6 Best Shin Splint Stretches and Exercises
Stretches for shin splints to improve your lower leg flexibility and relieve tight shin splints muscles.
by Brad Walker | First Published May 28, 2019
Note: Shin splints is also referred to as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS).
Sports that Benefit from Shin Splint Stretches
All running sports like Football, Soccer, Gridiron and Rugby benefit from regular shin splint stretching. Snow Skiing and Water Skiing; Surfing; Walking and Race Walking. Running, Track, Cross Country and any sport that involves jumping or explosive movement.
Other sports that benefit from the shin splint stretches below include: Basketball and Netball; Hiking, Backpacking, Mountaineering and Orienteering. Ice Hockey and Field Hockey; Ice Skating, Roller Skating and Inline Skating.
Lower Leg Muscles being Stretched
While performing the shin splint stretches below there are a number of muscles within the lower leg that are stretched. Below is a comprehensive list of the anatomical muscle names involved in the following shin splint stretches.
- Gastrocnemius (Upper calf);
- Soleus (Lower calf);
- Tibialis anterior (Shin);
- Plantaris (Upper calf);
- Tibialis posterior (Upper calf);
- Flexor hallucis longus, Flexor digitorum longus, Peroneus longus and brevis (Lower calf); and
- Extensor hallucis longus, Extensor digitorum longus and Peroneus tertius (Shin).
Shin Splints Stretching Safety Guidelines
As with any activity there are rules and guidelines to ensure that they are safe. Stretching is no exception. Stretching can cause injury and pain if done incorrectly. It is important that the following guidelines be adhered to, both for safety and for maximizing the potential benefits of stretching.
- Breathe. Don’t hold your breath. Holding your breath can cause tension in your body and muscles. Breathe deeply and relax while performing the stretches below.
- Never force a stretch beyond the point of mild tension. Stretching tight muscles can be uncomfortable, but you should never feel any pain. Move into the stretch until you can feel mild tension and if you do feel any pain, stop immediately.
- Be consistent. Stretching for a few minutes each day will gradually build flexibility and range of motion. This is far preferable to stretching only once a week for a longer time.
- Wear loose comfortable clothing. It’s obviously very difficult to stretch if your clothes are tight and restrict movement.
Sample Shin Splint Stretches
Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you’ve pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately. Hold the stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Sample Shin Splint Stretching Videos
Below you’ll find a few good stretches for your shin splints. But don’t rely on just a few stretches; it’s important to do a range of stretches for the shins, Achilles, upper and lower calf and foot. Please be careful, if you haven’t stretched your lower leg and shin muscles, some of these stretches will put a lot of stress on this area. Warm-up first, then proceed in a gradual and gently way.
Standing Heel-Back Achilles Stretch (1:19) Stand upright and take one big step backwards. Bend your back leg and push your heel towards the ground. Make sure the toes of your back leg are facing forward. Letting your toes point to one side will cause this stretch to put uneven tension on the calf muscles. Over an extended period of time, this could lead to a muscle imbalance. Regulate the intensity of this stretch by lowering your body.
Standing Calf Stretch (1:20) Stand with one knee bent and the other leg straight out in front. Point your toes towards your body and lean forward. Keep your back straight and rest your hands on your bent knee. Make sure your toes are pointing upward. Letting your toes point to one side will cause this stretch to put uneven tension on the calf muscles. Over an extended period of time, this could lead to a muscle imbalance.
Leaning Heel-Back Calf Stretch (1:19) Stand upright and lean against a wall. Place one foot as far from the wall as is comfortable and make sure that both toes are facing forward and your heel is on the ground. Keep your back leg straight and lean towards the wall. Make sure the toes of your back leg are facing forward. Letting your toes point to one side will cause this stretch to put uneven tension on the calf muscles. Over an extended period of time, this could lead to a muscle imbalance.
Kneeling Achilles Stretch (1:27) Kneel on one foot and place your body weight over your knee. Keep your heel on the ground and lean forward. This stretch can put a lot of pressure on the Achilles. Ease into this stretch by slowly leaning forward.
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Research and References
- Walker, B. (2011). The Anatomy of Stretching, 2nd Edition (ISBN: 978-1583943717)
- Wikipedia contributors. (2019, May 4). Shin splints, In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- Jones, O. (April 23, 2018). Muscles in the Posterior Compartment of the Leg. Retrieved May 28, 2019, from https://teachmeanatomy.info/lower-limb/muscles/leg/posterior-compartment/.
- Loudon, J. Dolphino, M. (2010). Use of foot orthoses and calf stretching for individuals with medial tibial stress syndrome. Foot & Ankle Specialist, 3(1):15-20.
- Galbraith, R. Lavallee, M. (2009). Medial tibial stress syndrome: conservative treatment options. Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine, 2(3): 127–133.
About the Author: Brad Walker is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon (author page) has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 1,000's of verified customer reviews. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.
Disclaimer: The health and fitness information presented on this website is intended as an educational resource and is not intended as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the exercises described on this website, particularly if you are pregnant, elderly or have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain.