Shin splints! What a painful injury.
For those of you looking for some gym exercises that can help you ward off shin splints when running then this article is for you. I’m gonna share with you some of the best preventative lower body exercises that can not only help you prevent shin splints, but also increase your running performance.
Image Credit – Pamela Rubin through Flickr
What’s a Shin Splint Injury?
Whether you are a new comer to running, or a seasoned marathoner ramping up mileage/intensity for your next race, shin splints can really hinder your training. In fact, nothing can slow you as a runner like the nagging pain of shin splints.
Technically known as Tibial Stress Syndrome or MTSS, shin splints is the broad term usually used to describe pain along the front portion of the lower leg whether it’s referred to as anterior shin splints—or pain on the front outside part of the leg—or medial shin splints—pain on the inside of the leg.
These are some of the most common injuries among runners, and other athletes, like dancers and gymnasts.
Shin Splints Symptoms
The major sign of shin splint is a burning lower-leg pain that can hinder your running and keep you off training. The shins may ache, throb after your runs, or just when galloping to catch the bus. The pain is usually felt along the shinbone or behind it
Shin splints—when ignored—can quickly become of the most debilitating running-related injuries that will compromise your training and sideline you for weeks, even months. In fact, a study found that it takes on average, roughly 70 days to rehab severe shin splints.
Shin Splints Causes
Here are the main causes of shin splints:
- Beginner runners are more prone to suffer from shin splints if they push too much too soon—failing to build mileage and/or intensity slowly and gradually and over time.
- Even if you are a regular runner, you can still encounter shin splints when either increasing your mileage (too early), or when adding speedwork (think sprints, Fartleks and hill reps) to your routine.
- You can also get them by changing the surface you run on—like shifting from a dirt path to asphalt, or from running on flat surface to hills.
- Runners with flat feet are also more likely to develop shin splints.
- Improper running shoes and bad form can also lead the condition.
In other words, the root cause of shin splints can be captured in four words: too much, too soon
Shin Splints and Other Sports
Athletes involved in sports that entail a lot of running and jumping, including football, volleyball and so on, as well as sports with a lot of sudden starts and stops, like tennis or basketball, are more vulnerable to shin splints.
So no one is safe from shin splints 100 percent.
Image Credit – Pamela Rubin through Flickr
5 Exercises to Prevent Shin Splints While Running
The shins are a group of muscles and bones that make up the front lower part of the leg. The tibialis anterior, the most well known muscle in the shin region, is in charge of dorsiflexing and inverting the foot. See Picture
The good news is that strengthening these shin muscles and the muscles that support your lower legs—especially the calves and the muscles of the feet— can help you prevent shin splints.
Do at least two to three sets of 12 to 15 reps on a regular basis after a run or as a part of your weight training routine. Just don’t do them before you head out of the door.
1. Toe Curls
This exercise is an ideal foot strength building exercise. Do the exercise with the proper form (as shown in the video and form tips) and you will add stability and support to the arches of your feet, and boost overall foot strength.
You will need an exercise band or small towel for this exercise.
Begin by standing feet hip-width apart with the towel or band placed under one foot. Next, while keeping your legs and feet parallel to each other with toes pointing forward, gather the towel and slowly pull it toward you using only your toes. For more challenge, you can put a weight on the end of the towel.
Last up, lower it down to starting position and repeat on the other side.
2. Wall Shin Raises
This is the recommended Achilles stretch that can help you prevent and beat shin splints, according the Stretching institute.
Stand upright with your back and shoulders against the wall; feet shoulder width apart and roughly one foot in front of the wall.
Next, extend your toes as high off the ground as you can while shifting most of your weight onto your heels, hold it for a moment, feeling the contraction in your shins, then release and slowly lower your toes until they almost touch the floor, then flex them up again for the next repetition
3. Heel Drop
This is an eccentric move that places the emphasis on the downward segment so that the calf muscle must contract as they lengthen to control dorsiflexion, which is flexion of the foot in an upward direction.
Begin by standing with the balls of your feet on the edge of a step. Next, shift your weight to your right leg on tip toes with knee straight, take your left foot off the step and slowly lower your right heel down below the level of the step.
Last up, return to starting position and repeat with other leg.
4. Heel and Toe Walking
Along with strengthening most of the lower leg muscles, this exercise is also good for improving balance, coordination, and proprioception.
Start by positioning the heel of the right foot just in front of the toes of the left foot, heel and toes almost touching.
Next, while gazing at a fixed spot ahead of you to keep your balance, take a step, and put your heel just in front of the toe of your right foot. Walk with an exaggerated ankle movement from the heel raising up high on the toes.
Walk slowly across the floor.
5. Calf Raises
Adding strength to your calves, the largest muscle group in the lower leg, can help you stabilize the tibia promote more stability in the lower leg area. Strong calves are also key for speed and proper running form.
Begin by standing with the feet shoulder width apart, knees straight, and holding to a chair or wall for balance. Next, raise up on the ball of your feet as high as you can, pause for a moment, then slowly lower down to the floor.
For more challenge, you can always do single-leg calf raises or choose to do the exercise on stairs with heels hanging off.
Featured Image Credit – Pamela Rubin through Flickr