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Not to grip the achilles tendon?

Guest belle

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I read that a common mistake is gripping the achilles tendon when one points their feet, which may lead to tendonitis.


3 questions:

1. Is it true gripping will cause tendonitis?

2. How can I tell if I am "gripping"?

3. How not to grip?

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Guest ArmedFiddler

1. I've heard some people say "Yes, gripping causes tendonitis," while others say No. I'll leave this for someone with more concrete knowledge to answer.


2. How to tell if you're gripping: Point your foot. Feel your tendon at the back of your ankle...does it feel tight and hard, and relatively immobile if you try to gently push it back and forth? Then you're gripping. If it feels soft and is easily "squished" with gentle manipulation, then you're not gripping.


3. As for how not to grip: Not sure how to explain this since I don't personally have a problem with this, so hopefully someone else will have a better response. The best I can say is: don't force your arch. Even people who don't normally grip will do so when the arch is forced.


Hope this helped, a little bit at least. :)

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thank you for your reply, it is helpful :D


When I sit on the floor with my legs stretched out in front of me, and heel resting on the floor, the achilles feels tight and hard already, without articulating my feet at all. Should I be feeling the archilles with my leg lifted off the floor?


By the way, I understand what you mean by not forcing the arch - but the achilles seems to tense up as soon as I start to articulate my feet, even when my leg is off the floor :) I guess this basically means I DO GRIP my achilles tendon? *sigh*

Edited by belle
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Try to think of stretching your foot until it is pointing rather than just pointing your foot. I find when I really think about working the muscles in the foot, my foot is naturally more arched and there is still a feeling of looseness in the Achilles area. It will also work those muscles and make your foot stronger!

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When the foot is fully pointed, the achilles tendon is engaged. Therefore, it will have some tightness or hardness to it, especially in the lower part of the tendon closer to the insertion in the heel. There is no way to execute a tendu or anything else with a fully pointed foot without that tendon being engaged. I have no idea how to grip it in a pointed position, as that doesn't really seem to be an issue. Either you are using it or not. If using it, there is tension in it. If it's loose and squishy, the foot is not pointed. :)

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Guest ArmedFiddler

After reading Victoria Leigh's response, I realized I didn't word my own very well. What I meant to say is that gripping makes the tendon feel much harder and more rigid than it would otherwise feel. In fact, when you grip, the entire back of the ankle tends to feel that way (beyond merely the tendon).



I hereby retract any personal use of the word "squishy." :thumbsup: I didn't mean for it to sound as if the tendon would feel lax. But it should just feel as if naturally in use, and not forced to obey. ;)

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Thanks everyone for your insights , you have all been very helpful :giveup:


Actually, I realise that the more I learn from the internet about ballet like potential injuries, common mistakes, the more paranoid I am becoming! I wonder if this is a good or bad thing :thumbsup:

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Sit in a chair and cross one leg up on top of your other thigh, turned out, with the outside of the ankle of that foot just resting on the top of the other thigh. Leave the foot relaxed and press on the achilles tendon. You can feel the tendon as something separate from the top of the heel up to where it inserts into the calf muscle. Now point your foot. The tendon will feel tight and somewhat hard, although certainly not immobile. It's simply impossible to totally point the foot without that tendon being engaged, and it will be harder and tighter, quite a lot, than it is when in a resting state. This is normal. This is not gripping.

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OK, I've got a question now. In the example above, the knee is bent. Should that same "tension" (for lack of a better word) remain the same, or does the achilles tighten as the leg extends?


My left Achilles definitely tightens as I straighten my leg unless I'm slightly sickled, but the right does not (just got some strange looks from a colleague as well :(). I know my left foot/ankle has always been weaker, and I have been trying to engage the muscles on top of my foot rather than gripping the Achilles (especially on pointe where this seems to be a problem). I have been told recently that I need to release some of the tension in my hamstrings and pull my heel up more. I know this is all theoretical because you can't see me, but this all seems to relate.

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Re-read posts ##5 & 8 above. It is impossible to point your foot, relevé, or even stand up without engaging the Achilles' tendon in one way or another.

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Some people's tendon goes "in" when the foot is pointed, and some people's sticks out. I never quite figured out why. Maybe it goes in if your ankle is more flexible?


Mine goes in. With my beginner friends, it seems to stick out. Maybe you're more suseptable to tendonitis if it's "out". Especially if you have tight ribbons around it???



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It appears that if the calf muscle is engaged while pointing the foot, which is indeed not _all_ the time, then the achilles tendon seems to "stick out" or feel taughter than if one is not engaging the calf (soleus, gastrocnemius...).


I'm not sure if this has any bearing on tendonitis of said achilles tendon or not, though. (perhaps, in susceptible individuals / circumstances?)


Have we any sports-medicine / dance-medicine docs here?



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Sorry, diane, but how does one pointe the foot fully without engaging the calf muscle and the achilles tendon?

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Technically speaking:


Plantar flexion (pointing at the ankle joint) is dependent upon the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles which is what contracts and relaxes making the achilles tendon feel tighter or looser. The toes use "flexor" muscles and intrinsic muscles of the foot in order to finish the "pointing" of the foot. (So says my doctor husband)


So, any time the foot is in tendue and fully stretched the achilles tendon is shortended due to the contraction of the calf muscles. Individuals differ in the length of this tendon, the shape of their feet (the musculature as well as the skeletal) etc. and may have less or more tightening of that particular tendon in order to get a fully pointed foot. Some can point their feet rather easily because they have very developed arches, others must contract their calves more to bring their heels up and get their foot down, etc.


However, the tendue is an extension of the whole leg and not just the foot . To achieve an ideal stretched position the whole leg musculature needs to be used to it's full extent. Ideally, a ballerina in pointe shoes should be able to pique over onto that tendue without changing a thing. Which is why when you start pointe you begin to understand what a true tendue feels like! (Also, my tendue got better because of the extra strengthening and stretching of my feet) Another thing about pointe, when coming back to class after missing a few, those "toe flexor" muscles that run along the outside of my lower leg really start to burn. I thought I had been pointing my feet in technique class all along, but pointe class and having to be "up there" showed me the reality.



So back to the subject, the calf muscles and achilles are definitely engaged but the "tightness" seems to differ between individuals, even when the leg is fully extended in tendue.


I'm certainly not expert in this so if there are any feel to correct me. I think I've said the same as previous posts but I tend to use way more words than I may need to. :shrug:

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Actually, you explained it very well, spinbug. Thank you! :shrug:

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