Best Running Shoes for Achilles Tendonitis: Top 9 Tendon-Friendly Picks
The Achilles heel may be a part of an ancient Greek myth, but as every runner knows, the Achilles tendon is not.
And when it's injured, it can take a runner down for weeks at a time.
Seriously, Achilles tendonitis is no joke. What starts as a slight burning sensation right above your heel could turn out to be an injury that puts your regular running routine on a long pause.
And while the best running shoes for Achilles tendonitis won't make the injury go away, they can do wonders for speeding up your recovery – and helping you avoid re-injuring your tendon.
So, today we're going to find you a new pair of running shoes!
Achilles Tendonitis in Runners: Everything You Need To Know
The Achilles tendon – the thickest, strongest tendon in your entire body – that connects the back of your heel to your calf muscles is much like a bungee cord in the sense that it's made up of tiny, fiber-like strands.
Pain in the Achilles tendon indicates that there's real physical damage to these fibers.
The causes are many – tight calf muscles, inadequate running shoes, excessive uphill running, and speed training, increasing mileage too quickly, or overtraining in general – but they all point in one direction:
Most of the force exerted in the toe-off phase already goes through the Achilles tendon. Still, when the stress that's transmitted through it becomes excessive, injury is likely to occur due to one or more causes mentioned above.
If you continue training, this could stress the damaged Achilles tendon even more. Finally, it could make this running injury even worse.
So, it's better to sit this one out and heal before you get back to running.
As far as the length of your Achilles tendon recovery goes, it's usually recommended that you put running on hold for at least two weeks.
A complete recovery will likely take longer, but you could get back to lower-intensity training within the next couple of weeks.
Choosing The Best Running Shoes for Achilles Tendonitis: Runner's Buying Guide
There's no such thing as "universally-best running shoes for Achilles tendonitis." Most runners are left to figure out different solutions that work with their unique biomechanics and running style.
That said, there are still some tried-and-true rules that you should follow when shopping for a new pair of running shoes following an Achilles tendon injury.
I'll list the factors and features of best shoes for Achilles tendon pain worth considering below, so be sure to keep reading!
The heel-to-toe drop, or offset, refers to the difference in height between the shoe's heel and forefoot areas, expressed in millimeters – and it's the most important factor for runners with Achilles tendonitis.
In your specific case, the primary concern is reducing the strain on your Achilles tendon – and you can do that with high-drop running shoes for Achilles tendonitis.
A higher drop will take the pressure off your tendons and keep the heel-to-toe gait transitions smooth and well-cushioned. It's generally recommended to go with an offset of at least eight millimeters.
Even though there are models with a "zero drop" – toes and heel remain at the same level – most running shoes typically have slightly raised heels, where the feet are angled forward and down.
The whole point of heel cushioning is to, well, cushion the impact – and when you're recovering from Achilles tendonitis, you'll need all the protection and shock absorption you can get.
Running shoes with enough heel cushioning will ensure comfort and support with every strike of the foot and, more importantly, spare your heels the unnecessary pressure of "bad impacts."
How much is "enough" anyway?
You can say goodbye to thin soles; for high-impact activities such as running, more cushioning is always preferred. Again, the goal is to reduce the strain on the injured tendon, so don't overdo it.
Overall Support & Stability
You've probably seen these two terms thrown around and used interchangeably in product descriptions, which can be relatively confusing. However, the general idea is pretty much the same:
You want them to have some stiffness and not flex too much. Also, depending on the specific model, they should help correct your pronation and realign your feet.
If you're currently dealing with Achilles tendonitis, you could benefit from running shoes that offer extra support and stability to keep your feet aligned.
Bonus Tip: Ball-Of-The-Foot Bending
Even though a bit more stiffness is welcome in terms of stability and support, your shoes should still bend at the ball of the foot.
If the running shoes don't go along that natural bend of your foot, or, even worse, twist where they shouldn't, they won't give you the support that your feet require – and could put even more unnecessary strain on the already injured Achilles tendon.
Whether your arches are high or you have "flat feet," without proper support, Achilles tendonitis is a genuine possibility.
You should look for adequate arch support when choosing footwear – Achilles tendonitis or not. Once you do sustain an injury like that, though, arch support becomes a crucial, non-negotiable factor.
So, in short, if you're currently recovering from Achilles tendonitis – or hoping to avoid it altogether – I highly recommend that you choose your running shoes based on your type of pronation for optimal support.
If you find running shoes that work for you in every other way, but the arch support feels a bit inadequate, this may not be a total deal-breaker. New insoles can do wonders for your arches.
The 9 Best Running Shoes for Achilles Tendonitis Reviewed (2020)
No one's saying that a new pair of running shoes will magically heal your Achilles tendonitis, but with the right ones, you can ease back into your running routine with minimal risk of re-injuring your tendon.
On that note, I narrowed it down to these top 9 best running shoes for Achilles tendonitis for you. Let's check them out together!
1. ASICS Men's Gel Nimbus 18 Running Shoe
Why would I opt for the Gel Nimbus 18, when ASICS already came out with the Nimbus 22?
Well, even though it's no longer ASICS' latest release, the Gel-Nimbus 18 still has a loyal following in the running community. Even more so, it's hands down the best running shoe for addressing problems associated with Achilles tendonitis.
Designed as a neutral counterpart to the ASICS Kayano line, it's both highly cushioned and highly structured.
The outsoles feature ample amounts of rubber, save for the vertical "guidance line" groove, which is there to encourage area-specific flexibility. Added to it is the Trusstic System that adds mid-foot structure and improves gait efficiency.
Then, you have the rear- and forefoot GEL cushioning coupled with FLUIDRIDE technology for shock absorption in critical areas, along with improved bounce-back.
As for the upper, the FLUIDFIT multi-directional stretch mesh with cleverly placed reinforcements and the so-called "Heel Clutching System" – a robust external heel counter – ensure a snug, glove-like fit.
The shoes adapt to your feet, but at the same time, they feel supportive and structured.
The toe box could be somewhat narrow, but you can address that by picking the right size.
2. Brooks Women's Ghost 12 Running Shoe
The Brooks Ghost 12 comes with a promise of a soft ride with just enough bounce to it – ideal for both recovery and high-mileage runs – and delivers on it with a plush midsole and a snug upper.
These 12-mm offset shoes will make your feet feel at home, which is why they rank this far up in my best running shoes for Achilles tendonitis round-up.
The lofty sole unit features a dual midsole, where the BioMoGo DNA foam adds the responsiveness, with the DNA Loft foam integrated into the "crash pad" for plushness and support underneath the heel.
The flex grooves in the forefoot area of the outsole ensure enough flexibility at toe-off.
Ghost 12's upper is every bit as comfortable as the underfoot area, feeling secure without being overly restrictive.
The 3D Fit Print complements the engineered mesh upper for well-balanced, strategically-placed stretch and structure.
The heel counter, coupled with padding in the tongue and collar, hugs the ankle and provides a soft step-in feel. More foam around your Achilles tendon is always a plus.
They could run a bit hot in the summer, but other than that, I've got no complaints.
3. ASICS Women's Gel-Kayano 25 Running Shoes
Now, for my pronation-prone gang, I present to you the ASICS Gel-Kayano 25 – a reliable, ultra-soft, motion control running shoe designed with over-pronators in mind.
If you need that extra bit of control to keep your feet from rolling in paired with a high heel and forefoot cushioning, you should consider these running shoes for Achilles tendonitis.
The dual-layered midsoles contribute to the stability and responsiveness, with the FlyteFoam Lyte in the heel area adding the extra bounce. The FlyteFoam Propel layer in the forefoot propels you forward more efficiently.
Even more so, the GEL cushioning in both the rear- and forefoot areas improves shock absorption and protects the joints.
As for the upper, you get a comfortably snug feel, especially around the heel and in the mid-foot area, for maximum support.
Plus, the stretchy mesh material is much better at adapting to the natural flexing of the foot – and is incredibly breathable, too.
They can feel a bit bulky – if not flat-out heavy – at times, but I don't consider this a deal-breaker.
If stability and support are what you're after – along with cushioning, responsiveness, and motion control – the Gel-Kayano 25 is your shoe.
4. Nike Men's Air Zoom Pegasus 36 Running Shoes
After 36 years – yes, it's been that long since the original Pegasus came out – it seems that Nike finally perfected the formula.
Other than the few tweaks to the shoe's upper, there aren't that many changes compared to its recent predecessors.
The updates, albeit minor, made a massive difference in how the Pegasus 36 feels on foot.
If Peg 35 rubbed you the wrong way, you – and your Achilles tendons – are going to love the thinned down, asymmetrical tongue combined with the pointed-lip heel collar.
Oh, and it breathes well, too, thanks to the extra perforations integrated into high-heat – mainly forefoot and mid-foot – areas.
Nothing has changed underfoot, though.
The Cushlon ST midsoles work with full-length Zoom Air units – low-profile airbags of sorts – for the familiar blend of rigidity, cushioning, and responsive shock absorption.
Even the hard-wearing outsole rubber retained its signature segmented geometry with the "crash rail" design and the so-called crash pad for form-friendly rear-foot landings.
The traction, again, feels solid on most surfaces.
I like that the laces don't reach that far down, as it frees up the forefoot. It will take a few runs to get used to the lack of tongue padding and adjust your lacing accordingly.
5. Brooks Women's Glycerin 17 Cushioned Road Running Shoe
Talk to a few long-distance runners; the chances are that at least one of them has Brooks' Glycerin in their regular rotation. So, why not give these shoes a shot yourself?
The Glycerin 17, Brooks' top-tier neutral running shoe was designed to be plush and comfy, inside and out. If you're big on comfort, you're going to love the full-length DNA LOFT midsole, a combination of EVA foam, rubber – and air.
It maxes out on cushioning – which feels fantastic underfoot – but still offers enough energy return, so you don't get the feeling that the softness is holding you back.
Even more so, the so-called transition zone helps keep the heel-to-toe transitions smooth.
The grooves increase the flexibility and responsiveness, so they don't feel clunky despite the extra-thick cushioning.
The upper is where the Glycerin 17 shines, though.
The internal stretch bootie works hand in hand with the engineered mesh top – and the 3D Fit Print technology – to provide a tight, snug fit. They're structured and supportive, but oh-so-comfortable.
It's a great running shoe, regardless of the terrain and distance, but I do think that they're best suited for colder weather.
The extra padding takes away from their breathability and even traps moisture on rainy days.
6. Nike Air Zoom Vomero 13 Women's Running Shoe
Another Nike Air Zoom running shoe worth considering for Achilles tendonitis is the Vomero 13 – one of Nike's most popular, well-cushioned neutral trainers with a 10-mm offset.
First off, the sole unit as a whole works hard to keep everything centered and supportive.
The Lunarlon layer in the midsoles provides consistent cushioning, while the single-density EVA foam, so-called Cushlon, adds firmness and toe-off responsiveness.
The two Air Zoom bags – one underneath the heel and the second in the forefoot area – further add to the shock-absorbing cushioning.
Simultaneously, the pressure-mapped design of the outsoles – one of my favorite things about the Vomero 13 – allows for plenty of flexibility throughout your stride.
As for the upper, the mesh-like knit fabric – except for the synthetic overlay that wraps around the heel – and Nike's Flywire technology gives you that locked-in feeling.
The padded heel collar and tongue were a welcome surprise, too.
The first row of laces doesn't have Flywire, but that's a good thing. It eases the forefoot fit and contributes to the generally roomy feel of the Vomero 13.
My only gripe is that they come with a break-in period – and you're left dealing with blisters.
7. HOKA ONE ONE Men's Bondi 6 Running Shoe
HOKA ONE ONE may not be the most popular footwear brand out there.
But if you ask around, you'll soon find that, in the running community, they're valued for creating fast, responsive, and stable shoes without sacrificing much-needed comfort.
I mean, everyone knows that HOKA ONE ONE Bondi is the softest, most cushioned running shoe out there!
Their flagship maximum-cushioning shoe has seen quite a few updates over the years, and the Bondi 6 is no different, kicking things into overdrive with a few notable upgrades.
The entire upper's been redesigned with engineered mesh and Lycra for improved breathability. Also, the heel collar feels enhanced and offers an even better, locked-in, supportive fit.
The early-stage Meta-Rocker has seen some changes, too, enhancing the overall balance and smoothness and encouraging natural gait cycle transitions.
One thing that hasn't changed is the cloud-like cushioning of the full-length EVA midsole.
If running on clouds sounds like a dream-come-true, wearing Bondi 6 running shoes is pretty much as close as you'll ever get to make it happen.
They don't come cheap – but then again, the Bondi 6 packs enough high-performance running shoe features to justify its price point.
8. Brooks Women's Adrenaline GTS 20 Running Shoe
Another pick for the ladies, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 20, is a running shoe with a 12-mm offset, padding in all the right spots, and much-needed shock absorption for those long, 10-mile runs.
Adrenaline GTS 20 comes with DNA Loft foam underneath the heel, where the "crash pad" is, and uses the responsiveness of the much springier BioMoGo DNA foam in the forefoot area.
But aside from the relatively responsive cushioning, which is already a welcome feature in running shoes for Achilles tendonitis the Adrenaline GTS 20 has one more trick up its sleeve – the so-called GuideRails support.
It keeps excess movements in check by gently guiding your feet into a neutral position, supporting not only your feet – as most stability shoes do – but your knees, as well.
The fit of the engineered mesh upper feels secure enough around the heel and in the mid-foot area, where it matters the most.
The Brooks 3D Fit Print adds structure to this foot-accommodating fit.
Furthermore, the well-structured heel counter, with ample tongue and collar padding, provides a locked-in, no-slip feel.
And while I wouldn't necessarily label these as sluggish, they're not as bouncy as I hoped.
9. Mizuno Women's Wave Rider 21 Running Shoes
In the spirit of long-distance running, let's finish strong, shall we?
My final pick, the Wave Rider 21, happens to be one of the best running shoes for Achilles tendonitis in Mizuno's Wave Rider line.
And trust me; this oldie-but-goodie still has its charms.
Underfoot-feel-wise, a Mizuno, stays a Mizuno.
Offering a blend of support and stability, the Wave Rider 21 combines their proprietary Wave Plate with the U4ICX compound in the midsoles. That way, you get that cushioned, shock-absorbing feel but with an added springiness to your step.
Plenty of cushioning underfoot, coupled with a 12-mm heel-to-toe drop and just a touch of firmness to it to ensure responsiveness – even though Wave Rider 21 is considered "outdated," it falls in line with other popular offerings.
The dual-layer DynaMotion Fit upper, a combination of mesh and synthetic materials, offers the same balance by locking in your feet and adding support in specific areas without putting too much pressure or creating hot spots.
And while I typically welcome breathability with open arms, especially during the summer, I have to say that I found these a bit too breathable in colder weather – but that's more of a preference than an actual downside.
Best Running Shoes for Achilles Tendonitis Are…
The "perfect running shoe" doesn't exist – and there certainly isn't a magic solution that can take away your Achilles tendon injury, either.
But that doesn't mean that the best shoes for Achilles tendonitis can't help speed up your recovery and prevent further injuries!
On that note, guys, I'd like you to consider the ASICS Men's Gel-Nimbus 18 Running Shoe.
As for the ladies, you should probably give the Brooks Women's Ghost 12 Running Shoe a chance.
You should take it easy for now – but I'd like to hear your first impressions once you get back to your regular training!