The Best Shoes For Achilles Tendonitis – Insights for 2021

It can be challenging finding the best shoes for Achilles Tendonitis amidst the vast array of options available these days.

As a physiotherapist, my job is to inform people on what the evidence says and give tips to choose a fit that is right for them.


Prefer to skip ahead?

  1. What is Achilles Tendonitis

  2. Do running shoes help with Achilles Tendonitis?

  3. What are the best shoes for Achilles Tendonitis?

It may be no surprise to know that no one shoe is a clear winner with Achilles pain.

Everybody is different, and their needs will be slightly different depending on the type and severity of the Achilles Tendonitis, and lifestyle factors like how active a person is. Not to mention their foot type and how they walk.

Although finding a good shoe is important for Achilles Tendonitis, research would suggest the best thing for recovery is load management.


Want access to our Achilles Tendinopathy Ultimate Guide? Click the link below to get your FREE PDF emailed straight away!


If you are not sure where to start with your Achilles rehabilitation, then try our free Achilles Ultimate Guide to get you started. Calf raises are always recommended as well for the treatment of Achilles Tendonitis.

To understand what shoe may work best for Achilles Tendonitis it is helpful to understand some basic principles about the condition itself.

First let me break down exactly what Achilles Tendonitis is:

Achilles Tendonitis (now called Achilles Tendinopathy) is a term used to describe a process of degeneration that occurs within your tendon. The process is complex and more facts around what occurs are constantly being brought to light.

Achilles Tendonitis is defined by changes in the structure of your tendon where fibres that used to be parallel become tangled. This can often result in a visible lump in the Achilles.

Most importantly, we know Achilles Tendonitis occurs due to a rapid change in loading of the tendon. This process can also be somewhat reversed by changing the load through the tendon. What do we mean by loading the tendon?

Increased load on the Achilles could be anything were you use the Achilles more than normal. Some basic examples are going for a weekend hike on uneven ground, playing social sport for the first time in a while or simple a weekend of backyard renovations.

Different types of Tendonitis:

There are two different types of Achilles Tendonitis and both will impact what shoes are appropriate for use.

The first type is Insertional Tendinopathy. This is characterised by Achilles tendon pain in the area where the tendon inserts into the heel.

The pain will be right at the back of your heel, which is important as some footwear may rub on the sore spot, irritating your Achilles Tendon. (It’s important to differentiate this from other causes of heel pain as well) So, for this condition it may be best to start with open footwear but we will get there shortly.

The second is Mid-Substance Tendinopathy. The pain will be further up in the middle of the tendon. There will usually be a notable lump in the tendon compared to the other side and pain will be higher than the heel. This type of tendinopathy can still be impacted by different shoes if they rub around the area that is swollen.

Do running shoes help with Achilles Tendonitis?

In writing this article I was prepared to list all the benefits that closed in shoes, like runners, would have on Achilles Tendinopathies. It was interesting to investigate the latest research and find some hard truths that I will communicate now.

Most research that have measured tendon strain with and without shoes suggest runners will INCREASE the load on your Achilles Tendon.

Before you stop reading, allow an explanation..

When people wear cushioned shoes, they generally take longer strides and have more heel impact. This also means the ankle bends more as the foot moves through contact with the ground. The bending before lifting the heel results in higher Achilles strain.

Shoes will still be important in managing Achilles pain as they also provide stability in other directions – like helping your foot not to cave in – the technical term for this is pronation.

Some advice would be to try and take slightly smaller steps to help reduce some load on the Achilles.

There are some alternate ways you can modify the load on your Achilles whilst wearing running shoes as well.

Can heel lifts help reduce Achilles strain?

Interestingly, heel lifts can help to relieve some of the pressure added by wearing shoes in the first place. They need to be at least 1cm high to have any impact. Most research would suggest even higher; however, this does become impractical as the heel can slide out of the shoe.

For more information on heel lifts please check out our blog, however the bottom line is if you have Achilles Tendonitis it is always a good idea to trial heel lifts.

This is because they are cheap and may result in some short-term pain relief, like massage of the Achilles tendon. In the longer term its always best to focus on load management and exercises.

Do all shoes increase the load on Achilles Tendon?

Not all shoes are made equal and research has found that rocker bottom shoes can help to reduce some of the load on the Achilles tendon.

Rocker bottoms are simply shoes that have been designed to propel the foot forward through gait with a curve built into the sole of the shoe.

These shoes will not be for everyone, but if you have severe Achilles Tendonitis it may be worth trying these to help relieve some of the load through the tendon.

What are the best shoes for Achilles tendonitis?

Keep in mind there are thousands of potential shoes on the market. We have given advice based on evidence however you still need to decide what shoe feels best for you. The advice on this page does not substitute for medical advice.

In saying that, lets look at some different options targeting running and walking shoes for Achilles Tendonitis.

We have given you here the list of shoes that we will run through:

#1 Rocker Bottom Shoes

#2 Open Shoes

#3 Joggers

#4 Boots

#5 Work Shoes

#6 Crowd Favourites

#1 Men’s and Women’s Rocker bottom shoes for Achilles Tendonitis

Rocker Bottom shoes for Achilles Tendonitis

With research suggesting these shoes can alleviate achilles tendon strain in both running and walking they are a clear choice to be number one on our top ten.

Rocker bottom shoes allow for a decreased plantarflexion moment, meaning the Achilles tendon does not have to work as hard during running or walking.

Rocker bottom shoes have been the only shoes in research to reduce the load on the tendon so they are definitely a favourite when deciding the best running shoe for Achilles tendonitis.

You will need to make sure that there is no pressure around the sore spot on your Achilles tendon. Tendinopathies hate compression, so any rubbing or pressure on the tendon itself may result in increasing pain.

MBT:

Reasons to buy:

+ Rocker bottom design – great to reduce pressure on the Achilles Tendon

+ Deep toe box and shoes seem to fit most feet

+ Built in orthotics that help with arch support for flatter feet

Reasons to avoid:

– Balance can be difficult due to the rocker bottoms – not for everyone

– Some reviews have mentioned these shoes can be prone to wearing quickly in the sole.

– Expensive +


MBT are a brand with an emphasis on the rocker bottom design. As mentioned above this rocker bottom helps to propel you without placing excess stress on the Achilles tendon. The downside of this is that rocker bottoms can be hard to adjust to if the user isn’t used to the feel.

Most people will adapt, however rocker bottoms aren’t for everyone and some people simply won’t like the feeling of their feet rocking on the ground.

They have great nice heel support and also a cushioned sole to relieve impact. The built-in orthotic seems to be adequate, however we would still recommend getting an off-the-shelf orthotic to replace the factory one.

The shoe fit seems to be adequate for most feet – however wide feet may struggle a little.

You can check out some variations of the MBT with the below link:

Our MBT Model pick: MBT Colorado X – Black

Women’s MBT shoes:

womens MBT for achilles tendonitis

Men’s MBT shoes:

mens MBT for achilles tendonitis

CHECK OUT MORE MBT SHOES HERE

Hoka oneone:

Reasons to buy:

+ Rocker bottom design – great to reduce pressure on the Achilles Tendon

+ Very comfortable shoe with extra padding and sole height

Reasons to avoid:

– Mixed customer reviews when it comes to Achilles pain

– Designs aren’t for everyone as usually very bright colours

– Expensive++


Hoka shoes are designed with similar rocker bottom technology to help propel you through gait.

They have grown in popularity and pride themselves on being a maximally cushioned running shoe that one would assume is good for relieving aches and pains.

These shoes are designed with extra cushioning at heel strike and help to propel the foot during the toe-off phase of running.

There are mixed customer reviews about how well Hoka’s perform for Achilles Tendonitis. Some people love the shoes, however others don’t like the heel cushioning as it can place extra pressure around the Achilles tendon.

That being said they are still an excellent choice particularly for people that pronate excessively or for runners that land with a heel strike.

You can check out some variations of the Hoka one below:

Our Hoka Model pick: HOKA ONE ONE Women’s Bondi

Men’s Hoka Shoes

Men's Hoka shoes for achilles tendonitis

Women’s Hoka Shoes

womans Hoka shoe for achilles tendonitis

CHECK OUT MORE HOKA SHOES HERE

#2 – Men’s and Woman’s Open shoes for Achilles Tendonitis

The benefit of open type shoes is there is reduced pressure on the back of your heel. This may be particularly important with insertional Achilles tendonitis, but some closed in shoes will still irritate a mid-substance tendonitis.

We would still recommend open shoes with arch support which helps to stop the foot caving in or pronating. This will help to relieve torsional forces that could be at play in the Achilles tendon.

Some of our recommendations on open shoes are below:

Crocs:

Reasons to buy:

+ Very cheap and accessible

+ Extremely comfortable

+ Open backed shoe which is great for insertional achilles tendonitis

Reasons to avoid:

– Design is not for everyone

– Tend to wear quickly


These shoes will not win you any fashion contests, but they are deceivingly comfortable. They have support on the soles and are extremely light-weight.

The clog design also makes is easy to avoid direct pressure on your Achilles tendon. This makes crocs the perfect walking shoe for Achilles Tendonitis.

Crocs can also be washed very easily.

They are an inexpensive show and because of this some will wear out more quickly. There has been feedback on the outer designs wearing quite quickly.

Customer service has been mentioned as another point of contention however we have not had any trouble with this.

Here is one example of the uni-sex croc shoe:

Unisex Crocs shoes

Crocs for Achilles Tendonitis

CHECK OUT MORE CROCS HERE

Birkenstock:

Reasons to buy:

+ Great professional designs

+ Extremely comfortable

+ Open backed shoe which is great for insertional achilles tendonitis

Reasons to avoid:

– Reasonably heavy shoe

– Tend to wear quickly around the straps


These shoes are a quality design with custom soles that will mould with your feet over time.

They are much more fashionable than the above crocs and still have many of the beneficial features you would need for helping with Achilles tendonitis.

The one downside compared with crocs is that these shoes are not quite as lightweight. In saying this they are still easy to wear and by no means a led weight on the foot.

Check out some Birkenstock designs here:

Men’s Birkentock Shoes

Men's Birkenstock for achilles tendonitis

Women’s Birkenstock Shoes

Women's Birkenstock for achilles tendonitis

CHECK OUT MORE BIRKENSTOCKS HERE

#3 – Men’s & Women’s Joggers for Achilles Tendonitis

Although the research does not support the use of normal joggers for Achilles Tendonitis, not everyone will want to wear clogs or rocker bottoms.

Our advice is that if you need normal joggers, try to think about taking smaller steps and apply a heel wedge so the heel is elevated.

With this being said, for runners its important to keep some load going through the tendon. For jogging it is recommended that you use some type of trainer designed for running.

Here are some recommendations for joggers if you suffer with Achilles Tendonitis:

Asics

Reasons to buy:

+ Great variety of products available

+ Extremely comfortable

+ Lightweight shoe

Reasons to avoid:

– Expensive at top of the line

– Smaller profile not ideal for a wide foot


Asics are a well-designed shoe that have been around for years. They offer good heel support and adequate support through the mid-foot as well. Most of their shoes are flexible in the toe end which helps with foot mechanics.

These shoes have been designed for running and do an excellent job at cushioning on heel strike which could be advantageous for Achilles Tendinopathy.

Some customers complain about the shoe not providing adequate firmness at the mid-foot, and also that the mid-foot section can seem a little tight for wider feet.

Check out some different ASICS designs here:

Men’s ASICS shoes

Mens ASICS shoe for achilles tendonitis

Women’s ASICS shoes

Womans ASICS shoe for achilles tendonitis

CHECK OUT MORE ASICS HERE

Gravity Defyer

Reasons to buy:

+ Purpose built for heel pain

+ Extremely comfortable

Reasons to avoid:

– Poor reported customer service

– Shoe tends to wear quickly


Gravity Defyers are purpose-built shoes to help relieve heel pain. They achieve this through a couple of different feautres.

The insole is removable so custom or pre-fabricated orthotics can be fitted instead. The mid to front sole is rocker shaped to attempt to reduce the breaking load as you run.

There is also more room at the toes for wider feet.

Some people have commented on the less than satisfactory customer service and that some of the shoes can tend to wear quickly. This being said they still are a great choice for Achilles pain.

Check out some different options below:

Men’s Gravity Defyer Shoes

gravity defyer for achilles tendonitis

Women’s Gravity Defyer Shoes

Women's Gravity Defyer achilles tendonitis

CHECK OUT MORE GRAVITY DEFYER HERE

#4 Boots For Achilles Tendonitis

Finding the right boots with Achilles Tendinopathy can be very challenging. Especially if you struggle with insertional tendinopathy.

It is always recommended that you avoid pressure directly over the heel, but if boots are required for work, here is a brand that may work for you.

Gravity defyer

As discussed previously this company crafts shoes specifically designed for heel and foot pain.

This is a good pick due to the heel cushioning, ankle support and lot’s of room in the front of the shoe.

You can check out some designs here:

Men’s Gravity Defyer Boots

Men's gravity defyer boots for achilles tendonitis

Women’s Gravity Defyer Boots

Women's gravity defyer boots for achilles tendonitis

CHECK OUT MORE GRAVITY DEFYER HERE

#5 – Work Shoes For Achilles Tendonitis

Work shoes are important as you are in these most of the time. It can be hard to find a good supportive shoe that looks nice as well.

The most important part of the work shoe is that it is comfortable for you. A slight raise in the heel may help to reduce the load in the heel.

Soft padding around the heel will help to cushion and reduce the impact of ground reaction forces.

Here is a recommendation for a brand that may work for you:

Dr Comfort

Reasons to buy:

+ Professional looking shoes

+ Good support through the arch of the foot

+ Well-built and long lasting

Reasons to avoid:

– Heavier shoe

– Return policy is lacking


Dr Comfort offers a wide variety of work shoes and they are a decent make. They offer depth and removable insoles to place either a custom or pre-fabricated orthotic.

They provide adequate heel cushioning and good mid-sole support throughout the day.

These shoes are designed well but can take a little bit to break in. They are usually a heavier shoe, so they can take some getting used to depending on what you are usually walking in.

You can check out some designs here:

Women’s Dr Comfort Shoes

Women's Dr Comfort shoe for achilles tendonitis

Men’s Dr Comfort Shoes

Men's Dr Comfort shoes for achilles tendonitis

CHECK OUT MORE DR COMFORT HERE

#6 Other Crowd Favourite Brands

Although we have covered some of the top shoe brands, there are many more shoes people adore. These will be briefly mentioned below as other options to try.

Remember that every foot is different and will respond differently to a variety of shoes. Have a look through each of these and see what works best for you.

Brooks

Brooks have a loyal fan base in the Achilles Tendonitis world. They make excellent joggers that offer support and comfort.

Although the shoe can hug the foot tightly in some cases and may not be a perfect fit for people with insertional Achilles Tendonitis. On the other hand, this hindfoot support could be what some mid-tendon Achilles Tendonitis people need.

You can check out some of the Brooks shoes below:

Our Brooks model pick: Brooks Adrenaline

Women’s Brooks Shoes

Brooks women's ghost shoe

Men’s Brooks Shoes

Brooks men's ghost shoe

CHECK OUT MORE BROOKS HERE

Vionics

Vionic offers a wide variety of shoes for heel pain. These shoes offer both style and a degree of heel and arch support. They are definitely a brand worth checking out.

We have some examples of Vionic shoes below:

Women’s Vionic Shoes

Women's Vionic shoes

Men’s Vionic Shoes

Men's Vionic shoes

CHECK OUT MORE VIONICS HERE

Skechers

Skechers are yet another shoe that Achilles Tendonitis sufferers love! Although they aren’t purpose built for heel pain, they have a variety of options, including wide fit for those with a wider foot.

You can check out some Skecher shoes below:

Women’s Skecher Shoes

Women's Skecher Shoe

Men’s Skecher Shoes

Men's Skecher shoe

CHECK OUT MORE SKECHERS HERE

Closing thoughts:

The best shoes for Achilles Tendonitis will vary between people. Joggers do put more strain on the Achilles Tendon, so rocker bottom shoes and open shoes such as clogs are recommended over normal joggers.

For further help with your Achilles Tendonitis please see our online Achilles Course.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do shoes help with Achilles Tendonitis?

Evidence actually suggests running shoes will put more strain on the achilles tendon. This is due to the person taking longer strides with walking.

What's the best shoes for achilles tendonitis?

There is no one shoe for any particular individual. It would seem that rocker bottom shoes do help to relieve some strain on the Achilles Tendon.

Other articles of interest

Best Shoes For Plantar Fasciitis – Insights for 2021

Plantar Fasciitis – Symptoms, stretches and exercises

References

Caudell GM. Insertional Achilles Tendinopathy. Clin Podiatr Med Surg. 2017;34(2):195-205.

Sobhan Sobhani, Johannes Zwerver, Edwin van den Heuvel, Klaas Postema, Rienk Dekker, Juha M. Hijmans (2015) Rocker shoes reduce Achilles tendon load in running and walking in patients with chronic Achilles tendinopathy,
Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 18(2), pp. 133-138.

Wearing, Scott, Reed, Lloyd, Hooper, Sue, Bartold, Simon, Smeathers, James, & Brauner, Torsten (2014) Running shoes increase achilles tendon load in walking: An acoustic propagation study. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise46(8), pp. 1604-1609.

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