Achilles Tendon Tears: How do you know if your achilles is torn?

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body and vital to the range of motion in your foot. Even though the tendon is thick and fibrous, it can be injured during normal activities. Understanding the causes and symptoms of an Achilles tendon tear will help you avoid an injury or seek professional help if it happens.

What is an Achilles Tendon Tear?

Your calf muscles are connected to your heel with the Achilles tendon. The forward and backward motion of your foot is controlled by the Achilles. You may even be able to feel it stretching during everyday motion like walking, running, squatting, going up on your tip-toes, and others. 

The flexible bands making up your Achilles tendons are extremely durable and can withstand your body weight bearing down on them. That being said, excessive force or strain can cause a devastating injury or rupture.

What Causes a Torn Achilles Tendon?

Your Achilles tendon is strained when it stretches too much, too quickly. The following activities are some of the most dangerous for your Achilles:

  • Sudden starts and stops while running
  • Sprinting from a halt
  • Changing direction abruptly
  • Repeated jumping
  • Falling and landing on your feet
  • Quick pivoting

Although Achilles tendon ruptures can happen to anyone, it happens more frequently in athletes who play sports that require sudden movements. Running, football, baseball, basketball, tennis, gymnastics, and volleyball are some of the most common sports where torn Achilles tendons can happen.

Achilles Tendon Rupture Symptoms

An Achilles tendon tear is usually obvious to the injured. Sharp pain is typically experienced directly above the heel. The rupture is usually accompanied by a popping or snapping noise.

The area around your ankle may feel swollen or stiff and could be sensitive to touch. Bruising can also occur in the area and you will have trouble standing, pushing off, or bending your foot.

How is a Ruptured Achilles Tendon Treated?

After an examination to determine the location and severity of your Achilles tendon injury, our doctor will recommend the appropriate treatment. Non-surgical treatments may be possible for milder injuries or cases where the tendon has not completely torn.

Surgery is often required to repair your ruptured tendon. The Achilles surgery involves stitching the tendon back together through an incision on the back of your leg. Minimally-invasive techniques are also useful for reducing the risk of infection. Your surgeon will guide you through the recovery and physical therapy following your procedure.

Preventing Future Achilles Tendon Injuries

Avoid injuries to your Achilles tendon by stretching before exercise, strengthening your calf muscles, wear shoes with proper cushioning for the heel, and mixing low-impact activities with high-impact activities. Increase the intensity of your workouts gradually to avoid over-exerting yourself. Lastly, listen to your body. If you feel tightness or pain in your heel or you think you are pushing yourself too hard, slow down and rest.

Heiden Orthopedics is your resource for foot and ankle injuries, including Achilles treatment. We offer comprehensive, personalized treatment and prevention techniques for each unique patient.

36 Comments


I cut the back of my ankle with a blade a little over a 1/4 inch long but deep am worried that it clipped the tendon walking with a limp and weak and sore when I try to go on my toes any advice

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    Brandon,

    Have you already been in to see a doctor? My first advice based on your description, go.
    If you’re walking with a limp and concerned about the tendon, it’s always advisable to see a medical professional. I would suggest seeing a Foot and Ankle Orthopedic surgeon or a podiatrist.

    Reply

Was initially diagnosed with Achilles Tendinitis. Ankle was swollen last night. The initial pain came on gradually. Burning sensations from heel all the way up to the calf when on high toe and doing eccentric achilles exercises. How would I know if it’s a ruptured achilles? Can a person actually feel the gap in between? When I touch the tendon, I feel I straight line from the heel to my calf.

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    Hi Dara,
    An Achilles tendon rupture is often times associated with a pop (hear/feel a pop) in the back of your ankle. People will describe a feeling of being kicked in the back of their ankle even though nobody is near them. The rupture typically occurs during an injury where the Achilles tendon is loaded eccentrically. That being said, it’s not always easy to tell if you have a ruptured tendon or not simply by feeling. Yes there’s often times a palpable gap in the tendon and you can also compare to the non-injured side to see if there’s the same tension or not within the Achilles tendon. Ultimately, if there is concern for a ruptured Achilles tendon, being evaluated by an orthopaedic surgeon would be preferred.

    Reply

Hi I fell from about 15 feet up directly to my feet. My toes are a dark purple. I can’t support weight on my toes, but can support weight standing on it.

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    Wes,
    I highly recommend seeing an orthopedic foot specialist or podiatrist. You’ll need x-rays to determine the severity of any possible injury. Hope this helps.

    Reply

      Hi. I was at work yesterday and needed to stop a parent from walking out the door so I ran (basically sprinted) to the parent and as I was halfway to the distance, I just got a sharp pain in my foot. It resulted in me having a limp for the rest of the day. I woke up today though and now I feel pain up my calf. Can this pain be associated with my Achilles tendon or is it more of a smaller muscle pain?

      Reply

        Jai,
        It could be associated with your Achilles tendon. Sometimes patients will describe a sudden pop in the back of their ankle (almost like it feels like somebody kicked them) at the time of initiating a sprint when they hurt their Achilles tendon. This can also lead to calf pain afterwards. I would suggest you get evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon to make sure there was no Achilles tendon injury involved.

        Reply

Hi, I was hiking down a mountain. I started feeling pain in my Achilles’ tendon, but I thought it was just the back of my boot digging into me that was causing it. I went through a couple of days of sharp pains while walking. On flat ground I was mostly ok. I went on another mountain hike a few days after the initial pain (it was a part of a bucket list holiday so didn’t want to miss it). For the most part I was fine, although every now and then I’d get a sharp pain in my Achilles and on up hills and down hills. I feel like I got the worst pain down hill. I rested for a week. It was feeling much better and I didn’t really experience pain asI walked around, so I went on small hike, with no issues. For about a month after I would feel it every now and then, but it just got better. That was a year ago. This year I’ve started running again, and everything was fine until a few months in as I was starting to increase distances. Now even when I go on shorter runs I end up with a dull aching feeling in my Achilles. Do you think I have long term damage?

Reply

    Francois,
    Sometimes runners can develop Achilles tendinosis over time, which is a condition that leads to degeneration of some of the fibers of the Achilles tendon (wear & tear of the Achilles in essence). Often this can improve with physical therapy, but sometimes it may necessitate surgery if not improving with conservative measures such as rest, anti-inflammatories, and PT. However, in order to get a proper diagnosis I would recommend a formal evaluation by an orthopedic surgeon.

    Reply

I was stepping off a step and felt in heal of my foot tear.

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    Leeann,
    I’m sorry to hear this. If you are still experiencing pain or swelling I would recommend scheduling an appointment with a foot and ankle specialist.

    Reply

I was grocery shopping for my mom and had to lift some heavy cases of water into the cart. As I was lifting them my ankle suddenly gave out and I now have a sharp pain whenever I bend down, am on my toes, or bend my foot at a certain angle. I also have a little bit of swelling in the back of my ankle that’s connected to the back of my calf. I’ve broken the other foot several times before and was not nearly as painful as this, so I’m hesitant about going in to get this checked out. I also am running short on money so I’m not sure if this is something, I should be concerned about or not. I really need to know if I should go so I can plan.

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    Kennedi,
    Without a proper examination by a doctor it is difficult to ascertain whether it’s just simple sprain or something worse, like an Achilles tendon rupture, which would be of concern given that you have swelling in the back of your ankle connecting up to the calf. Sorry we can’t be of more help.

    Reply

I have been dealing with pain in my ankle where my Achilles tendon meets my ankle bone for almost two months. It seems to be getting better as at first I could barely walk on it for the first 4-6 weeks after I noticed the pain. Now I can walk normally for the most part but running and applying pressure to the area still causes a high degree of pain. Could this be due to a tear or could this be something different entirely?

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    Shayne,
    It’s difficult for us to determine the source of your pain without a proper evaluation. If you area steadily improving then I would recommend continuing what you’re doing. If you are still experiencing pain you should go see a podiatrist or orthopedic foot and ankle specialist. If you do have an injury you want to make sure everything is healing properly so you’re not dealing with long-term consequences. Hope this helps.

    Reply

I was running and felt a sharp pain in my foot. It has been difficult to walk on it and it is swelling. I had x rays done and they came back that nothing was broke. I had an orthopedic look at it and he felt something was wrong. It has now began to hurt bad near the back of my heel.

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    Nathan,
    I’m glad you went in for x-rays and saw an orthopedic doctor. Pain and swelling should not be ignored. If you are still experiencing pain reach out to your doctor again for a treatment plan. Hope you feel better soon.

    Reply

I am pretty sure I tore my achilles at the junction with the calf muscle. Unfortunately, I have torn my calf muscles and achilles tendons multiple times, so I know it when I feel it. I previously had PRP in the other calf after a pretty significant tear and the injury healed really well. The PRP was done by my orthopedist in my prior home town. I have since moved to Park City and am wondering if you do PRP.

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    Mary, Heiden Orthopedics doesn’t do PRP, but we share a space with a doctor who does. Dr. Joseph Albano in our Salt Lake office practices regenerative orthopedics. You can learn more about his practice at https://albanoclinic.com/ or he can be reached at (385) 217-8842. Hope this helps.

    Reply

Hi I just got back from a track meet. It was maybe 40 degrees and really cold. I had been waiting for the 200 meter dash because it was one of the last events. After I ran out of the blocks I started to have a sharp pain in my Achilles area. I had not properly warmed up and wasnt in warm clothes. Just before that I also did Long jump, 100 meter dash, and 4 by 100 relay. I have difficulty walking because of the pain and cant bend it because it hurts. It has swollen up a bit, and I dont know what I did, or what to do. If someone could please respond ASAP that would be appreciated.

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    Anna,
    Without a formal evaluation in office by a trained physician it is difficult to ascertain whether you actually ruptured your Achilles tendon or not, but this is one possibility. If the pain has not subsided, or if the swelling is getting worse, I would recommend going to an Orthopedic foot and ankle specialist or a podiatrist. Hope this helps.

    Reply

I played indoor soccer last night, got kicked on the back of the ankle, instant bruising around my ankle and sharp burning pain up back of my leg and under my foot. Constant throbbing. Is this associated with my Achilles and does it sound like a slight tear or rupture. In lots of pain. Sharp pains under the foot on a regular basis whilst sitting.

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    Merle,
    Without a formal evaluation in office by a trained physician, it is difficult to ascertain whether you actually tore or ruptured your Achilles tendon or not, but these are possibilities. If the pain has not subsided, or if there is swelling that gets worse, I would recommend going to an Orthopedic foot and ankle specialist or a podiatrist. Hope this helps.

    Reply

Hi
I played soccer and someone fell directly on my Achilles Tendon and i heard popping sound and I couldn’t walk properly for 2 weeks, now i have done some physical therapy sets i can walk normally but i still have pain when i run after 6 weeks.
Do you think i have torn my Achilles Tendon ?
And how long i should wait before playing soccer again ?

Reply

    Saeed,
    When you hear an audible pop during an injury we typically worry about a rupture or tear. If you are still having pain after 6 weeks, I would recommend going to see a foot and ankle specialist. They can help you obtain imaging of your ankle to assess the injury more thoroughly. They will also be able to give you a more precise timeline on returning to sports, after a complete assessment of your injury. Happy Healing!

    Reply

This morning i got up early and ran downstairs while in the kitchen i bent down to get something and i heard a loud pop from back of heel but no pain. It came from my achilles. Does this mean i have snapped it?

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    K,
    Not necessarily. Though a popping sound from the ankle is often indicative of an Achilles tendon rupture, it is typically followed by sharp pain in your ankle and lower leg. If you experience any swelling, pain, or limited range of motion, call your doctor. All the best.

    Reply

Woke up with pain in my Achilles dont remember hurting it in any way have been able to walk onit but it’s very painful

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    Tony,
    Achilles pain can happen for many reasons that don’t necessarily stem from injury, like normal wear and tear or arthritis, to name a couple. If you have already tried rest, ice and elevation, with no relief, I would recommend scheduling an appointment with a podiatrist or orthopedic foot and ankle specialist to determine the source of your pain.

    Reply

I’ve been having a lot of heel pain for quite a while now, a couple of months. I walk constantly at work. Usually ranging from 5 to 10 hours a day with little to no break. I was taping and bought better shoes. Last night while at work I’d knelt down and when I stood back up and pushed off to walk I heard/felt a “pop” in the back of my heel. No immediate severe pain but now, it’s hurting pretty bad, swelling and having burning sensations as well. Is it likely a rupture?

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    Katherine,
    A popping sensation can be a good indication that something has torn, especially with ongoing pain and a burning sensation. I would highly recommend making an appointment with a Orthopedic foot and ankle specialist or podiatrist.

    Reply

I played a total of 15 volleyball games over the span of two days. I am a 6 rotation player and am forced to jump multiple times during one play. After I got home on the third day I went to walk inside my house and suddenly with every step my Achilles tendon would pop. It is both painful and scary because I don’t know what the issue is. It will go away and come back at random times but I am unsure what the issue is.

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    Isabel,
    The Achilles tendon can tear or rupture, which is often described as sounding like a “pop” that comes from the back of your heel or calf. I would recommend medical attention from an orthopedic foot and ankle specialists, if the issue and pain persist.

    Reply

Hi. So I played basketball a couple years ago and planted and felt pain in the heel/Achilles area. I let it heal but now I tried to run yesterday and I can’t put really any weight on the heel at all without bad pain from there to lower calf and around ankle. Trying to figure out what is going on.

Reply

    Matt,
    Ankle pain can be caused by many things, ranging from arthritis to a torn/ruptured Achilles tendon. If your pain is persistent, you should call your doctor. At the very least, stop running until you are sure there is no present injury, or until your doctor approves the activity.

    Reply

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