Have you ever experienced pain along the inside of your lower leg that just seemed to get worse every time you tried to run?
If so, you would probably love to know how to get rid of shin splints for good!
So, what are shin splints anyway?
Well, technically “shin splints” is a pretty generic term that means the lower part of your leg hurts – especially with activities like jumping, running, or dancing.
The pain can be medial (along the inside of the shin) or lateral (along the front and outside of the shin) but is most typically medial. As a matter of fact medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) accounts for ~60% of all overuse injuries of the leg!
Even more exciting is the knowing that ~1 in 5 runners will have the joy of experiencing shin pain at some point throughout their years of running.
But, what actually causes shin splints?
Another fabulous question.
As with just about anything, there really are a barrage of factors that can contribute to shin splints.
- High arches or flat feet
- Running on concrete or hard surfaces
- Changing running surfaces (often happens when athletes switch from an indoor sport season to an outdoor sport and vice versa)
- Running on canted roads
- Wearing old shoes or shoes that aren’t right for your feet
- Abruptly increasing the amount of running time
- Not properly warming up
- Faulty biomechanics and/or poor running form
So, as you can see, there really isn’t a great answer to what causes shin splints.
The multiple possible causes of shin splints actually make it quite a challenge as well to learn how to get rid of shin splints for good.
If you’ve experienced the symptoms of shin splints, you may need to visit a running shoe store that is trained in assessing running form foot mechanics and fitting you with the proper shoe.
If you have flat feet or high arches, you may need to consider inserts for your shoes.
You may also consider having a trained professional – running coach, physical therapist, certified athletic trainer, or certified strength and conditioning specialist – record you running and determine if changes need to be made to your running form.
Considering all those possible factors, what I’m going to give you today are a few quick and easy exercise to help improve muscle balance, decrease muscular restrictions, and strengthen accessory muscles.
This program is a great way to start relieving shin splint symptoms and determine if you need further care.
Standing Gastrocnemius Stretch
Stand with your hands on a wall. One foot back and the other in front. Make sure your back foot is facing straight ahead (not turned out) with your heel flat on the ground. Keep your back knee straight and gently lunge forward until you feel a gentle stretching in your calf.
Hold 30 seconds. Do 2 times on each side.
Standing Soleus Stretch
The soles is a muscle that lies below the gastroc, so stretching it is very similar. You will get in the same position as with the gastroc stretch, but once you’ve gently lunged forward, slightly unlock your back knee while keeping your heel flat.
You should feel this stretch just above your Achille’s tendon.
Hold 30 seconds. Do 2 times each side.
Standing Toe Raises – Toes Forward
Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Raise up on your toes and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat.
Do 2-3 sets of 10 reps.
Standing Toe Raises – Toes In
This particular toe raise works the posterior tibialis muscle, which is a big helper in supporting the arch of the foot. These are performed the exact same way as the straight ahead toe raises, except the toes are turned in.
Do 2-3 sets of 10 reps.
These may seem a little silly, but having strong hips and thighs can go a long way toward limiting how hard the muscles of the lower leg have to work when you’re exercising.
Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Keep the weight on the “fat part of your foot” (I always say to pretend like there’s a saltine cracker under your heel and you want to touch it but not crush it.).
Squat so your rear end goes back and your knees do not go in front of your toes. Return to standing and tighten your buttocks at the top of the motion.
Do 2-3 sets of 10 reps.
Prone Hip Extensions
This exercise also works the hip stabilizers and those wonderful glutes for a strong base of support.
Lie on your stomach (You may need a pillow under your stomach if you feel stress in your back.) with one knee bent. Lift the leg up behind you and slowly return to the starting position.
Do 2-3 sets of 10 reps on each leg.
There you have it!
If you experience shin pain when you run give these a try. Do then every day for a few weeks and see if you can’t tell a difference.
Remember, if your symptoms have persisted, or if they get worse, you may need to seek medical care for treatment more specific to you.
Let’s Get FIT together!