Exercises for Shin Splints

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What Are Shin Splints?

Shin splints are a common problem for many people, especially runners and joggers. Thankfully, if you suffer from shin splints, there are exercises you can do to help ease the pain and prevent future problems. Here are nine exercises -- with photos -- to help you.

The exercises shown are for stretching and strengthening the lower leg muscles. There is no answer yet for the cause of shin splints, but you can learn more by readingĀ Shin Splints: Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome.

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1. Seated Ankle Dorsiflexion and Calf Stretch

Seated ankle dorsiflexion and calf stretch using a rope. Photo © Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M

Sit on the floor with your knees straight. Loop a rope or towel around the front of your foot and gently pull back. Move your foot up toward your shin (dorsiflexion) and hold for 10 seconds. Then move your foot down toward the floor (plantarflexion). Keep your legs flat on the floor, motion should only be at your ankle joints. Start with three sets of 10 exercises and then increase to three sets of 30 exercises. Do this three times per day.

Once you have mastered the stretch, now it is time to strengthen by using a resistance band. Perform the same movements, but loop a resistance band around the front of your foot and the other end of the band around a table or chair leg. Do three sets of 10 exercises and then increase to three sets of 30 exercises. Do this three times per day.

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2. Bent Knee Ankle Dorsiflexion and Calf Stretch

Knee Bent Ankle Dorsiflexion. Photo © Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M.

Sit on a bench or table with your knees bent and your legs hanging off the side. Bend your foot up toward your shin (dorsiflexion) and hold for 10 seconds, then lower your foot by pointing your toes back toward the floor (plantarflexion). Start with three sets of 10 exercises and then increase to three sets of 30 exercises. Do this three times per day.

Once you have mastered the stretch, move on to the strengthening exercise. Keep the same position as before, but now you want to add a weight to your foot. Raise and lower your foot with motion only at the ankle joint. Try not to have any motion at your knees. Start with three sets of 10 exercises and then increase to three sets of 30 exercises. Do this three times per day.

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3. Toe Walking - Stretching and Strengthening

Standing and rising onto toes. Photo © Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M.

Begin by standing in place and rising up onto your toes with your heels off of the floor. Try to hold the position for 10 seconds and slowly lower your heels back to the floor. Start with 3 sets of 10 exercises and then increase to 3 sets of 30 exercises. Do this 3 times per day.

Once you have mastered standing in one place, start walking on your toes. Start with your toes pointed straight ahead, walk about 25 yards. Next, point your toes inward and walk 25 yards. Finish by pointing your toes outward and walk 25 yards. Remember to keep your heels off of the floor. Start with 3 sets of 10 exercises and then increase to 3 sets of 30 exercises. Do this 3 times per day.

After you have mastered walking on your toes, you can progress to high-impact exercises like jogging or skipping. Be sure to do them on soft grass.

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4. Heel Walking - Stretching and Strengthening

Heel Walking. Photo © Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M.

Begin by standing in place and lifting the front of your foot off of the floor and keeping your heels on the floor. Try to hold the position for 10 seconds and then slowly lower the front of your foot back to the floor. Start with 3 sets of 10 exercises and then increase to 3 sets of 30 exercises. Do this 3 times per day.

Once you have mastered standing in one place, start walking on your heels. Start with your toes pointed straight ahead, walk about 25 yards. Next, point your toes inward and walk 25 yards. Finish by pointing your toes outward and walk 25 yards. Remember to keep the front of your foot off of the floor. Start with three sets of 10 exercises and then increase to three sets of 30 exercises. Do this three times per day.

After you have mastered walking on your heels, you can progress to high-impact exercises like jogging or skipping. Be sure to do these exercises on soft grass.

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5. Standing Ankle Dorisflexion Stretch

Standing ankle dorsiflexion stretch against wall. Photo © Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M.

Stand facing a wall, keep your knee straight and your heel on the floor and place the front bottom part of your foot against the wall. You will feel a stretch in your calf muscles. You could also use an inclined platform for this stretch. Start with three sets of 10 exercises and then increase to three sets of 30 exercises. Do this three times per day.

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6. Straight Knee Calf Wall Stretch

Straight knee calf muscle stretch against wall. Photo © Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M.

Stand facing a wall with your body square to the wall. Outstretch your arms and hands and lean against the wall. Keep one knee straight with your heel and foot firmly on the floor and gently lean forward until you feel a pull in the back of your leg (calf). When your knee is straight, this stretches the gastrocnemius (superficial calf muscle). Start with three sets of 10 exercises and then increase to three sets of 30 exercises. Do this three times per day.

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7. Bent Knee Calf Wall Stretch

Bent knee wall stretch for the soleus muscle. Photo © Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M.

Stand facing a wall with your body square to the wall. Outstretch your arms and hands and lean against the wall. Keep one knee bent with your heel and foot firmly on the floor and gently lean forward until you feel a pull in the back of your leg (calf). When your knee is bent, this stretches the soleus (deep calf muscle). Start with three sets of 10 exercises and then increase to three sets of 30 exercises. Do this three times per day.

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8. Wall Toe Raises - Strengthening

Exercise to help strengthen muscles in front of lower legs. Photo © Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M.

Stand with your back against a wall, keep your heels on the floor and raise the front of your foot up (dorsiflexion) toward the front of your lower leg (shin). Hold that position for 10 seconds and then lower your foot back down so that it almost touches the floor, then begin the next exercise. Start with three sets of 10 exercises and then increase to three sets of 30 exercises. Do this three times per day.

Once you have mastered doing the exercise with both feet at the same time, start to do the exercise one leg at a time. Another variation to try is to do quick up and downs of the foot. Remember to keep your heel firmly planted on the floor. Start with three sets of 10 exercises and then increase to three sets of 30 exercises. Do this three times per day.

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9. Foot Step Holds - Strengthening

Stepping forward with heel striking the floor, but the front of the foot is held up and does not touch the floor. Photo © Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M.

Stand comfortably with your feet shoulder width apart. Take a normal sized step forward with one leg and let your heel touch the floor, but before the front, bottom part of your foot touches the floor you need to stop. Do not let the front part of your foot hit the floor. Step back so your feet are side by side and shoulder width apart like when you started. This exercise helps strengthen the muscles in the front of your lower legs. Start with three sets of 10 exercises and then increase to three sets of 30 exercises. Do this three times per day.

Once you have mastered a normal size step, take a much larger step forward. If that become easy, you can progress to using a step stool. You stand with both feet on the step stool and with one foot you step down off the stool, your heel should touch the floor, but you should stop before the front of your foot touches the floor. Start with three sets of 10 exercises and then increase to three sets of 30 exercises. Do this 3 times per day.

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