Equinus Contracture Overview and Treatment

 

Equinus Contracture (Tight Achilles Tendon) Overview

Achilles equinus or “tight achilles tendon” is a condition in which the upward bending of the ankle joint is limited. Someone with equinus lacks the flexibility and can occur in one or both feet.  People with equinus develop ways to “compensate” for their limited ankle motion. Individuals can compensate by picking up the heel early when walking (early heel off) leading to “toe walking”, picking up the heel early when walking, and this often leads to other foot, leg, or back problems.

 

Causes of Equinus Contracture (Tight Achilles Tendon):

  • Tightness of gastrocnemius muscle (calf muscle)
  • Tightness of soleus muscle
  • Congenital (present at birth)
  • Long cast immobilization
  • Use of crutches
  • Wearing high heel shoes
  • Lack of stretching exercises
  • Neurological (spastic) disorder

 

Foot Problems Related to Equinus Contracture:

  • Plantar fasciitis (arch/heel pain)
  • Calf cramping
  • Achilles Tendonitis
  • Metatarsalgia (pain on the ball of the foot)
  • Callus formation on the ball of the foot
  • Flatfoot deformity
  • Midfoot arthritis
  • Ulcer (pressure sore) to the ball of the foot
  • Bunions
  • Hammertoes
  • Shin Splints

 

Diagnosis of Equinus Contracture:

To diagnose equinus, the foot and ankle surgeon will evaluate the ankle’s range of motion when the knee is flexed (bent) as well as extended (straightened).  Less than 10 degrees of ankle dorsiflexion is considered tight Achilles tendon (equinus)

 

Non-Surgical Treatment of Equinus Contracture:

  • stretching exercises that lengthen Achilles tendon
  • Night Splints shopping cart
  • Physical therapy
  • Topical pain relieving gel shopping cart

 

When is Surgery Needed for a Symptomatic Tight Achilles Tendon?

In some cases, surgery such as Achilles tendon lengthening or gastrocnemius recession may be needed to correct the cause of equinus.