Have you started working on your new year fitness resolution only to find yourself in pain from shin splints? Have you tried a walking or running routine and now can’t seem to take a step without pain shooting up your lower leg? Shin splints are painful, but can be resolved or avoided all together.
If you are beginning a new walking or running routine and you have been mostly sedentary up to this point, begin by stretching and strengthening your legs to avoid the painful shin splints. You should do these stretching/strengthening exercises throughout the day, not just right before your walk or run. The stretching/strengthening needs to take place from your toes all the way up your legs, not just in the shin area.
Toe exercises. Place a washcloth on the floor and stand with one foot on top of the washcloth. Use your toes in that foot to grab the top part of the washcloth and move it toward your foot, then away from your foot. You are essentially moving your toes backward and forward while remaining on top of the washcloth on the floor. Repeat about 10 times on each foot.
Heel drops. Stand with both feet on one stair facing toward the stairs going upward. Stay on that same stair, but take one foot and place it further back so the foot is halfway off of the stair, do heel drops by lowering your heel a bit, going up and down for 10-15 times. Repeat with the other foot.
Calf raises. Stand with your feet facing forward at about shoulder distance apart. Raise up on your toes accentuating the arch in your foot and hold for a second or two then lower back down to feet flat. Repeat about 10 times.
Point and flex. Stand flat facing forward (again at about shoulder distance apart). Raise one leg, point and flex your foot on the raised leg while maintaining balance on the opposite leg. Repeat 10-15 times with each leg.
Toe Raises. Walk on your heels with toes raised for about one to two minutes. For another variation of this exercise, sit upright in a chair with your legs bent at 90 degrees. With your feet flat on the floor, keep your heels in contact with ground and raise your toes/forefoot as high as you can – hold for 2 seconds and repeat 20-30 times.
If you do the above exercises during the day to stretch and strengthen your muscles, then when it is time for your walk or run, you should feel strong and ready to go.
If you are already experiencing shin splints, then you have other steps to take:
Limit your walking or running. You may need to limit exercise that is too painful to your shins for a few days, or weeks if your shins are in severe pain. Listen to your body.
Use ice on your shins. Icing your shins may help ease the pain and reduce inflammation. Ten minutes per day per leg should help.
Evaluate your shoes. Are you walking or running in older shoes that may have lost the support needed for your increased amount of exercise? Do your shoes offer you the proper arch support for your type of foot and running pattern?
Have you taken the time to strengthen your leg muscles before jumping into an exercise routine? Once the pain has subsided, you should begin by doing the leg strengthening exercises outlined above to prepare your legs for your new exercise routine.
Peak Physical Therapy can help you avoid shin splints as well as help you recover from shin splints if you already have them. Our skilled physical therapists can assess your leg strength and help you prepare for a new exercise routine. Or we can help alleviate your pain or discomfort and then devise a plan to build strength, improve range of motion, and regain mobility.
Don’t let shin splints stop you from exercising! Increase strength in your legs, gain confidence in your ability, and feel better! Through physical therapy, you will get a longterm solution to put you on the path to a healthier you.
Please call us to schedule an appointment: 918-876-3898. We offer prompt scheduling for initial appointments and we have extended clinic hours to accommodate busy schedules.