If you're physically active and put a lot of pressure on your feet and legs, you need to take care of your Achilles tendon. Although it can withstand a lot of running and jumping, this tendon can tear or rupture if it's overused and you don’t warm up or stretch properly. You can also end up with tendonitis -- a swelling and inflammation of the tendon.
There are a number of exercises you can do to stretch your Achilles tendon. Here are some of the most popular:
Calf Stretch: Place your hands on a wall with one leg straight and the heel to the ground. Place the other leg, with the knee bent, in front of the straight leg and push your hips toward the wall. Stretch your calf to the point where you feel a strong pull but no pain. Do not let your heels come off the ground. Hold the position for 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat 20 times on each foot in a slow controlled manner.
Sitting Heel Raises: Sit on a chair and raise your toes up as high as you can without pain. Slowly lower your heels. Do this 20 times a day. You can make it harder by pressing down on your thighs or holding a weight on your thighs.
Following are some other exercises you can do, but they should be done under the supervision of a physical therapist, at least initially, because they could damage the Achilles tendon if they're not done correctly:
Bilateral Heel Drop: Stand at the edge of a stair or a raised platform that is stable. Put the front part of each foot on the stair. This position allows your heel to move up and down without hitting the stair. Hold on to a railing or support to help your balance.
Slowly lift your heels off the ground and slowly lower your heels to the lowest point possible. Be sure to do this in a controlled manner 20 times. You can also do this starting on the floor rather than the stair.
Unilateral (Single Leg) Heel Drop: This is similar to the bilateral heel drop except it's done on one leg while the other leg is bent. Raise up your heel off the ground and slowly lower it down. Do it in a slow controlled manner. Then switch to the other leg.
The goal of all these exercises is to prevent injury, but they can be used after you’ve hurt yourself. Check with your doctor to see which are best for you as you recover.