The load-displacement and stress-strain characteristics of the human triceps surae tendon and aponeurosis, in vivo, was examined during graded maximal voluntary plantarflexion efforts in runners who trained 80 km/ week or more and age-matched non-runners. Synchronous real-time ultrasonography of triceps surae tendon and aponeurosis displacement, electromyography of the gastrocnemius, soleus and dorsiflexor muscles, and joint angular rotation were obtained. Tendon cross-sectional area and ankle joint moment arm were obtained from magnetic resonance imaging. Tensile tendon force was calculated from the joint moments and tendon moment arm and stress was obtained by dividing force by cross-sectional area. Strain was obtained from the displacements normalized to tendon length. Antagonist coactivation and small amounts of ankle joint rotation significantly affected tensile tendon force and aponeurosis and tendon displacement, respectively (P < 0.01). Plantarflexion moment was similar in runners (138 +/- 27 Nm, mean +/- SEM) and non-runners (142 +/- 17 Nm). Tendon moment arm was alike in non-runner (58.3 +/- 0.2 mm) and runners (55.1 +/- 0.1 mm). Similarly, there was no difference in tendon tensile force between runners (2633 +/- 465 N) and non-runners (2556 +/- 401 N). The cross-sectional area of the Achilles tendon was larger in runners (95 +/- 3 mm2) than non-runners (73 +/- 3 mm(2)) (P < 0.01). The load-deformation data yielded similar stiffness (runners 306 +/- 61 N/mm, non-runners 319 +/- 42 N/mm). The maximal strain and stress was 4.9 +/- 0.8% and 38.2 +/- 9.8 MPa in non-runners and 4.1 +/- 0.8% and 26.3 +/- 5.1 MPa in runners. The larger tendon cross-sectional area in trained runners suggests that chronic exposure to repetitive loading has resulted in a tissue adaptation.