The Achilles tendon is one of the most crucial components of the foot’s anatomy. Often described as the powerhouse of the foot, the Achilles tendon plays a vital role in various forms of movement. Let’s look further into the essential functions of this tendon and its significance in maintaining foot health.
What is the Achilles Tendon?
The Achilles tendon is a strong, fibrous cord that connects the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus), to the heel bone (calcaneus). It is the largest and also the strongest tendon in the human body, capable of withstanding forces of up to 1,000 pounds.
Functions of the Achilles Tendon
The Achilles tendon is instrumental in powering the foot’s movement. It allows you to point your toe downwards, an action known as plantarflexion. This is essential, particularly in activities that involve the heel lifting off the ground, such as walking, running, and jumping. It is therefore the strongest driver during push-off.
During activities like running or jumping, the Achilles tendon helps absorb the shock. It does so by contracting and lengthening at the same time, also known as an eccentric contraction. This slows down the speed of the force acting on our body, thereby reducing the impact on the heel and foot.
The Achilles tendon aids in maintaining balance by adjusting the foot’s position during movement, helping you navigate uneven surfaces. It also helps to balance the body’s centre of pressure by maintaining the body’s forward and backward sway.
Injury and Heel Pain
Similar to other body structures, the tendon can suffer too much stress and load, leading to inflammation and injury. This often results in conditions like Achilles tendinitis or Achilles rupture, both of which can cause significant heel pain.
The Achilles tendon is a vital component of the foot’s anatomy, playing a crucial role in powering movement, providing flexibility, absorbing shock, and enabling balance. Understanding its functions can offer valuable insights into foot health and preventing heel-related conditions.