3 STRETCHES AND EXERCISES: TREAT AND HEAL SHIN SPLINTS
You want to get off to a flying start and hit the road full of energy and motivation. But right from the start you feel pain running up the inside of your lower leg. Most of the time, the pain goes away while you are running. But frequently the pain lasts for several days and makes it difficult to keep training. “These symptoms are a sign of medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), or what is known as shin splints. Nearly a quarter of all interruptions in training can be traced back to this overloading syndrome. The pain usually builds up for weeks and in severe cases, can make running virtually impossible,” explains running expert and coach Sascha Wingenfeld.
- The following three exercises help prevent shin splints
- 5 tips to recover from shin splints
- Where does the pain come from?
- How to (safely) return to exercise after shin splints
The following three exercises help prevent shin splints
These exercises and stretches will help heal shin splints and decrease the likelihood of them happening to you again.
1. Heel-to-toe raise:
3×30 repetitions per day
Rock back on your heels and pull your toes up. Bend your knees and roll forward up onto the tips of your toes. Focus on a smooth transition from heel to toe.
Stretching and strengthening the shin muscles will help prevent shin splints from keeping you from exercising.
2. Foot rolling:
About 2-3 minutes per day
Raise your heel and rest your forefoot and toes on the ball in a relaxed position. Try to slowly stretch your joints as you roll the ball of your foot from left to right starting from your big toe.
Slowly roll the sole of your foot down the ball and increase the pressure on sensitive spots for about 60 seconds.
Benefits: Reduces tension in foot muscles to relieve pain from shin splints. Foot rolling for a few minutes every day is an excellent exercise to keep shin splints from reoccurring. Plus, it feels amazing on your feet—bonus!
3. Foot and lower leg strengthening:
3×30 repetitions per day
Wrap a resistance band around your forefoot and push your ankle down as far as you can. Make sure to extend your foot all the way through your big toe and try to get as much power out of your foot muscles as possible.
Strong foot and shinbone muscles are less likely to be injured. They will also help you run further and more often without pain in your shins.
5 tips to recover from shin splints
Act quick once you start to feel pain. Ignoring shin splints will make them worse. They can even limit or even stop your running training for months. This kind of overuse injury is often the result of a combination of different factors in your training program and running technique.
The following five tips can help you identify the source of the problem and get you running pain-free again:
Tip 1: Recovery from shin splints means rest
Pain is a sign that your body needs rest. Short and very easy runs are fine if your shin pain is not severe. The only thing that can help stop severe pain is to take a few days off from running. You must give the affected muscles time to recover since this is an overuse injury.
Tip 2: Use your break for something new
Just because shin splints have forced you to interrupt your training doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising. Low-impact sports are a great way to not only recover from injury, but come back stronger than ever. Swimming, aqua jogging, cycling or inline skating offer a welcome change of pace. The Runtastic Training app has workouts to help you build muscle in neglected areas too, which is good when you can’t run anyway.
Tip 3: Focus on running technique
Shin splints are a sign that you should work on improving your running technique. Maintaining ground contact too long under the full weight of your body can overload your foot and lower leg. Likewise, if your foot lands too far in front of your body (overstriding). These specific running drills can help you avoid shin splints when you are healed enough to get back to exercising.
Tip 4: Strengthen your feet
Shin splints often affect people that lack foot stability. Overpronation (excessive inward roll of your foot after landing) puts tremendous stress on the muscles of your feet. Choose running shoes with the proper support for your foot to compensate for any potential weak spots.
Tip 5: Take care of your body
After the pain from shin splints subsides, calf and foot stretching and strengthening exercises can help you stay pain-free. You should perform these before and after your run. These exercises help to warm up the muscles that keep your foot stable when you run. Running barefoot is also an excellent way to improve foot strength, but be careful.
Where does the pain come from?
Your leg hurts where your calf muscles connect to your shinbone. In technical terms, the pain occurs at the insertion point where the tibialis posterior and soleus muscles attach to the shinbone via the periosteum, or outer surface of the bone. These muscles are responsible for maintaining proper tension in the arch of the foot—essential for running.
The muscle cells around your shins can harden if they become irritated and overworked. This causes radiating pain in your lower leg. This is why it so difficult to describe and pinpoint the source of lower leg pain.
How to (safely) return to exercise after shin splints
Rethink your training (and cut back)
Shin splints tend to occur when you rapidly increase running intensity and/or volume. Focus on recovery best practices especially after long runs and hard workouts. Don’t ramp up training too much for too long. Better yet, follow a training plan tailored to you that balances fitness gains with appropriate recovery.
Change your route
The greatest impact on your body comes from running downhill. Without proper form, the foot tends to land too far in front of the knee (overstriding), which puts a lot of strain on your muscles. This is why you should choose a level surface to run on when your shin splints are particularly bad.
Start slowly and carefully
Return to exercise and training only when the pain from shin splints has faded. Follow a professionally structured training plan tailored to your fitness needs and goals. Incorporate stretches for shin splints and strengthen neglected muscles. You only have one body—take care of it, and it will take care of you.