My Shrunken Calf – An Achilles Tendon Rupture Story

If you have undergone or are facing Achilles tendon repair surgery, this post is for you.

I saw the movie trailer for Hercules starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson over the weekend, and noticed that his calves look good. Wait, what? Why am I looking at another guy’s calves?

Johnson, if you’re not aware, ruptured his left Achilles tendon while filming The Game Plan back in 2006. I ruptured my right Achilles tendon at around the same time in 2006. After almost eight years, his calves look good while mine are lopsided. I guess I have calf envy.

Achilles tendon rupture calf muscles back view.

Achilles tendon rupture calf muscles front view.

I am not comparing myself to The Rock. He is Hercules, and I am a mere mortal, but it did give me hope that I might be able to build my calf back up to its pre-Achilles surgery size.

Since I don’t know him and therefore can’t ask him directly, I consulted Google to see if I could find out what he did to rehab his shrunken calf. I found this recent picture on his twitter account:

Maybe it’s just the angle of the picture, but his left calf looks a bit smaller than his right. So maybe he hasn’t regained the full size of his calf, but it sure looks better than mine does.

I also found a Muscle & Fitness article that outlines his calf routine. According to the article, he does single leg calf raises on the leg press, standing single leg calf raises and seated calf raises.

When I was able to start lifting weights months after surgery, I did those exercises too, but probably not often, long or hard enough to see the difference.

It is time for me to try again.

If you have had Achilles repair surgery and have built your calf back up to normal size (or better), I would love to know how you did it.

If you haven’t had surgery yet, but have questions about what to expect, here is my story:

I ruptured my right Achilles in June 2006 when I was 38 years old. While playing on the first night of a new volleyball league, I jumped up to spike a ball and “POP”… I landed on the floor and looked around to see who had stomped on the back of my ankle, but nobody was there.

I didn’t know that I had ruptured my Achilles. All I knew was that I couldn’t lift my heel off the ground or push off the front of my foot. I put some ice on my ankle, hopped to my truck, called my wife and then drove myself to the emergency room. Luckily, I drove an automatic, because I couldn’t use my right foot and had to drive with my left (I don’t recommend this).

It didn’t take long for the doctor to determine that I had snapped my Achilles tendon in half. I believe the technique to diagnose an Achilles tendon rupture is called the Simmonds-Thompson test, which essentially shows if the foot moves when the back of the calf is squeezed (the indentation on the back of my ankle where my Achilles ruptured, was also a giveaway). The nurse wrapped up my ankle, gave me some crutches and sent me home to await surgery.

Thanks to my wife working the phone, it took four days for me to get into surgery. I have read that many other people have waited much longer.

Since this was an outpatient surgery, I was sent home after I woke up. Having my tiny wife push my big body out of the hospital in a wheelchair was a unique experience, but she was a trooper.

I was alert and able to work from home the next day. I don’t remember much pain in the area of the repair, but I do remember throbbing pain in my inner and outer ankle areas, which I assume was from swelling. The prescription pain relievers definitely helped.

I had been working out a bit before my injury, so I was ready for the crutches and the task of lifting my body into and out of the bathtub with my foot hanging over the tub. Crutches are a pain though, so I looked for a different solution. I found this great contraption called the oneCrutch that allowed me to have one hand free to carry things as I walked around the house. I don’t think it is made anymore, but the website has a link to the Freedom Crutch. I haven’t used the Freedom Crutch, so I can’t vouch for it, but it appears to be based on the same principle as the oneCrutch.

After my surgery, I learned that there are two different types of surgery: percutaneous and open. I am not a medical professional, but I have read that percutaneous surgery requires a smaller incision and results in a faster recovery. Here is an abstract from a medical study I found:

CONCLUSIONS: Percutaneous repair provides function similar to that achieved with open repair, with a better cosmetic appearance, a lower rate of wound complications, and no apparent increase in the risk of rerupture.

Unfortunately, I had open surgery and have the scar to prove it.

Achilles tendon rupture surgery incision and staples.

Here is a timeline of my surgery and initial recovery:

Day 01 – Surgery to repair Achilles (4 days after rupture while playing volleyball)
Day 15 – Bandages removed, first hard cast put on
Day 29 – Second hard cast put on
Day 48 – Second cast off, into a boot
Day 77 – No more boot, time to walk

It was about 11 weeks from surgery to walking in regular shoes. I assume that every case is a little different, so I have no idea if this will mirror your schedule.

I was freaked out when I tried to take my first step. I don’t know if other people have experienced this, but my right foot felt like it was broken (it wasn’t) when I tried to take a step for the first time. I guess it is because I hadn’t fully used it in such a long time. I don’t think that feeling lasted more than a few days, and after some time and physical therapy I was able to walk normally again and play sports.

If you are active and are worried about life after surgery, all I can tell you is that I can run, play volleyball, ride bikes, and do pretty much anything I want. Although My right Achilles tendon is stiffer, thicker and harder than my left, I haven’t had too many problems. I was worried about rupturing it again, but that worry has gone away. I do have pain and popping in my ankle, but I don’t know if that is from the initial injury or if it is just because I am old.

If you have any questions or would like to share anything about your injury or recovery, please leave a comment below.

December 2016 update:

After working to try to regain the muscle mass I lost during the recovery, I stopped trying. As you can see from the picture below, my calves are still out of balance by almost an inch (roughly 18 3/8? vs 17 5/8?). One of these days I hope to try again.

My out of balance calves due to full Achilles rupture

70 comments

  • Jennifer Reasbeck

    Hi, I fully ruptured my achilles in June of 2008, also at the age of 38 (and nine months post-pregnancy which I think may have been a contributor) playing slo-pitch while making a dive for a line drive. I am now 8 years post-op and still struggling to increase the size of my right calf. In fact, after spending most of this summer hiking and backpacking, I have noticed that my calf seems smaller instead. It may actually be that my other calf has gotten larger due to the exercise and my injured calf has not responded in kind. Because of the significant difference in strength, I am finding that I have been having sharp pains in my tendon when hiking, which is causing me some concern for a repeat performance. I restarted physio for 4 months a year ago but it didn’t help rebuild the muscle either.

    • Ole

      Did you catch the ball? =) Re-rupture is always in the back of my mind, and I’ll admit that I get nervous sometimes when my tendon is stiff or sore. My wife usually gets me out of my funk by telling me that my Achilles is probably stronger than before. I hope that’s true. I remember thinking while watching the movie “Central Intelligence” that The Rock’s calf still looked smaller… and he works out like a beast.

    • Nancy hofman

      I ruptured mine end of July 2018, surgery August 10, rehab until the end of the year. Although I have been hiking every day and even xc skiing a lot, I still can’t even begin to do a single leg calf raise, and can hardly see any growth in my calf muscle. It seems like a brain thing. Anyone else have this going on?

      • Ruth

        I ruptured 28th Oct 2018, I didn’t have surgery but I can just get my bad heel off the floor. For me the leap from not being able to do it to being able to was too great. I started doing the single leg heel raise in the swimming pool chest deep in water then waist deep and now pool is too shallow to be effective! Still a struggle though! Good luck ?

  • Matt Ireland

    I hear you all. What a process. Could be worse obviously but what a frustrating effort to increase the calf size after full rupture. I am here searching for the miracle strength secret too. :p

  • Luis moreta

    Did you experience any calf or shin pain approx. 5 weeks post-op? I’m 6 weeks myself and I’m still spending sleepless nights due to the pain. I don’t think that’s normal but the therapist and the MD but kinda shrugged it off like it was. I’ve been trying to find research but all I find is everyone’s progress is so much further than mine and without the pain.

    • Ole

      I was still immobilized in a cast at 5-6 weeks, and I don’t remember having much pain at that point. I do remember having pain in my ankle for probably a few weeks while I was in a cast, and then pain when I started walking. Reading other accounts, it seems like every recovery is a bit different. I wish you the best and hope you get some sleep.

    • Matt

      I had no pain like that.

      Pain in general while being casted was only the period about 2 weeks after surgery when I was suppose to be on pain meds but after 4 days of pain meds and bad reactions I stopped taking.

      But after 2 weeks the only other pain was when I accidentally slipped on my crouches twice and bared weight when I was not suppose to.

      The first time was a searing sensation like a knife ripping up the back of the leg, kind of like a Charlie horse, the second time was close to getting the cast off so they actually removed it and did the Thompson test to make sure the tendon was still intact.

      Then, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, the ankle throbbing, cracking and pain begins as you try to rehabilitate the limb. It’s a full body workout for the first year and then it gets a little better after that.

      I would say trust your gut, get a second opinion. There’s a lot I know now from doing more research that I really wish I had known prior to surgery. Such as starting rehab as soon after surgery as possible and also getting the right doctor to do the surgery and the different surgical techniques available. I had an ortho surgeon do a general full rupture repair. Should have seen a podiatrist and seen about laparoscopic availability.

      Hope this helps some.

  • Brandi

    I had an Achilles bone Spur removed on 12/30/16. The Tendon had to be detached to remove the Spur and the damaged Tendon from the wear and tear.

    I went home that day with a half cast. I am 34 with 3 small boys. The doctor insisted on a knee scooter opposed to crutches for safety.

    On day 3 I was returning to my comfy recliner after a restroom break and I lost my balance. I remember feeling dizzy and then the next thing I know I was falling. My automatic reaction was to put my foot down and I felt it rip. It was the most intense pain I have ever felt. My husband tried to help me up but I couldn’t lift my leg at all.

    Long story short – I had surgery #2 on 1/9/17. I am so beyond over this recovery and I still have a ways to go.

    Thank you for sharing your story – it gives me hope that their is a light at the end of this long tunnel!

    • Ole

      Wow. I am so sorry to hear about that. Yes, there is light at the end of this LONG tunnel. Hang in there!

    • Lisa Anderson

      I totally empathize with you! Being out of commission for three months and counting. Knee wheeler saved my life, but work on straightening your knee when you’re seated. My physical therapist is doing some work to fix the damage and prevent a knee issue once I start walking.

    • Kelly

      I had a partial tear of my Achilles due to a bone spur I think, my dr don’t seem to care, he told me to take it easy and rest more because “I’m not younge anymore!” But last week the back of my heel is killing me. Grit your teeth kinda pain. I think that bone spur is just grinding on my tendon. Is that kinda how yours felt?

  • Lisa Anderson

    I ruptured my right Achilles November 1, 2016 playing volleyball with my 8th grade team (I’m the coach ?). I had surgery two weeks later and my recovery time is frustrating. I ripped the Achilles off of my calf muscle as well as my heel. My doctor is not so good at the bedside manner, plus she told me she has no idea what my recovery will be like since my Achilles’ was attached to my heel in three places instead of one. Just what I wanted to hear! I’m out of my walking boot now, and working on walking normally, but I’m experiencing quite a bit of pain. On the day I got my first cast, my doctor actually said to me “I don’t know why you’re still in so much pain.” Ummm, I’m sorry?!? I’m not a wimp, delivered two big boys by c-section and was fine within a couple days. I’m worried about re-Rupture, but also TERRIFIED of rupturing my healthy Achilles. I have been reading a lot of testimonies from other Achilles survivors and appreciate their perspective and helps me feel a little less crazy!

  • John Salisbury

    Thanks for the blog! Seems to match my experience, with some additions:
    2-5-16: Achilles popped, and broke a large bone spur growing up into the Achilles
    2-10-16: Surgery. Achilles stitched together, attachment to heal partially removed to clean up bone spur, reattached. Done by ortho surgeon – also wished I had found a good podiatrist for 2nd opinion and more effective repair! Good advice.
    3-9-16: Cast off, started using boot (including sleeping in the darned thing!). Lots of pain, including burning pain on skin which lasted until about week 13.
    4-13-16: 9 weeks after surgery, lots of burning pain, tried acupuncture a couple of times: useless effort. Still in boot.
    4-20-16: 10 weeks, out of boot around the house. Hurts like crazy. Been in Physical Therapy since week 5.
    4-27-16: 11 weeks, out of boot, still burning pain and general tenderness. Using compression sock to help reduce swelling – helps a lot!
    8-10-16: 6 months since surgery: still a lot of swelling, painful trying to raise myself on toes. Impossible to lift heel on injured foot (toe lift). Calf still shrunken about 1″ less than ‘good’ side.
    2-5-17: 1 year since injury: No change in calf size regardless of lots of PT and exercise. Walking fine. Can raise heel about 1/4″ using toes. Still painful if I try jumping and landing on injured side. Doing most normal activities – but no sports yet.
    Comments:
    – Used “iWalk” instead of crutches. Great help. Need to pad it to minimize sore knee
    – Lost all skin on bottom of foot during recovery. Also lost all foot muscle, which returned during rehab
    – Toughening up heel again to accept body weight was hard – it gets tender without use!
    – Consistent message is avoid NSAIDs for pain relief – may retard tendon healing.
    – All folks I’ve talked with say the calf never returns to pre-injury size. Not sure if leg function will fully return, but it hasn’t yet after 1 year.
    – My PT has been and is still aggressive. Cardio workout is back to pre-injury level.
    – I was 68 years old at time of injury, very active. Slowed down a bit now, but expect to return to ‘very active’ by summer!

    • Ole

      The iWalk looks pretty cool. I agree, taking those first steps after being off my ankle for so long was brutal. Good luck!

    • Gina

      Hi- I have a quick question for you, given your extensive time line. I’m 11 weeks post op tomorrow and I’m doing pt at home. No boot, only an ankle brace and fwb. I do wear compression socks due to swelling but have had minimal pain for a few weeks. Today I stepped on rock and the sharp pain up the back was almost as painful as my initial tear. It only lasted a few minutes and now it’s an odd feeling in the upper part of my calf (nowhere near my surgery site) that feels like a catch. Have you ever felt anything like this?
      I’m so nervous about re-rupture!

      • Ole

        Sorry for my late reply. I remember tripping and putting my full weight on my injured foot not too long after being put in a boot (I had it off because I was sleeping or something). I felt that pain and was freaked out that I did some damage. I was fine. I do have clicking sounds and sensations in my ankle, but not in my calf, so no, I haven’t experienced exactly what you’re experiencing. If it were me, I would ask the doc about it. Hope you’re OK!

  • Brent Wilkins

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Seems like there are 90% of articles on the 1st year post-Achilles but very little on what to expect after that — especially when it comes to calf size, plantar flexion issues, etc. And the problem is there are too many articles & experts out there that make it seem like recovery is a year or so and that you’ll be back to normal running & playing sports and A-OK. I ruptured my left achilles nearly 3 years ago and while i was back to running, etc. within a year, the problem I encountered that practically no articles talk about is that you’re very likely not a full 100% so you overcompensate a bit and your gait actually changes ever so slightly which can cause undo stress on other parts of your leg — like your knee. Even now — after 3 years — my left leg is still weaker than my right. Not much — but it is weaker. And while i have done some physical therapy & continued my gym routine, my left calf is still 1/2 inch less than my right calf & looks significantly smaller. I still cannot stand on my left achilles & do a full flex as much as i can my right. And so I still do feel a bit weaker on my left side when I walk. Bottom line — Unless you are a professional athlete and have handlers & trainers and/or truly can dedicate the time (like the ROCK!), what is very clear is that it is a long road back to coming close to the 100% that you enjoyed before the rupture — and that is what I was always most concerned about. Of course, you knew you were going to walk again & do activities. I’m not trying to be negative & glass is half-empty, but I do think it’s important to manage expectations as too many publications I believe don’t believe are telling the real truth or simply only report the drama during the first year. I’ve found that years 2 & 3 are just as important and we need more commentary on those years as people attempt to go from 75% strength to hopefully 100%. I’ve worked my butt off for a good 2 years but my leg is probably about 85% of my stronger right.

  • Karin

    Was interesting to find this blog post. I’m not alone. I ruptured my achilles tendon in 2008. I had had foot surgery. Thought I was recovering. Was a nice day. Took of the special shoe, put on my sneakers and planned to cut the grass. Guess I wasn’t healed. When I turned around I experienced the worst ripping pain through my leg and was on the ground. I was 53. It was a long recovery but I am lucky I don’t have any problems except my left calf is substantially smaller than my right leg. Now I only like to wear slacks or long dresses. I asked a couple PTs if there was anything I could fo but they didn’t know. I never thought about looking this up until now and was surprised to see this is common.

  • Chris

    I tore mine when I was 26 in June 2012. It is now 2017 and my calf is still small. However I returned to play rugby at a high level, my squat numbers are higher, my jumping ability is the same as pre-injury and my top end speed is arguably at pre-injury levels. At this point it is cosmetic. But the solution is likely calf raises (weighted and unweighted, standing and seated) every single day for very high volume. You walk and move on your calves every day so they have a high tolerance, so if you want them to grow you need to blow them up daily. 1000+ reps per day. This is my opinion and I have not actually done it b/c of the time and effort and due to the fact that I am at pre-injury levels. The appearance is the only issue. Maybe some day I’ll give the 1000 reps a day for a month a try.

  • Emkfardan

    No it’s not the angle, his left calf is definitely way smaller than his right.
    Check this picture for further proof:

    http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2016/03/23/16/3279B42D00000578-3506247-image-a-32_1458750129928.jpg

  • Rajesh

    Eccentric calf raises have made a difference , i feel the pain of everyone here! Keep grinding!!

  • I guess I can join in. I tore my Achilles 1 week ago while running bases in softball. It was the day after 36th birthday and it felt like someone punched me in the bsck of my ankle. I looked behind me as I fell and realized no one was behind me and I knew right away what happened. I went to the ER that night and got lucky enough to be in surgery the next morning with a ortho. I have been in a soft cast splint wrap and will get it off next week. I am hoping to be mobile come fall huntung and just be able to do some walking at this point and returning to be able to play softball again next year. Thanks for all the stories.

  • Jesus

    I raptured my achilles tendon 3 years ago i didnt get surgery or anything i thought it was gonna heal its self but now the issue the one is bigger than the other i am back playing football at the higher level. Is it possible roughly you can get injection on the calve or wat

  • cubfan44

    Late July 2016 – Had Achilles surgery to remove bone spur and strengthen Achilles. was told prior to surgery there would be one long incision. There were actually two made, down by the heel and about halfway up my calf. It took about 18 months for full recovery (with PT) although I was able to resume some activity (bowling) after 8 months. I was NWB for first 6 weeks. Now in the middle of the night I have these “charley horse” like pains in my surgical leg, the worst is where that 2nd incision was made higher up the calf. I’m wondering it’s related or a completely different issue, my surgical leg is also swollen in the calf area – especially by that incision. I know it’s probably just scar tissue, but what else?

  • joanna

    I ruptured my Achilles 7 years ago, I also tore the large calf muscle on the left inside which after having the nerves checked had apparently died (meaning I am unable to raise to tip toe on that leg) this means that the leg looks slimmer than the good one and other than that things had been fine, I can now manage to run without the feeling it will give way. Lately though I have noticed a thickening around the ruptured Achilles and Bruising just above the heel, I just hope it’s not going to go again, going to see the doctor and see what they say.

    I did not have the operation instead they cast my leg for 6 weeks and then a boot for another 4 months.

    They doc said, at the time, this happens to people over 40 – I way 40 and 1 day ?

    So annoying !

  • I snapped my left Achilles at the end of January, then snapped it again a inch lower in May. Had surgery to repair both of them. Went through all the P.T. and rehab. Still very tight and not as much range as before. I still have some pain while walking and times at night when it feels like there is a knife slicing my heal. Other than that, feels like its recovering. In the third week of August, I was pushing a boat on a trailer and snapped my right Achilles. Whats going on, am I deficient in something or just not as strong as I used to be? I’m not a professional athlete or anything, but I am pretty active. I’m also 53 years old, but didn’t think I would be falling apart already.

  • Jose

    Hey so I’m 18 and I tore my Achilles’ tendon back in March while I was at soccer practice and it’s been about 6 months since surgery and I still can’t do single leg calf races. I don’t know why this is as hard as I try I can’t do them. Also after a while of walking or heavy exercises I get a limp on leg. I can run pretty well now I just can’t do calf races or walk for a long period of time and I was just wondering if you had any of these problems?

    • John Salisbury

      I’m 2-1/2 years out of surgery, and can’t do full calf raises. I’m working the calf 3 times a week with a variety of strengthening exercises. It is a slow process. Most people I know that have broke their Achilles never have their calf return to normal size, and can’t do calf raises on the bad leg. But I doubt if they work at it a lot. At your age, I’m thinking you may be able to still grow the calf and be able to do the raises – depending on the surgery. If the tendon is too long now, the muscle won’t be able to contract enough to give the ankle the motion needed to do the raise. I don’t know how to tell if this is an issue. For now, keep exercising the calf and hope for the best!

      • 4.5yrs on I can do single leg raises fine. Weaker leg 1inch thinner and power/endurance 80-85% of the good one. This after 4years of running, weights 8000miles on my road bike. I feel fortunate – I can do everything as before but the weaker leg always feels just a tad more tired than the good one whether it’s 10 miles on the bike or a 100, or 45mins on a squash court. Rehab is all about persistence & patience. Inside of lower calf is where the difference is – it’s nerve damage and not a longer tendon although I have a little more flex in my weaker tendon. Keep working – you don’t need 100% recovery/power to still do lots of sport or loads of calf raises. Richard – 54yrs – tendon rupture high on calf, cast and no surgery.

  • Ann Hermen

    Playing a mean game of pickleball, I fully ruptured my rt Achilles‘ tendon on July 31, 2018. I had surgery one week later. Had full surgical cast for 2 weeks, then 3 weeks w some flexion, and another cast w more flex for 3 more weeks. Yesterday the cast was removed (it will become a lamp) and now have a walking air-boot. Up till the boot there was no pain, just swelling discomfort. Now in the boot verrryyy uncomfortably painful. I start PT Monday. Unless I’m going out I take the boot off. What has others experienced in the boot? Open to any suggestions?

  • Ian Malherbe

    I ruptured my achilles tendon 10 Sep 2018 playing squash.Had surgery 2 days later. I am a medical doctor so I knew what lay ahead. Unfortunately the medical professionals do not tell you all the real truths. The tendon recovers but full strength never returns. I am able to walk with the aircast with the aid of crutches at the moment and will progress to one crutch in two weeks time. Soft tissue injuries take much longer to recover than a fracture. At least 6 month to a year to recover from rupture.

    • Ole

      Doctor, thanks for the insight which seems to validate what most (or all) of us end up learning. I don’t think I’ve heard from anyone who has regained 100% of their pre-injury strength.

  • Vanquish

    And I though I was alone in my recovery. A high level basketball player thinking at 36 I can still do the same moves, but no, a blow out in my right Achilles on a fantastic move to the basket. I was checking to see what others may do to rehab after 16 years to get my right calf size the same as my left calf. Looking at what the responses are I should be happy with the results I have. My calf is 1″smaller on the right but seems to have very good strength can almost do a full calf raise with my body weight #185. I practice Yoga so maybe those down dogs stretched and strengthen the calf more than I thought. I also hike daily in the mountain 2-3 miles, the thought is unbalanced terrain strengthens the muscles and tendons making them balance.Then the kicker, faith in God can help offset any lack in the natural. Keep active. Hope this helps someone!

  • Stan

    Ruptured my Achilles tendon due to a fall in July of 2015. It was repaired non surgically. I have always been active and was very motivated to do PT and restore my leg to normal. I am 66 now and very active with walking and going to the gym but like others my affected calf muscle never returned to normal strength and size. It is 1 1/2 inches smaller and although I have no pain throughout the whole recovery I still cannot do a single leg calf raise nor can I jump very well. The affected calf muscle will cramp up if I tax it to fast or hard. Like others, I am reluctant to run, jump or climb in fear of re-rupturing it. I have come to terms with it and am thankful I can walk without pain or a limp.

    • Hi Stan – See my post from further up & where I got to after 4 years. I initially had the cramping that you got but you have to gently stress the muscle and increase this over months aka years to stimulate muscle growth – fast walk a couple of months, then slow jog a mile, 2 miles, 3 miles a couple of months, then jog a month, then run 1 m, 2mile, 3mile. Scale up over 7-8 months. You will find the “cramping point” moves out – exercise up to it – its shows your stressing up to your limit. These incremental changes give your muscle time to adapt without any risk of damage. The older you get, the harder muscle building is as hormones change – but if you persist, incremental changes build up. Richard H

  • Peter

    My Achilles went awol 4 years ago when I attempted to jump to head a ball clear playing football for my local club, I landed in a crumpled heap and when I tried to stand up I fell back down, the match was stopped and I hobbled de hopped my way off the pitch to the sound of my team mates saying you can run it off and that kind of “hilarious” stuff, I didn’t understand fully what I had done but I knew it felt weird. I managed to haul myself up the pub to watch Tottenham vs Chelsea, had a few beers then got a curry and dragged my leg home behind me, next morning my other half drove me to hospital and the next 6weeks in cast then boot then physio is history, but 4 years on if anything I feel my damaged leg calf muscle is smaller and weaker than ever, I’m getting aches and cramping very quickly these days, this despite being an electrician and going up and down stepladders all day. I also still get pain in my heal. I feel like I’m subconciously favouring my good leg to compensate. Which makes sense as I find myself off balance a lot and if anything my good calf muscle is bigger than ever. I’m worried it may have future implications for joints in the good leg down the line if I’m using it so much more. So I’ve decided to get back on the leg lifts, I throw them in as much as poss during the day, I get some funny looks as I’m going up and down whilst walking about but it makes me laugh aswel though. At the moment it’s just making my bad leg feel beaten up but I think persistence is key to improvement so I will persivere. Good luck to all my fellow Achilles healers out there, I feel your pain, from tingley top of the toes, swollen bottom of the heals, itchy calves, aching balls of the feet not to mention cramp in a plaster cast with your toes pointing south, the list goes on. I wish you all a speedy recovery and I hope your shrivelled calves rise again.
    Peter Hallett, 38, achillies rupture survivor.
    Ps, thanks for starting this blog and thread.

  • Jane

    Hi all,
    I ruptured my left Achilles about four years ago too, tried to carry on for three weeks thinking I had sprained my ankle. Finally resulted in me going to the hospital to check and discovering complete rupture with tendon halfway up my leg. I had emergency surgery immediately and started long road to recovery.

    Four years on, my left calf is smaller than the other despite continued efforts to rebuild. Still way less movement when doing calf raises as well.
    My other concern is this feeling that I now have an imbalance in Achilles length. I feel that my whole body is slightly out of alignment due to this and get odd pains in the right hip and right back.
    Anyone else feel this could be so?

    Also – Just wanted to say Hi to all, and in hindsight, I would say swimming laps is the best exercise to keep strong during the recovery process and afterwards,

    • Ole

      My repaired Achilles is still stiffer than my “good” one. I’ve never really thought about how long they are in comparison to each other. Makes sense (to me) that the repaired one might be a little shorter now.

  • 35 hrs old Day 3 ruptured Achilles . Devastated . Faith in God is the only thing keeping me sane . Hasn’t sunk in yet . Don’t care what my calfs look like all I care about is being able to jog again . Even if it takes 10 minutes per mile . I need to run . Popped it pushing off the line flag football.

    • Ole

      Hope you’re keeping your spirits up while you recover. Jogging has not been a problem since I recovered from surgery. Wish you the best.

  • Dante

    At the very least I have a bad tear in my Achilles. More likely, it is a full Rupture. Thompson test provided no plantar flexion. I’m in a splint and tensor bandage to provide compression and have the splint angled so as to keep my foot in plantar flexion.

    This happens Dec 23, 2018. Merry Xmas btw I am writing this on the stroke of midnight on the 26th.

    Much like others, I was playing a sport, basketball, went to push off doing a cross over and crumbled to the floor. Initially thought I was tripped or a ball from the other court found its way and I fell over it. Neither was the case. I initially thought I rolled my ankle but it felt fine. Walked a few paces and realized that it felt like my foot wasn’t connected to my calf. Went to check my Achilles and my left one felt noticeably less tense than the right. Walked a bit again and rechecked achilles and finally clued in that it was definitely my Achilles. Went to ER the next morning and got it splinted. I go for an Ultrasound in the next few days and then get an ortho consult. I’m debating between surgical and nonsurgical measures. I’m 32 and played high level basketball in college. Had just started to come back to the sport. I drive by a court on my way home and it gets me thinking I may not play again. I’m starting to realize that recovery will be long and I may have to dampen my expectations for return to sport. Will keep you guys posted.

    • Ole

      There is hope. I returned to sports, and my repaired Achilles has to work pretty hard because I’m not the smallest guy. Good luck!

    • John Salisbury

      David – same as my experience. I still do physical therapy exercises on the calf after 3 years, and very little or no change to the weaker shrunken calf muscle. Somehow I had set my expectations a lot higher. I hope others end up with better results somehow – and SHARE them!

  • David

    Hi. I ruptured my right Achilles tendon at a Krav Maga lesson about 9 years ago when I was 48. My calf has never regained its former size and is much weaker. I lift weights 6 days a week and have done so for the last 12 years. I ride bikes and walk heaps but nothing seems to change the calf muscle size. All I can say is it seems to be a common occurrence. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone but I’m glad that I found others who have had the same outcome. For most of the last nine years I have blamed it on myself. I just thought I must have not done enough rehab work and didn’t do it properly.

    • Ole

      Hi David, you’re definitely not alone. Don’t blame yourself. I use The Rock as my barometer. His calves still seem to be imbalanced and he works out like a beast.

  • Brandon

    Just thanking everyone for their story. I’m 5 weeks post op. Tore my left Achilles running up the Warped Wall like on America Ninja Warrior, while my kids were cheering me on. I thought some unsupervised kid hit me with something. The surgeon said my proximal portion of my tendon was shredded and required it’s own sewing before it was attached to the distal portion. Also I tore my Plantaris tendon (yeah, me either) but they said it’s fine because it’s a useless tendon so they used it to help the Achilles’ tendon. Like many, I’m nervous about my active lifestyle. I joke that I will be afraid to power walk when I’m healed. I’m a full time firefighter who’s blessed with the opportunity to temporarily do a desk job. But I can not wait to get back to shift work!

    • Erika

      I tore my Achilles just last week exactly the same way, on a warped wall. I am so scared about the recovery process, I just want to be able to go back to doing everything I could before in good time. Have you been able to get back on your feet yet, following the surgery and cast time?

  • Oliver

    Been active all my life since I can remember, sports, dancing, acrobatics, ect. I was playing a lot of basketball, three times a week, soccer once or twice a week and my usual flag football, plus the occasional 5 – 6 mile run a few times a week. I was trying to get back into my old playing habits since i’m getting a little older( 43 now). Anyhow, a few days after thanksgiving during my flag football game I went to push off to come back to the football on a rout and that’s when my Achilles popped on me, I looked around to see if someone had kicked me in the back of the heel, when I saw that no one was around me that’s when I knew right then that it had gone. I knew because for the past 10 years or so both of my Achilles would tend to get sore after long rigorous activities sometimes. Over the years I have had talked to others that have had theirs ruptured and the assured me that that was one of the signs, needles to say I am definitely worried about the other one going on me while trying to rehab( Eeek). It has been a year and four months now, and just two weeks ago i was able to start jogging on the treadmill, the kicker is that i ended up getting massive blood clots in my leg and lungs post-op, so I have been having to deal with that as well. The blood flow in my leg is not normal and the damage that happened to my lungs hinders my stamina, however i’m still pushing on, 5 days at the gym, every day working on the legs, light jogging, yoga and soon i’m going to start doing some foot speed drills. Hopefully I don’t over do it and exert myself, but I just got tired of taking it too easy and have been pushing myself to try and improve. The calf still is about half an inch smaller than the other and I’ve got about 85% of the flexibility and motion. All I can say is push on and try your best each day to improve, it can be discouraging and sometimes depressing but once you get over that next hurdle and plateau where you can feel and see it, it makes it all worth it.

    • Well done and good for you – this is exactly what is required IF (and we all have to be honest with ourselves) we want regain 80-90% performance-power-endurance. A few exercise a week, walking etc does not cut it for a full return. But do rest. I’m 4 yrs on, playing squash, 55yrs and just did 70miles/8000ft cycling on the English Pennines. Go for it. Richard

  • Jordahn W.

    Just ruptured my left Achilles this past Tuesday night playing basketball. Jumped up for a rebound and thought someone kicked me in the back of the leg, knocking me over. Got up quickly and discovered a weird sensation in my left foot that made me feel as though I HAD to walk on my tip toe. Went back to the floor and looked at what I thought was my Achilles’ tendon balled up in the back of my leg. Pretty gnarly sight, but surprisingly not very painful. I drove myself to the ER where the doc confirmed with the Thompson test and the gap where it was severed that I had a full Achilles’ tendon rupture. I followed up with an ortho surgeon the next day, and he scheduled me for surgery Friday (yesterday). Surgery went well from what I was told, they used a nerve block, so until now, I haven’t felt any pain. However, the nerve block is wearing off and it’s excruciating. I feel my calf cramping in the cast, and it’s pretty uncomfortable lol. In spite of today’s pain, I’m hopeful for a quick road to recovery. I’ll do my best to work hard during my pt. Cheers to my fellow Achilles sufferers. Best wishes. I’ll keep you updated.

    • Jordahn W

      Just an update, – Day 18 – I’ve been in and out (when at home) of a boot with two lifts in it for the past three days. Crutches only, no weight bearing. Three weeks from now, the doc plans to put me in a boot with lifts and no crutches. Still feeling tingling/stinging sensations in my leg and foot from time to time, presumably from the nerve block. Otherwise, feeling pretty good. The tendon feels strong. I accidentally put probably 75% of my weight on it when I slipped off my shower chair. No pain, but a strange stretching feeling. I don’t believe I did any damage tho.

      • Ole

        I slipped once during my recovery and put all my weight on my bad leg too. It freaked me out for a minute, but there was no damage. Hope all is well.

  • Drew Blahnick

    Im at week 11 of a full rupture and open surgery and out of the boot doing a lot of EMS stimulation and calf strengthening. Question;

    How long post boot in PT did you start walking again with no weird gate, how long to achieve a normal looking stride?? 4 weeks, 6, 8, many months?

    Thanks!

    • Ole

      I remember that I had to walk around a manufacturing plant about 3 weeks after I lost the boot. I was slower than normal and my ankle was still stiff, but I was able to finish the tour without incident. That was a long time ago, but I would guess that my stride was about 50%-75% normal by then.

  • Louie

    Hi All – This is year 6 of post Achilles Tendon rupture (I’m 38 now). It sucks to have a smaller calf, but at least I can still run!

  • Kelli

    In September 2018, I tore 3 tendons in my right foot (Achilles, Peroneus Lingus and Peroneus Brevis) and fractured my right Fibula by simply stepping in a hole in my yard. Has surgery to repair all 3 tendons 4 days later. Spent 6 weeks in a soft cast with a boot on top and only moved around by using a knee scooter. Ended up with blisters on my right knee, despite using thick padding on the scooter. On the 7th week, Doctor said to start walking in the walking boot. It took several days for me to feel comfortable enough to completely put all weigh on it. NO PHYSICAL THERAPY WAS ORDERED, despite my requesting it. Now, almost 9 months later, my Achilles’ tendon has shrunk up too short; I cannot fully flex my right foo time; I have pain every day and my Achilles’ tendon has RE-RUPTURED! I soon will undergo surgery #2 to repair. #VERYFRUSTRATED!

  • Marcia

    Sixteen years ago we had a storm that dropped 6″ of rain in 3 hours which flooded the back room of our house. I woke up at 6am to the sound of rushing water, ran to the back room, “jumped” over the small “river” and boom, snapped my left achilles tendon. At the time, there was so much to do and clean up, that I hobbled around for two weeks, trying to ignore the pain and my purple-colored leg before calling a physical therapist to see about rehab. I always thought these things healed themselves so I didn’t consider surgery. I was an avid runner and hiker and previously had been in the ballet, so I started doing several barre exercises for the ankle which hurt, but seemed to keep it flexible (as much as I could move it.) There was no ability to raise my ankle whatsoever, and running was out of the question. Very depressing. Basically, I wrapped the ankle in an ace bandage and went to PT where they started me on the elliptical. This machine was a Godsend as it felt like I could move again. Almost running. After a year of PT, I was back to running again, even though, like most all of us in this boat, my calf remains smaller and calf raises are to this day, very difficult and cause cramping. I was able to run for long distances quite well for 15 years longer at good speeds and then my SI joint started to press on the nerves in my weak leg. My strong leg knee also began to become painful. I was told that these problems were likely due to the years of running with imbalance in my limbs post injury. Now I run less, and use the elliptical more. The nerve pain is gone and the knee is improved. I push up the resistance on the elliptical and it has satisfied my cardio needs and made my calf muscle some stronger, but I’ve accepted that it will not be 100% again. I’m ok with that as long as I can keep moving. Running was my “anti depressant”. Now it’s the elliptical and hiking. I don’t care much anymore if my left leg looks smaller than my right. I’m probably the only one who really notices it anyway. I’m also done with blaming myself for trying to jump that water. It doesn’t help and we are, after all, humans. It’s tough, but we have to “morph” to adapt to all of the many changes that come about in this life. I feel fortunate to have been able to continue running as long as I did after an achilles injury, and I thank God that I’ve been able to find other ways to be “strong”. Soldier on, fellow warriors!

  • Whit

    Has anyone had their Achilles surgically shortened to increase the pull on the gastrocnemius and thereby increase strength? After 2X rupture and repair in April 2017 (second one a week after the first preventing myself from falling backwards down a set of stairs) my left calf is significantly weaker and the medial gastrocnemius is almost non-existent. Since the rupture I have cycled in excess of 9,000 miles with a healthy dose of climbing (~800,000 feet) with only marginal improvement in strength. Saw a surgeon this spring and he recommended the shortening procedure. His assessment is the Achilles is stretched several centimeters (which I agree with) such that the muscle is not being used through it’s full range of motion.

    Aside from weakness (can barely get my left heel off the ground, I am ~160 lbs) my ankle is always stiff and my foot is dead flat.

  • Enrique Santos Jr

    I clearly remember my injury on November 9th 2018 complete rupture of rt.achilles playing basketball. Had surgery November 16th 2018 and was sent home with half cast and bandaged. Never experienced much pain other than the first 3-4dys with the swelling of post-op but once 3 or 4mths past I noticed the significance of calf size difference. Went through PT as much as I could but not much improvement in strengthening my calf, up to now I cannot do a single calf raise on the affected side.

  • Jf

    Im about 8 months in post-op. Doing a lot of gym work but still no running. I feel I could run on it with slight pain but am refraining to do so. Have pain temporarily when i get up after being sitting down for a while. Very slow recovery. Am i better now than last month ? Yes but only marginally. Not stretching it much easier. The tendón needs lots of time to recover. Stay strong but above all patient

  • Nstricker

    2 1/2 years post op here. Playing indoor rec soccer at 32 is how I ruptured mine.
    Do any of you have problems with cramping during workouts or in the middle of the night?
    I’m in better shape now than before my rupture, but constantly struggle with leg cramps and only in my ruptured leg and in the middle of my calf above my scar.
    Don’t worry, mine is also still smaller than my right leg by about an inch.

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