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runner Grabbing his shin

The Best Exercises to Prevent Shin Splints

Written By : Kelsey Downing, DPT

The Best Exercises to Prevent Shin SplintsYou just went for your daily run, when you make it home your shins start to throb. This could be shin splints, a common condition that affects many athletes. This pain is often experienced by high-level athletes but it can also come to affect those who just started a fitness program. If you find yourself dealing with shin splints this article can help by offering some simple measures that can help your pain. 

What Are Shin Splints?

To start off it would be helpful to understand what shin splints are. Shin splints (also known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome) often present as a dull ache or tenderness along the front part of the Tibia (aka your shin bone). This pain can come on during exercises, but can also present even after the activity is over. This pain comes on with periods of strenuous activity because it causes increased amounts of force on the shinbone and tissues surrounding it. This increased impact causes inflammation of the tissues, causing this pain. If left unattended the pain can get worse and the increased pressure can potentially lead to stress fractures. 

shin splints

Risk Factors and Causes of Shin Splints

Shin splints can affect anyone at any activity level, but there are some factors that can increase your chances of being affected by shin splints. Research has shown that some anatomical factors could increase the odds of shin splints. These factors include

  • flat feet
  • excessive pronation (rolling of the foot) with walking,
  • or wide hips.
  • Some other factors that can increase your shin splint risk are weakness in the thigh and Glute muscles and decreased flexibility in the lower extremities. 

Outside of the anatomy, there are external components that increase the possibility of shin splints. Things like your shoe wear, training program, and running surface and terrain can all increase the chance of shin splint pain. If you are new to exercise it would be best to speak to an exercise professional to make sure you have an efficient and safe exercise program. 

See our helpful guide on Treating Shin Splints here.

The Best Exercises to Prevent Shin Splints

Toe Scrunch 

Stand with feet hip-width apart and right foot on a towel. With the toes of your right foot, gather the towel and slowly pull it toward you. Return to start. Complete 10 to 15 reps then repeat with the other foot.

Towel Scrunch - Ankle Rehabilitation Physical Exercise For Ankle Injury Recovery

Banded Side Steps

Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart and place a resistance band around your ankles. Keep feet far enough apart to maintain tension on the band. Start to walk sideways taking steps large enough to maintain the tension in the band. Do one direction for one minute and then another minute in the other. 

Lateral Band Walks for Glute Medius Activation | GPS Human Performance

Eccentric Calf Raises

Stand with both feet on a step with the toes on the edge of the step. Shift your weight to your right leg and bend left knee to lower your right heel down below the step. Return to starting position. Continue at a fluid pace and complete 10 to 15 reps. Then repeat with your left leg.

How To Do Eccentric Calf Raises - Kinetic U Exercise Series

Double-Leg Bridge

Lying on a firm surface with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Start to push down into your heels and lift your hips off the ground. Hold for two seconds engaging your glutes and hamstrings. Slowly return back to the ground. Repeat 20 times. 

How to do a Bridge Exercise!

Toe Walk

This is exactly as it sounds. Try walking around an open space on your toes for 1-2 minutes at a time to strengthen your calves and ankles. Start by walking forward and backward first, and then progress to side-to-side to challenge a different muscle group.

Walking Calf Raise

Gastroc and Soleus Stretch 

Standing with the feet hip-width apart, bring your right foot one step length behind you. Start to bend into your left knee keeping your right heel pushing down towards the ground. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute. Repeat on the other side. 

Plantar Fascia Standing Calf Stretch (gastrocnemius and soleus muscles)

Other Tips to Recover and Prevent Shin Splints

Outside of these exercises, you can also try

  • Using heat on the shin to increase blood flow
  • Use Orthotics that offer arch support 
  • Warm-up and cool-down with a stretching routine
  • Try cross training such as riding a bike or swimming for runners to prevent overuse
  • Maintain and change footwear as shoes begin to wear out

FAQ for Shin Splints

Should I Wear a Brace for Shin Splints?

For the most part wearing a brace for shin splints is absolutely fine and usually helps. We prefer a compression sleeve to help decrease pain and the strain on the muscles of the inner shin. Our favorite compression sleeve is the Crucial Compression brace.

What is the Best Warm Up For Shin Splints?

There are many different warm ups for shin splints that are beneficial to do prior to running or activity.  The best warm up is the one that you will actually do each time. This video does a nice job going over a good warm-up for shin-splints.
 

Does Kinesiotape Work for Shin Splints?

Kinesiotape for golfing with back painKinesiotape is a safe way to help with shin splints. Since shin splints are on the legs it’s something that you can do to yourself.  Our favorite type of kinesiotape is Rock Tape. You can find a good video for taping shin splints here.

Do Shin Splints Need Surgery?

The vest majority of times shin splints do not require surgery for recover. Rest, stretches, and strengthening exercises are the best option to make a full recovery. 

Key Take Aways

Overall, shin splints are a common pathology that affects thousands of people each year. Often shin splints can be prevented and treated with some easy adjustments and exercises. By following through with these measures you can reduce the recurrence and decrease the chances of shin splints hindering your training in the future. 

Written by: Kelsey Downing, PT, DPT

Kelsey Downing earned her Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree in 2016 from Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC. Since then, she has been working in a variety of settings. From outpatient, acute care, and home health she has gained a wealth of hands-on knowledge. Additionally, she has sought out further certification in manual therapy, concussion management, and lymphedema management. She continues to be driven to learn and refine her skills to improve patient care. Pt is a frequent contributor to physicaltherapyproductreviews.com.

References

Binkley, H., Tolbert, T. “Treatment and prevention of shin splints.Strength and Conditioning Journal. 31:5 (2009): 69-71. 

Sethi, S., Wilder, R. “Overuse injuries: tendinopathies, stress fractures, compartment syndrome, and shin splints.” Clinics In Sports Medicine. 23:3 (2004): 55-81. 

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only. This is not a substitute for a medical appointment. Please refer to your physician before starting any exercise program.

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