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Shin Pain (Shin Splints) Exercises

You can start doing all of these exercises right away.

  • Towel stretch: Sit on a hard surface with your injured leg stretched out in front of you. Loop a towel around your toes and the ball of your foot and pull the towel toward your body keeping your leg straight. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat 3 times.

    When you don't feel much of a stretch using the towel, do the standing calf stretch instead.

  • Standing calf stretch: Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall at about eye level. Keep your injured leg back with your heel on the floor. Keep the other leg forward with the knee bent. Turn your back foot slightly inward (as if you were pigeon-toed). Slowly lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat 3 times. Do this exercise several times each day.
  • Anterior compartment stretch: Stand sideways next to a wall or chair with your injured leg further from the wall or chair. Put one hand on the wall or chair for balance. Bend the knee of your injured leg and grab the front of your foot. Bend the front of the foot toward your heel. You should feel a stretch in the front of your shin. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
  • Resisted ankle dorsiflexion: Tie a knot in one end of the elastic tubing and shut the knot in a door. Tie a loop in the other end of the tubing and put the foot on your injured side through the loop so that the tubing goes around the top of the foot. Sit facing the door with your injured leg straight out in front of you. Move away from the door until there is tension in the tubing. Keeping your leg straight, pull the top of your foot toward your body, stretching the tubing. Slowly return to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 15.
  • Ankle range of motion: Sit or lie down with your legs straight and your knees pointing toward the ceiling. Point your toes on your injured side toward your nose, then away from your body. Point your toes in toward your other foot and then out away from your other foot. Finally, move the top of your foot in circles. Move only your foot and ankle. Don't move your leg. Repeat 10 times in each direction. Push hard in all directions.
  • Heel raise: Balance yourself while standing behind a chair or counter. Using the chair or counter as a support to help you, raise your body up onto your toes and hold for 5 seconds. Then slowly lower yourself down without holding onto the support. (It's OK to keep holding onto the support if you need to.) When this exercise becomes less painful, try lowering yourself down on the injured leg only. Repeat 15 times. Do 2 sets of 15. Rest 30 seconds between sets.
  • Resisted ankle inversion: Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you. Cross the ankle of your uninjured leg over your other ankle. Wrap elastic tubing around the ball of the foot of your injured leg and then loop it around your other foot so that the tubing is anchored there at one end. Hold the other end of the tubing in your hand. Turn the foot of your injured leg inward and upward. This will stretch the tubing. Return to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 15.
  • Standing toe raise: Stand with your feet flat on the floor. Rock back onto your heels and lift your toes off the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and then put your toes back on the floor. Do 2 sets of 15.
  • Balance and reach exercises: Stand next to a chair with your injured leg farther from the chair. The chair will provide support if you need it. Stand on the foot of your injured leg and bend your knee slightly. Try to raise the arch of this foot while keeping your big toe on the floor.
    1. Keep your foot in this position. With the hand that is farther away from the chair, reach forward in front of you by bending at the waist. Avoid bending your knee any more as you do this. Repeat this 10 times. To make the exercise more challenging, reach farther in front of you. Do 2 sets of 10.
    2. Stand in the same position as above. While keeping your arch height, reach the hand that is farther away from the chair across your body toward the chair. The farther you reach, the more challenging the exercise. Do 2 sets of 10.
  • Resisted hip abduction: Stand sideways near a door with your injured side further from the door. Tie elastic tubing around the ankle on your injured side. Knot the other end of the tubing and close the knot in the door near the floor. Pull the tubing out to the side, keeping your leg straight. Return to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 15. For more resistance, move farther away from the door.

    Repeat this exercise for the other leg.

You may also want to buy a pair of nonprescription foot orthotics from a pharmacy or local sporting goods store. Superfeet® and Dr. Scholl’s® are examples of orthotics that you can buy without a prescription.

Written by Tammy White, MS, PT, and Phyllis Clapis, PT, DHSc, OCS, for RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-08-11
Last reviewed: 2011-05-25
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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