How to Get Rid Of Shin Splints

Learn what causes shin splints and which exercises can help you get rid of them.

Ben Greenfield
4-minute read
Episode #49
How to get rid of shin splints


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Just about anybody who has ever run for fitness or competition or has participated in any sport (except perhaps bowling) has probably experienced the bane of foot strikers everywhere: shin splints. From mild discomfort on the front of the lower leg, to severe pain with each step, all kinds of shin splints are annoying, inconvenient and in some cases, even debilitating. In this article, you’ll learn how to get rid of shin splints and you’ll get tips on exercises to deal with shins splints and a sample shin splints workout.

What Are Shin Splints?

“Shin splints” is a catch-all term to refer to pain on the front lower leg. The fancy medical terminology for the most common cause of shin splints is “medial tibial stress syndrome”. This syndrome occurs when the leg is repetitively exposed to impact-based stress, which can fatigue the muscles on the back of the leg, and create excessive bending of the tibia bone of the lower leg. When the tibia bends and moves, the tendons and soft tissue along the front of the leg that connect to the tibia can become overused and inflamed, resulting in you grimacing with each step.

A couple other conditions can also cause shin splints:

  1. stress fractures, which are more common in females, and

  2. compartment syndrome, which is caused by pressure building up in the muscle compartments of the lower leg.

What Causes Shin Splints?

There are many causes of shin splints, including:

  • a sharp increase in activity

  • a change to a hard or uneven training or running surface

  • improper or worn-out footwear

  • weak core muscles

  • inflexibility in the muscles of the lower leg, specifically the calves

  • weak muscles in the front of the legs

Because we know what can cause shin splints, it becomes easy to create a list of activities that can actually help get rid of shin splints. Here are some exrcises that can help....

How to Get Rid of Shin Splints

If you have shin splints, a number of exercises or activities can help:

  1. Decrease activity or make sure that you increase your activity gradually rather than all at once. For example, when running, you should never add more than about 10% volume each week.

  2. Run or exercise on softer surfaces. For example, if you run on concrete, which is one of the hardest surfaces you could possibly run on, switch to pavement, or better yet, the gravel or dirt on the side of the road, off-road running trails, or grass.

  3. Choose your footwear wisely. Rather than buying your shoes at a sporting goods store or online, go to a store that specializes in selling running shoes and have them watch you stand, walk and run, and then make shoe recommendations based on your unique body mechanics.

  4. Change worn-out shoes. Running shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles, or every 3-6 months--whichever comes first. If you frequently run on hard surfaces, you’ll need to change your running shoes more frequently.

  5. Train your core. A strong core will allow you to place less stress on your lower limbs with each step. Check out “What Is Your Core,” “How to Get A Flat Stomach,” and “How to Make Your Abs Stronger.”

  6. Stretch your calves. Each day, preferably before you run, do a wall calf stretch, in which you place both hands on the wall and lean into it with one leg outstretched behind you, and a down dog, in which you get into a push-up position, then lift your butt towards the ceiling until you feel a stretch in the back of your legs. You can also do foam rolling exercises for your calf. Stretching the calves is good for both preventing and recovering from shin splints.

  7. Strengthen the front of your legs. One of the best ways to strengthen the front leg muscles is with toe lifts, in which you stand in place and lift the front of your foot off of the floor while keeping your heels on the floor. Try to hold this position for 10 seconds and then slowly lower the front of your foot back to the floor. Try to get 30 of these done, 3 times a day. Once you get to the point where that is easy, you can begin heel walks, in which you walk on your heels with your toes pointed straight ahead, for 3-5 minutes per day.

Ultimately, if you have shin splints that result from medial tibial stress syndrome, you should refrain from any running or lower leg impact for 5-7 days, then start doing the activities above. But if you have a stress fracture or compartment syndrome, you’ll want to meet with a physician to get medical advice for these more serious conditions.

A Shin Splints Workout

Now that you understand shin splints exercises, here is a shin splints workout:

  • Do a 5-10 light warm-up, preferably non-weight bearing, on a bicycle or elliptical trainer. If you’re stuck at home without these items, the warm-up is optional.

  • Do a wall calf stretch for each leg for 30 seconds, and then do 30 seconds of down-dog.

  • Do 25 yards of heel walks, or 30 reps of toe lifts.

  • Repeat the stretches and the heel walks or toe lifts three times through.

  • Finish with 20-30 foam rolls for each calf.

If you have more questions about shin splints, just head over to http://www.facebook.com/getfitguy and ask!

Woman Doing Abdominal Exercises image from Shutterstock

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.