The Achilles tendon is one of the most important tendons in the human body, because without them the movement on two legs would be impossible. How is this tendon structured? Which functions and tasks does it fulfill? And what kind of complaints can occur in connection with the Achilles tendon?

What is the Achilles tendon?

Typical problems with the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon connects the end of the soleus and the gastrocnemius with the calcaneal tuberosity. Click to enlarge.

The Achilles tendon connects the important flexor muscles of the calf with the foot skeleton and can withstand a tensile load of nearly one ton. This makes it the strongest and thickest tendon of the human body.

Her name goes back to the Greek hero Achilles. According to legend, this was dipped as a child by his mother, the goddess Thetis, in the river Styx, whose water should make immortal. The mother held her son by the heel, so this was the only part of the body that was not wetted by the water. In this way, the otherwise immortal Achilles retained a "sore spot, " his Achilles tendon.

Ironically, he was hit by an arrow in the battle for Troy and died. Regardless of the mythology, the Achilles tendon can become a weak point in real life, because it is strong, but still sensitive.

Anatomy & Construction

The Achilles tendon is the end of the three-headed calf muscle and measures about 15 to 20 centimeters. It is surrounded by a tendon sheath and consists of several tendon bundles, which in turn consist of collagen fibers.

The Achilles tendon attaches to the so-called duck-beak process of the heel bone, which is pulled upward as soon as the muscle tightens. It is clearly visible and easily palpable that the Achilles tendon protrudes a little. This space between tendon and muscle or tendon and lower leg bone is filled by fat and connective tissue.

Functions & Tasks

The task of the Achilles tendon is the flexion of the foot. This flexion occurs in the direction of the sole of the foot, this is called plantarflexion. The Achilles tendon is also involved in the outward bending of the foot; the medical term here is supination.

Figuratively speaking, the Achilles tendon acts like a cable, which transfers the force from the calf muscles to the heel bone. The calf muscles tighten and relax again.

This movement is transmitted to the heel bone and thus to the foot with the help of the Achilles tendon. Thus, the function of the Achilles tendon is to flex the ankle, forcing the anterior portion of the foot down forcefully.

Thanks to the Achilles tendon, the foot can be smoothly pushed off the ground, which in turn makes walking and walking possible. The Achilles tendon thus fulfills one of the most important motor tasks of the human body.


Despite the heavy burden that the Achilles tendon can withstand, injuries are still common. Most of the time over- and overstress of the tendon play a role.

Wrong or excessive stress can lead to minor injuries and inflammation, resulting in a disturbed blood supply to the tissue. It is often sufficient in such cases when the tendon is protected and cooled. However, ignoring recurring pain in the Achilles tendon can have an impact on its firmness - an Achilles tendon tear is often the result. The tendon then breaks suddenly, which is often noticeable by a loud noise and pain.

In particular, in young, athletic people in such a case, an operation is necessary to ensure rapid healing and 100 percent resilience are guaranteed. In order to avoid problems with the Achilles tendon, it is important to provide a stable calf and foot musculature through sport and specific gymnastics. In this way, the Achilles tendon is relieved.

Also important are stretching exercises and a slow warm-up, which is especially recommended before jogging, mountain hiking and other intense sporting activities. This makes the muscles and the tendons supple and thus more resilient. In any case, it is advisable to consult an orthopedist for pain in the Achilles tendon, to prevent a painful Achilles tendon rupture and a lengthy healing process.

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