The Achilles tendon is a thick band of tissue that attaches your calf muscle to your heel bone. It is the largest and longest tendon in your body and is built to handle a lot of stress. But you can rupture your Achilles tendon under extreme stress — like during a a sudden start or stop, or if you fall. Sometimes it heals with rest and bracing, but many people need surgery to repair it.
The Achilles tendon attaches the calf muscle to the heel bone. This thick band of tissue is very strong. In fact the Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body. The Achilles tendon gives your leg strength to walk, run and jump.
An Achilles tendon rupture is a full or partial tear of the Achilles tendon. This acute (sudden) injury occurs when the tendon stretches to its breaking point. It happens most frequently while playing sports. Tripping, falling or twisting your ankle can also cause an Achilles tear.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Achilles tendon ruptures are very common sports injuries. They occur most frequently in people ages 30 to 40 and are more common in men than in women.
People who are “weekend warriors” (usually adults who don't train regularly, then exercise at a high intensity) are more likely to tear an Achilles tendon than younger, well-trained athletes.
Sudden movement that puts stress on the Achilles tendon can lead to a rupture. Typically, people tear the Achilles tendon while playing sports. The biggest culprits are sports with sudden stops, starts and pivots — such as soccer, football, basketball, tennis or squash. Achilles tendon tears aren’t always a sports injury. You can tear your Achilles tendon by tripping, missing a step when going downstairs or accidentally stepping into a hole and twisting your ankle. Some medications — including certain antibiotics and steroid injections in the area — can weaken the Achilles tendon. This can put you at a higher risk for a tear.
The classic sign of a ruptured Achilles tendon is feeling (and sometimes hearing) a pop or snap at the back of your ankle. People often mistakenly think something has hit them, but they’re actually feeling the tendon snap.
Other common symptoms include:
A torn Achilles tendon is a traumatic injury that requires medical attention. Without treatment, an Achilles tendon rupture may not heal properly. This can increase your risk of rupturing it again.
Your healthcare provider will physically examine your foot and ankle. They’ll check your ability to move it in various directions and see how you react to pressure on the area. They will also feel for a gap in the tendon that suggests it’s torn.
Even before you seek medical help, you can reduce pain and swelling to the injured tendon by following the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) method:
Full healing of a torn Achilles tendon typically takes about four to six months. Medical treatment for a ruptured Achilles tendon may include:
You can’t always prevent an accidental injury like tearing your Achilles tendon. But you can take steps to reduce the risk of an Achilles tendon rupture, including:
With proper treatment, most Achilles tendon ruptures fully heal within four to six months.
Having surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon is usually the best option for younger, active people. After surgical repair, you can regain your Achilles tendon’s full strength and function.
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
An Achilles tendon rupture is a common sports injury. People who play sports that involve running, frequent stopping and starting, and changing directions are most at risk. You can also tear your Achilles tendon by tripping, missing a step going down the stairs or twisting your ankle. With proper treatment, most torn Achilles tendon injuries heal in four to six months.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/11/2021.
Learn more about our editorial process.