After significant research on its causes and treatments, I found the best running shoes for achilles tendonitis to be the Mizuno Wave Rider 25 because of its neutral design and high heel-to-toe drop.
I have only had one bout with achilles tendonitis in my life, and it dates all the way back to my high school football days during two-a-day practices.
Unfortunately, the searing pain in my heel is something I will not forget after all of these years, and I still walk gingerly the first few steps up a steep incline just to make sure that it has actually gone away for good.
Because achilles tendonitis (sometimes referred to as achilles tendinopathy) is inflammation of the achilles due to prolonged or excessive strain, it is critical that a running shoe provide ample cushioning and have a high heel-to-toe drop to prevent the achilles from over-elongating.
And it has to do this while still letting you log your miles.
For these reasons, the Mizuno Wave Rider 25 is the best running shoe for achilles tendonitis. It is a neutral shoe that doesn’t restrict normal foot flexion and is lightweight and responsive enough for you to have productive sessions even while battling the ailment.
But it is not the only player in the game. Some runners prefer an even bulkier, more cushioned shoe, while others want a shoe with a more pronounced rocker outsole to soften the impact from foot strikes.
Keep reading to find out our best running shoes for achilles tendonitis across a variety of purchase considerations!
- Best Overall – Mizuno Wave Rider 25
- Best Cushioning – Hoka One One Bondi 6
- Best Training Shoe – Saucony Triumph ISO 5
- Best Drop – Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38
- Best Shock Absorption – Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22
The Best Running Shoes for Achilles Tendonitis Reviewed
Our top shoes for achilles tendonitis reviewed.
Best Overall – Mizuno Wave Rider 25
In an ideal world, a running shoe for achilles tendonitis will protect the achilles without deviating too far from a standard running shoe.
Enter the Mizuno Wave Rider 25.
If you are fighting through a bout of achilles tendonitis but still need to get your work in, the Wave Rider 25 is a perfect choice because it is lightweight and highly responsive.
It is also a neutral shoe, meaning that it does not provide overpronation support. While overpronation can lead to achilles tendonitis, shoes with overpronation support tend to be a bit stiffer than neutral shoes. This lack of flexibility can actually increase pain after the onset of tendonitis, so it is better to go with a neutral shoe if you are fighting through the condition.
- Outstanding heel-to-toe drop, putting less strain on the achilles
- Neutral design provides flexibility
- Breathable mesh upper
- Extremely durable for being a lightweight shoe
- Conspicuously less cushioned than most shoes aimed at achilles support
- Some users feel like the shoe runs a bit small
Best Cushioning – Hoka One One Bondi 6
One of the most husky looking running shoes on the market, there is a reason behind the bulk: few running shoes provide the amount of cushioning offered by the Hoka One One Bondi 6.
The extra cushioning is most noticeable in the heel, which has a noticeably thicker midsole than other Hoka shoes. This provides smooth transitions and more comfortable strides which will significantly reduce pain associated with achilles tendonitis.
While the Bondi 6 is not the ideal shoe for maintaining elite performance through achilles tendonitis, it is a versatile shoe for all types and distances of running surfaces.
Therefore, if keeping in motion and managing pain are your top priorities, the Bondi 6 is the shoe for you.
- Among the most highly cushioned running shoes on the market
- Reasonably lightweight despite the extra cushioning
- A good amount of space in the toe box
- You can’t put a price on a healthy achilles, but this shoe tries ($$$)
- Multiple users feel like the connection between the upper and midsole is not the greatest quality
Best Training Shoe – Saucony Triumph ISO 5
If you want a shoe that will alleviate the strain on your achilles but still allow you to log your miles in a non-competitive setting, the Saucony Triumph ISO 5 is the shoe for you.
Its thicker midsole is designed with comfort and shock absorption in mind. In fact, the Triumph ISO 5 uses more EVERUN foam in the midsole than any other Saucony product, providing optimal comfort in all types of conditions.
- Rocker design reduces impact of foot strikes
- Highly cushioned
- Strong and supportive upper
- Despite the outstanding comfort, this shoe is a bit too bulky for some people
- A slightly thinner outsole provides great energy return and response, but some users find the outsole to lack traction
Best Drop – Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38
The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 gets mentioned on many “best of” lists when it comes to running shoes, and it unsurprisingly is a solid option for achilles tendonitis sufferers, as well.
What makes this such a strong shoe for achilles tendinopathy is the high heel-to-toe drop, which limits the amount of tension placed on the tendon during strides.
It also has a highly cushioned midsole and a more breathable upper than similar products.
- Outstanding arch support
- Relaxed feel allows for more toe flexion
- Softer midsole than earlier Pegasus models
- Not as durable as some runners like
- Some runners note that the ankles are a bit stiff and abrasive
Best Shock Absorption – Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22
Brooks products are notable for their first-class DNA Loft midsoles. Specifically for achilles tendonitis, this proprietary cushioning around the heel absorbs tremendous amounts of shock for heel-to-toe runners.
Its mesh upper provides a highly breathable running experience, and the renowned Brooks Guard Rail system helps runners keep their stride in line so they will not misstep and aggravate their tendonitis.
- Highly responsive
- DNA Loft midsole technology
- A strong amount of heel-to-toe drop
- Insole lacks durability
- Some runners find the laces frequently come undone during sessions
Buying Guide – Things to Consider When Buying Running Shoes for Achilles Tendonitis
Be sure to compare running shoes along these lines when working to alleviate achilles tendonitis.
The drop–or heel-to-toe drop–describes the difference in height between the heel and forefoot.
If the drop in a running shoe is not sufficient, the achilles will move over a greater range during a typical heel-to-toe stride. During this elongation, runners with tendonitis are more likely to experience pain.
Therefore, shoes with high drop will do a better job of protecting the achilles.
The general rule of thumb is that you want your running shoe to be .5 sizes larger than your street shoe.
This is certainly the case when you are dealing with a sore achilles.
When your running shoes are too tight, it allows less flexion in your forefoot. This places increased strain on your achilles.
Therefore, the most comfortable shoes for those battling an achilles issue will provide a relaxed fit, with ample room in the toe box.
More breathability is never a bad thing when dealing with running shoes.
However, because the best shoes for achilles tendon injuries generally require more cushioning, which contributes to a bulkier design, you will likely find the uppers to be a bit more robust and tightly stitched to support the extra bulk.
While suffocating your feet will not promote achilles healing, understand that there will likely be a bit of a tradeoff with breathability to obtain the extra cushioning.
Like breathability, being lightweight is usually never a bad thing when it comes to running shoes.
And with modern cushioning technology, manufacturers are able to add significant cushion without greatly increasing the overall weight of the shoe.
As long as you are not eyeing competition, though, having a heavier shoe (think something over 11 ounces) may actually not be the worst thing in the world when recovering from achilles tendonitis.
Slower, less strenuous runs will likely be part of the prescription for getting you back to normal, so as long as the extra weight doesn’t make the shoe too stiff, having a slightly heavier shoe could actually aid your recovery efforts if it slows you down just a tick.
After a high drop, cushioning is probably the most important factor to look at when recovering from achilles tendonitis.
Cushioning is critical in alleviating pain from achilles tendonitis. But too much cushioning can keep your foot from strengthening and getting back to normal.
Therefore, mid-level cushioning is the best bet for a quick recovery.
Look for cushioning features in the midsole and outsole as opposed to the insole.
If you have the means, try to get a couple of pairs of shoes to improve your chances of recovery. Use a highly cushioned shoe at the onset of your tendonitis to help manage pain and as you progress, switch to something with mid-level cushioning to build back strength.
Running shoes designed to alleviate achilles tendonitis will likely cost more than the average pair of running shoes (see the Hoka One One Bondi 6).
But this is definitely one instance when you shouldn’t let price scare you.
Paying $50 to $100 more for a pair of running shoes that can lessen the ailment seems like a great alternative compared to custom orthotics, numerous trips to the podiatrist, or even surgery in a worst case scenario.
Features of a Good Running Shoe for Achilles Tendonitis
These are some of the most important design features of running shoes for achilles tendonitis.
The most important thing to look for in the upper is a wide toe box.
You are going to want some room to splay your toes as you run. Toe splaying gives you more control over your stride, which prevents heel slippage and stress on your achilles tendon.
You don’t want to select a shoe that has super advanced insole features.
While high-tech insoles will provide extra stability and cushioning that can make your ailment feel better in the short term, they will likely come at the expense of other, more important features.
A bulkier insole likely means less room for your foot to flex, and the extra cushioning may make it tough for your proprioceptive muscles to strengthen and build back. In fact, many foot experts recommend shying away from advanced and after-market insoles due to their track record of weakening feet and altering strides.
This is where you want the majority of your cushioning to come from when recovering from achilles tendonitis.
A thicker midsole is usually better. It will absorb more shock against unforgiving surfaces and lessen the impact felt by your achilles.
However, there is a balance. Too much thickness will usually result in less flexibility, which can put you at risk of slippage and added achilles tendon strain.
Therefore, look for insoles that use EVA or PU foam as opposed to stiffer materials that more closely resemble rubber.
Most physical therapists recommend finding a shoe with a rocker shaped outsole to help alleviate the symptoms of achilles tendonitis. Shoes with this design will have a toe that is slightly upturned.
Hoka is known for using the rocker design in many of its outsoles.
The rocker design will facilitate easier transitions between strides and reduce the violent strikes that may aggravate tendonitis.
What Causes Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis is caused by repetitive or intense strain to the achilles tendon, the tendon that connects your calf muscle to your heel bone.
In the vast majority of cases, it results from overtraining. Overtraining occurs when you go from not doing any running to doing a lot of running in a short period of time. So if your ultimate goal is to run a marathon, you need to ease into it and let your muscles, ligaments, and tendons acclimate to the new demands to avoid injury.
Achilles tendonitis may also occur due to poor running form that is drastically different from your walking stride or from intense running sessions on hard surfaces. Intense training on inclines is another likely culprit.
How Do I Know If I Have Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis is quite easy to self-diagnose because the achilles tendon is one of the most visible tendons on the body. It is the thick strap on the back side of your ankle, just above the heel.
Try lifting your toe toward your shin bone. If you notice a burning, soreness, or any other pain in the achilles region, you likely have achilles tendonitis. This pain will intensify during exercise.
In more acute cases, achilles tendonitis can make the achilles tender to touch.
If your condition does not improve and you are not sure if you have achilles tendonitis, definitely check with your doctor. You may also have a calf strain, as the symptoms are similar.
What Is the Difference Between Insertional and Noninsertional Achilles Tendonitis?
Insertional achilles tendonitis occurs directly above the heel, where the achilles tendon “inserts” into the foot.
It represents the majority of achilles tendonitis cases and is the type of tendonitis that usually occurs at the onset of the condition.
Non-insertional achilles tendonitis affects the area of the tendon more than 6 cm above the heel bone. It is usually a more chronic condition and is seen as more difficult to treat.
Can I Still Run With Achilles Tendonitis?
Depending on the severity of the condition, you should still be able to run with achilles tendonitis.
Do not attempt to run if the pain is intense (this is your body’s way of telling you to stop), but use the following advice to help you keep running through achilles tendonitis:
- Select the right shoes (that’s what we’re here for)
- Stretch well before running, focusing on slow movements that gently elongate the achilles and calf
- Scale back intensity and session length
In Conclusion: The Best Running Shoes for Achilles Tendonitis
The best overall running shoe for achilles tendonitis is the Mizuno Wave Rider 25. It is lightweight and responsive while offering a high drop.
Whatever your primary decision factors may be, don’t let achilles tendonitis stop you. Choose one of these great shoes, do your stretches, and get back on the trail today!