4 Exercises to Prevent Shin Splints

STACK Expert Robert Taylor discusses the causes of shin splints and offers four exercises that can help prevent them.

Athletes often have a "more is better" mindset. Yes, it's important to train on a regular basis, but overdoing it can come back to bite you, especially if your body is unprepared.

A common sign of overtraining is shin splints. Although they can be caused by poor technique or improper footwear, the most common cause is overtraining. The pain on the front of your shins can range from mildly uncomfortable to completely debilitating. Think of it as your body's way of telling you that you need to recover, then address your weaknesses.

Make time to strengthen the front of your shins with ankle and foot exercises. Perform the following exercises during your dynamic warm-up two or three times per week to prevent this annoying injury and reduce the chance of a more severe injury in the future. (See also 4 common running form mistakes.)

Seated Rope Calf Stretch

  • Sit on the ground with your legs straight.
  • Loop a band, towel or rope around the bottom of one foot.
  • Gently pull back on the band to apply tension.
  • Pull your foot toward your shin (dorsiflexion), then relax.
  • Push your foot down as if you were pointing your toes (plantar flexion), then relax.
  • Keep your legs flat on the floor and move only your ankle.
  • Repeat for specified reps and perform with your opposite leg.

Sets/Duration: 1-2x30 seconds each (daily)

Wall Toe Raises

  • Stand with your head, back, butt and heels against a wall.
  • Raise the front of your feet off the ground, attempting to touch your shins with your toes.
  • Keep your heels on the ground.
  • Hold this position for two counts.
  • Lower the front of your feet until they are just above the floor, and perform the next rep.

Sets/Reps: 2x20 (3 to 4 times per week)

Foot Pumps

  • Find a stair, curb or low platform. If using a stair, turn so you're facing down the stairs.
  • Move your feet forward until just your heels are on the stair, with the rest of your feet hanging off.
  • Hold a wall or railing for balance.
  • With your legs straight, point your toes down as far as you can, then lift them up as far as you can.
  • Without pausing, bend your knees as if you were sitting on a box.
  • Repeat the toe-pointing sequence.

Sets/Reps: 2x20 (3 to 4 times per week)

Heel Walks

  • Stand and lift the front of your feet off the ground
  • Keep your heels on the ground.
  • Walk forward with only your heels touching the ground.
  • Try pointing your toes straight, in and out, when walking.

Sets/Duration: 1x30 seconds (3 to 4 times per week). Progress to 2 minutes.

(Also, try the Eccentric Calf Raise.)

Watch this video from SMARTER Team Training for more info on shin splints:

Editor's Note: Coach Taylor has developed the SMARTER Team Training Audio Interview Series, dedicated to promoting critical thinking, reason and public understanding of prudent, purposeful and productive strength and conditioning practices for clients and athletes. Listen to episodes featuring some of the best experts in the fields of strength and conditioning, personal training, sports nutrition and sport psychology here.

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