks ago. I couldn’t do step class or run or perform any impact moves for about 4 weeks. My PT told me to avoid those activities if I wanted to heal sooner. Today’s my first day back to step, even though I’m not 100% re-habbed. I’ll let you know how it goes!


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