Shin splints are the bane of many active individuals, particularly runners. Medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, this common condition causes pain along the inside of your shin bone (tibia) due to stress and swelling in the bone and surrounding muscles and tendons, often during and after exercise.
Shin splints usually occur in response to a sudden increase or shift in your training routine—say dramatically increasing your mileage or changing sports or surfaces. And they can cause a lot of down time, too: full recovery might take 2-3 months. Fortunately, there are a few stretches you can try that may help you prevent shin splints if you’re prone to them:
- Heel raises. Stand with your feet slightly apart, then slowly raise your heels off the floor without bending your knees. Hold for about 10 seconds, then slowly lower yourself to the starting position. If you need support, touch a wall or grab the back of a sturdy chair.
- Heel drops. Stand on the edge of a step on the balls of your feet, your heels hanging over the edge. Slowly lower them until you feel a good stretch in your calves. Hold about 10 seconds, then slowly return.
- Standing calf stretch. Facing a wall, step forward with one leg, leaving the back foot flat on the floor and the back knee straight. Again, you should feel the stretch in your calf. Hold, then switch legs.
- Toe curls. From a seated position, place a medium-sized towel on the floor in front of you. Grasp the towel with your toes and gently pull it toward you, then push it back.
Stretching is only one part of your shin splint prevention program. The right pair of athletic shoes is another essential component. You should also remember to always work up slowly toward new activities or new speed and distance goals. Depending on your gait and foot shape you may benefit from further preventative measures, such as custom orthotics.
We don’t want you stuck on the sidelines with painful shin splints. If this painful, frustrating condition is keeping you from doing what you love, call Martin Foot & Ankle at (717) 757-3537. Our team of podiatrists and physical therapists are here to help you get back on your feet as quickly as possible!