I'm going to assume that you haven't found this blog post purely out of interest. You're totally fed up and need to know how to get rid of shin splints, don't you? Sick to death of having your exercise routines cut short and have finally decided it's time to find a solution. Thinking of alleviating the pain through some specialized shin splint stretches?
Well that's the whole reason I have dedicated an entire post to doing shin splint stretches THE RIGHT WAY. Because if you get stuck into stretching without considering some very important factors, you're bound to be cursed with shin splints for a lot longer yet.
But here's the good news! Most of the time shin splints can be easily avoided! Just follow some basic principles when it comes to preparing your body for exercise.
And after implementing the 4 steps outlined in this post, you'll be armed and ready. You'll avoid a few simple, yet critical mistakes and be back on the road to pain free running.
Shin Splints Treatment = Magic Shin Splint Stretches?
Now I know you're probably expecting to find some specific stretch to make the pain disappear.
And I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but...
There is no “magic” stretch or exercise... that will cure your shin splints in some ridiculous time frame as so called "experts" may seem to promise.
Further to this, I suggest you take your own counsel. Unless the person offering you advice on shin splints is an expert on the subject, don't listen to them. This especially includes friends and family. Although we know that they really mean well...
Is your health really worth putting in the hands of an amateur?
Here's the cold hard truth:
Never stretch if you think you’re carrying an injury!
This is one of the biggest misconceptions out there when it comes to shin splint stretches. Certainly, there are a lot of great stretches and exercises that prevent shin splints. However the only outcome you’ll achieve by stretching or working an injured muscle is to make it worse.
So if this is you, its time to stop looking for shortcuts and commit to doing it the right way. It’s critical that you first apply correct treatment methods and rehabilitate your injury before beginning any stretching or strengthening routine. Otherwise your time on the sidelines will increase considerably.
Moreover, shin splints is one of those relentless injuries that can just keep coming back time and time again. They have the ability to take control of your life by taking away your freedom to exercise.
There are many factors involved as to why you may be suffering from shin splints. Today we’re going to eliminate one of the most common and completely unnecessary causes of shin splints.
Conditioning With Shin Splint Stretches
All it comes down to is adequately conditioning yourself for the level of activity you are about to engage in. It’s that simple and sadly, a lot people just can’t be bothered with it.
To ensure you avoid this category, I’ve created a 4-step process to shin splint stretches you can follow. Giving you the best opportunity to live a healthy and happy lifestyle and avoid shin splints.
If you are currently suffering from shin splints, or have done in the past you need to follow this process. Stop shin splints from holding you back and get back to that feeling of freedom and pain free running.
Shin Splint Stretches - Step #1: Recovery & Rehabilitation
The worst thing you could possibly do is to run through the pain. Continuing to stretch your injured muscles isn't doing you any good either. If you think you’ll eventually get through it, expect to be in for a nasty surprise.
More than likely you’ll end up with a severe injury or even a tibial stress fracture.
So make sure that you’re fully recovered before getting started with a strengthening routine. Check out my article 16 Killer Tips To Rapid Shin Splints Treatment! to get a full rundown on how to fast track your recovery.
Shin Splint Stretches - Step #2: Build Strength & Flexibility
Now that your muscles and tendons have fully healed, it’s time to start building them up. You want them to be conditioned for your desired level of activity.
At this stage most people are worried about what stretches to do. But first we need to create a foundation to build from ensuring you're getting it right from the beginning.
The important thing to remember when doing your strengthening routine is to separate it from your exercise.
So if you like to go running in the morning, then it would be smart to do your strengthening exercises in the afternoon. Or even later on in the evening, after your body has had time to recover.
Furthermore, you should understand the difference between a pre-exercise shin splints stretches routine and a separate strengthening routine.
Of course both are essential, however just don't do them together (unless you’re not exercising immediately afterwards). This is where too many people are getting it wrong when starting out.
Never do a strengthening routine before exercise!
By combining the two and doing strengthening exercises before running, your muscles will be fatigued before you even start. This will rapidly increase your risk of getting shin splints. Because your legs will need to compensate for the lack of support from your fatigued primary lower leg muscles.
The truth is this:
When your doing your strengthening exercises, you’re breaking down your muscle fibers. Then they need time in order to heal and rebuild stronger than before.
Running immediately after you’ve temporarily broken down the fine fibers in your muscle tissue is a bad idea. You can now see how you are seriously exposing yourself to injury.
Get Flexible With Shin Splint Stretches!
This brings me to another common issue. Most people that haven’t exercised for a long time wouldn’t believe how inflexible and tight their calves have become.
To be able to walk properly without any risk of injury you need to have some mobility in your ankles. You must be able to achieve around 15 degrees of dorsiflexion when raising the toes from the ground.
The required angle is increased further when walking quickly, and increased even more when running.
So if your calves are so tight that this isn’t possible, then your legs will compensate. They will use movements at other joints such as your knee or forefoot.
This in-turn, can cause excessive pronation of your ankles, excessive rotation at your knee and excessive hind foot inversion. Prolonged activity with this type of poor stability and balance almost always ends in shin splints.
With all this in mind, I truly believe that it’s necessary to have a sound understanding of shin splint stretches. More importantly, you need to know what's actually happening when performing certain stretches.
The major problem I had with the abundance of information available was that there's just too much focus on generic stretches. Without delving into the actual point or benefits of those stretches. This made it hard to stay committed to doing them for long enough to see any real results, because...
It's difficult to believe something will help when you don't really understand it.
What really helped me figure out how to get rid of shin splints was to understand how the legs work. Particularly how they’re used in the process of walking and running.
So for your benefit, lets quickly debrief on the three muscles you need to pay particular attention to.
The Gastrocnemius - better known as the upper calf muscle, works in combination with your hamstring to help drive you forward when running.
Its main function is for plantar flexion of your foot (toes pointing down) as it hits the ground. It mainly serves to return force rather than generate it. In other words, when your foot first makes contact with the ground, your ankle goes into dorsiflexion (toes pointing up) until your calves contract to stabilize the joint (plantar flexion).
Although this happens in an instant, the energy of impact is stored in the muscle and tendon. Then literally released via elastic recoil, allowing you to push forward.
Shin splint stretches that target the Gastrocnemius include the standing calf stretch, wall calf stretch, heel drop stretch and the downward dog yoga stretch.
Some exercises that work the Gastrocnemius include heel drops, standing calf raises and toe walking.
The Soleus muscles make up the rest of your calf. They are used predominantly to flex your toes down when your knee is bent (such as braking and accelerating while driving).
The gastrocnemius will be used more as you start to straighten your leg. Walking and running are made up of movements that require repeated flexing of the Soleus. Particularly as you contract and release the muscle on every stride.
The more you run on your toes, the more you will engage the Soleus over the Gastrocnemius. The Soleus also plays a vital role in your ability to stand up. Without the constant pull on the Soleus, you would literally fall forward.
Shin splint stretches that target the Soleus include the standing Soleus stretch, seated Soleus stretch and the heel drop Soleus stretch.
Some exercises that work the Soleus include seated calf raises, bent knee standing calf raises and bent knee toe walking. The latter two also work the quadriceps quite hard, so the your first choice should be seated calf raises.
The Tibialis Anterior muscle is located on the outside portion of your lower leg adjacent to the tibia (shin bone). It extends from the outer part of the tibia, crosses over to the inside of your ankle and joins in with your tendon connecting your big toe.
The main function of the Tibialis Anterior is dorsiflexion of your foot by pulling your toes up towards your shin. This is critical in the motion of walking and running. It keeps you centered and prevents you from tripping over your own toes!
The Tibialis Anterior is also used to perform the function of inverting your foot by turning your ankle inwards. This motion helps balance your body during running or walking. And is especially important when standing on one foot.
Shin splint stretches that target the Anterior Tibialis include the kneeling TA stretch and the standing TA stretch.
The problem with stretching the Tibialis Anterior is that you can’t completely stretch the full meaty part of the muscle. This is due to the construction of your ankle, no matter how far you pull back your toes.
The best way to get to the rest of the muscle is through gentle massage starting from just below the kneecap and working down the shin.
Some exercises that work the Tibialis Anterior include seated shin resistance pulls, standing wall toe ups, standing toe curls and heel walking.
Something to remember is that these muscles are notorious for shortening over time without use. So if you haven’t exercised in awhile and jump straight into running without stretching, lookout. You are likely to feel the consequences of that in the form of shin splints.
This is because your legs will compensate due to a lack of strength and flexibility in any of these muscles. This in-turn will contribute heavily towards shin splints.
Other muscle groups that you need to consider when stretching and exercising are your quadriceps, hip flexors and your glutes. These muscles are important for developing a powerful running technique, which will also help you avoid shin splints.
So with this in mind, incorporate 2-3 of the above-mentioned shin splint stretches and exercises for each muscle into your strengthening and flexibility program.
Shin Splint Stretches - Step #3: Warm Up & Cool Down
Far too often warming up and cooling down is underrated. The benefits of spending the time to get yourself ready for activity are enormous. Especially when it comes to avoiding injury.
But not only that, you’ll clearly begin to notice your performance improve as well. The intensity required for the activity you’re about to engage in will determine how long you should spend warming up.
One of the most common mistakes new athletes tend to make when exercising is simply glossing over the warm up phase. Excited to get started with a new fitness routine, they’ll wake up at the dawn of light, do a few stretches (if any) then take off… Only to find out not long after, what it feels like to suffer from shin splints.
The sad thing is, this even happens to experienced runners occasionally. Normally as a bit of complacency kicks in, often due to a lack of motivation. This brings me to an important point:
Stretching is not the warm up!
You would be amazed at how many people are doing this backwards. Stretching cold muscles is just asking for trouble.
Firstly, you must warm up your muscles and elevate your heart rate to allow for better blood flow before stretching. Simply engage in a quick low intensity warm up before doing any type of stretching.
This could include something as basic as jogging on the spot for a minute. Quick half squats for a minute and even a minute of small star jumps!
The idea is to gently get the muscles ready to be stretched. This happens by increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles being worked. Spending 5 minutes doing this will enable you to follow up with a safer and more comprehensive stretching routine.
Also, remember that when you stretch, you’re actually temporarily lengthening the muscles and tendons. Doing this cold can open yourself up to injury before you’ve even started exercising.
The Cool down...
Cooling down is just as important as warming up. Cooling down should always be done after exercise to bring your body back to pre-activity levels gradually.
This will avoid blood pooling in your larger muscle groups from a sudden stop of activity. Mainly due to your increased heart rate by allowing your muscles to continue to circulate the blood through your system.
You will slowly remove lactic acid caused from vigorous activity. You’ll also allow your muscles and tendons to retract back to their usual length slowly.
This will help you reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Better know as the agonizing aches in your muscles 2-3 days after exercise.
By reducing the impact of DOMS, you can get back to your next exercise session sooner.
There is one major obstacle however - allowing ourselves the time to do it!
Being busy humans, sometimes it can be frustrating spending precious time on a task that seemingly offers little benefit. But if you’re serious about dramatically reducing your risk of getting shin splints, including a minimum 5-10 minute warm up and cool down into your exercise routine is non-negotiable.
Once you see that forming this new habit won't take long, you’ll soon forget that feeling of wasting time. Especially when you begin to notice the positive impact it’s having on your body.
Shin Splint Stretches - Step #4: Adequate Rest
Last but not least, you need to make sure you’re giving yourself plenty of time to rest and recover.
This is especially true when you’re first starting out. Because its easy to get caught up in the excitement of starting a new fitness routine and feel the need to exercise everyday.
Not only is this unsustainable from a motivational viewpoint, you’ll end up burning out relatively quickly as your body starts calling the shots.
Balance is the key when it comes to a good exercise routine. And by taking rest days in-between strenuous activity you’ll radically reduce your risk of getting shin splints.
A common mistake when it comes to running and sport is people pushing their bodies beyond their current physical conditioning. Mainly without first putting in some groundwork to prepare for the increase in intensity.
If you want to dial things up, you need to actually understand where you’re at in regards to your own level of fitness. Because you need to give your body sufficient warning and preparation.
You can do this by increasing the intensity gradually. While also doing some strengthening exercises and shin splint stretches. But most importantly, with adequate rest days in-between.
If you are truly determined to eliminate your shin splints permanently then you’ll need to integrate a strengthening and flexibility program into your exercise routine. Without it, you will always run the risk of overdoing it in one way or another.
It may seem tedious to begin with but if you keep at it, then it will become habit. You’ll soon be forever thanking yourself as you start to see the results in the way of powerful and pain free running!
I’ve personally had incredible results from implementing the methods mentioned in this article. I continue to use them on a regular basis as a strength and flexibility maintenance program to keep those nasty shin splints where they belong – dead and buried!
In fact, I've created a guide to Shin Splint Stretches & Exercises which includes 25 stretches and exercises that you can use to build strong powerful and flexible legs. Normally valued at $17, you can get your copy for FREE by entering your name and email in the form below.
Now go set up a routine, pump yourself up and stay committed!
To Your Happy & Healthy Future…
Transform Your Legs Into Powerful Workhorses! Get Your FREE Copy Today! (Value $17)
Discover 25 Stretches & Exercises That You Can Implement To Pave Your Way Back To Pain Free Running!
- Enhance Your Endurance.
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