How do I Strengthen the Muscles to Prevent Shin Splints?

Woman stretching on a running track
A woman is stretching her legs on a track. (Image: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images)

Shin splints occur when stiff or overworked muscles in the lower leg must move beyond their natural range of motion while you run or perform other high-impact exercise. These muscles begin to pull on the tibia bone, causing the pain along your shin. Strength-training exercises can help you prevent shin splints. Stronger, suppler muscles will be able to handle higher impact exercise and longer runs.

Calves

Strengthen your calf muscles with calf raises. Rise up on your toes and then gradually lower your heels to the ground. Repeat this motion in sets of 10. Hold weights to make the exercise more challenging.

Tibialis Anterior

The tibialis anterior muscle runs along the front of your lower leg. Strengthen this muscle by performing toe lifts. Have a friend hold your feet against the ground and then lift your toes against this resistance. Gradually return your toes to the ground. Repeat this exercise in sets of 10. You can also strengthen the tibialis anterior muscles by drawing the entire alphabet in the air with your toe pointed out. Or sit on a chair and attach a weight, such as a small bucket filled with rocks, to your foot. Lift your foot up and down -- against the resistance -- without bending your knee.

Feet

Strengthen the muscles and tendons in your feet by picking objects up with your toes. Gather a thin towel with your toes or pick up a pair of dice or a few marbles. These exercises also target your Achilles tendon.

Stretching

Supplement your strength-training exercises with regular stretching. Stretching keeps the muscles in your lower leg flexible and less vulnerable to injury. Stretch at least once a day and always stretch before and after exercise. To stretch your upper calf, stand against a wall with one foot close to the wall and one foot behind you. Straighten the back leg and lean into the wall, bending your front knee. To stretch your lower calf, assume the same position but bend your back knee slightly. To stretch your Achilles tendon and lower calf, place the ball of one foot on a step and lean forward, letting your heel drop below the step’s surface. To stretch the muscles at the front of the lower leg, kneel down with your shins and the tops of your feet against the ground. Sit on your heels so that you feel a gentle pull in the muscles along your shins.

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