The best way to fight shin splints is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. There are many different exercises that can do just that, without any equipment. The Oregon Health and Science University has determined that an exercise/stretch routine can “target key areas” where weaknesses may increase the risk of overuse injury (5). As mentioned previously, walking on your toes for about 30 seconds a day can help strengthen your lower legs. The same goes for walking on your heels. Double heel raises are another way of strengthening the lower legs. Simply stand up straight with your feet flat on the ground, and lift your heels in the air while balancing on your toes. You can also do some balancing on your toes and shift the weight back and forth from your big toe (like you are rocking side-to-side). This not only helps with coordination and balance, but it will help strengthen the lower muscles in your legs. This type of strength is important, since it helps support the weight we place on our leg bones and muscles while running. One of the best stretches available for the prevention of shin splints is the Tibialis Anterior Stretch. It involves 3 different exercises.
- For the first part, you can place your top foot on an elevated surface behind you. Push your weight down so that the top of the foot is pulled away from the shin.
- The second way is to stand on one leg and pull the other leg behind your body, grabbing the toes and top part of the foot with your hand. If done correctly, your knee will be pointing down, while your toes are pointing upward.
- The third way to stretch these muscles is to begin in the kneeling position with the top of the feet on the ground. With your toes pointing back and the knees pointing forward, slowly sit back on the soles of the feet. This stretch is probably the most difficult of the three, so you may want to start with the other two to get warmed up.
The Tibialis Anterior stretches should be done in sets of two and each position should be held for up to 15 seconds. Once the pain of shin splints is gone, you might want to return back to your normal training, however a steady daily routine of these stretching exercises, will ensure that your shin splints will not reoccur in the future (6).
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- Watson, M.D., and P.P. Dimartino, Incidence of injuries in high school track and field athletes and its relation to performance ability. Am. J. Sports Med. 15:251-254, 1987.
- McKesson Health Solutions, Shin pain (shin Splints). www.sportsmedpress.com 1:1-2, 2004.
- Holmes L, 5 Delicious, real foods that reduce inflammation, MindBodyGreen, Feb, 2015.
- Oregon Health and Science University, ‘Shin Splint’ Prevention Routine (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome), Sports Medicine, 2011
- White T., Shin Pain (Shin Splints) Rehabilitation Exercises. Clinical Reference Systems 2004.