Shinsplints are a common exercise-related condition, where one experiences pain along the inner side of the shinbone. Although typically associated with runners, shinsplints may develop among actively exercising individuals. The pain increases with exercise and may persist hours or days after the session.
If you are experiencing shin pain while running, the first thing you should do, is to avoid running on hard surfaces (tarmac, clay) and reduce your weekly running load. Your focus should be on stretching and strengthening your feet, legs, hip and core for an optimal running pattern.
Here are 6 stretches and exercises you should be doing in order to maximize your running efficiency and reduce you shin splint injuries:
1) Calf Raises with step
This is a good exercise for strengthening the gastrocnemius and soleus. Improving the strength of these muscles will result in improved balance and stability, a reduced risk of both knee and ankle injuries and better agility in your running performance.
Raises your heels above the stepper by pressing into the balls of your toes. Control on descent, slowly lowering back your heels to the starting position. Repeat for 15-20 repetitions for 3 sets.
2) Shin Stretch in Sitting
This is an effective stretch for those tight and overworked shin muscles! You can do this sitting at your desk at work.
Drop your knee to the floor and extend your toe so your foot and leg comes into a straight line as indicated by the yellow line in the diagram.
Gently pull forward while the toe is planted in the ground and hold this position for 20 seconds, repeat it for the opposite foot.
3) Soleus Stretch
Firstly, take a half step forward whilst keeping your bodyweight evenly distributed on both feet. Make sure both feet are parallel to each other.
Next, slowly bend your knees as your body skins to towards the ground. Ensure that both your heels keep in contact with the ground at all times. You should feel a stretch on your back leg. Hold 30 seconds and repeat for the other side.
This stretch targets the deeper soleus muscle and Achilles tendon muscle rather than the gastrocnemius which is a more superficial calf muscle.
4) Dorsiflexion Control
This is a great exercise for training the mobility of the shin muscles, hence lessening the stress caused on the shin bone while running.
Loop the exercise band around the mid-upper part of the foot while long sitting on the floor and attach the other end to a stable attachment.
Slowly turn your foot inwards towards your opposite leg and then return to the starting position slowly, avoiding recoil. Perform 10 repetitions for 3 sets on each leg.
5) Single-hip lunge
This is a great exercise to enhance your glutes activation when running, improve your dynamic balance and take the overall load off your shins!
Start by lightly standing on one leg as shown in the first photo. Step your opposite leg backwards, hinging through your weight-bearing hip and bend your body forward maintaining balance. Hinge back to the starting position as you feel your glutes contract.
Maintain balance throughout the movement, ensuring your balancing foot’s heel and toes remain in contact with the ground at all times.
Repeat for 8 -12 repetitions per set for three sets on each leg.
6) Wall Squat with heel-lift
This exercise trains your calf and quads strength in order for greater running performance.
Begin by sitting back into a wall squat position with your spine flat against the wall and your hips bent parallel to the floor. Slowly raise your heels off the ground by pushing off the ground with the balls of your feet. Lower your heels back slowly towards to ground ensuring they do not drop but descend slowly.
Perform 8-12 repetitions for three sets.
These few combinations of exercises and stretches will put you one step ahead into improving your running dynamics and reduce your chances of getting shin splints. Shin splints are a condition which may hinder many athletes running progress but ensuring you develop the optimal muscles and reducing the tension off your shins whilst running can greatly reduce the risk.
Wayne Wilbur Chong Zhi
Physiotherapist of Your Physio