Recovery Crash Course : Shin Splints

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach”
-Tony Robbins


How did I get Shin Splints?

Worn out shoes? Or changing shoe styles?
Ankle instability?
Running hills lately?
Increased running volume?


Notice anything in common? You may notice that most of these questions are related to absorbing impact or stability of the lower limb. If you lift your toes to your shins, you’ll notice a small cord-like structure on the front of your ankle. That is the tendon of the tibialis anterior which is likely inflamed. In normal function, this muscle allows use to lift or turn our toes to our midline. It spans from the outside of the knee and crosses the over the talocrural joint (part of the ankle) of the foot. Exercises like jumping and running can provoke inflammation. During these types of activities the tibialis’ attachment sites are being tugged away from the tibia. Our tibialis anterior is also a lower limb shock absorber and when it’s pissed, it’s evident.


Step one: Chill Out


Reduce Impact

If you want to stop walking with your grandpa’s waddle, then you need to limit high impact activities. In this stage of recovery, it is not about how explosive you are, it is about continuing to move while reducing the risk for further injury. Movement substitutions should be geared toward limiting jumping. While you’re recovering you should experiment with the slower “muscle” versions of olympic lifts, stepping to boxes instead of jumping and biking opposed to running.  As always, progressions, positions, and parameters dictate scaling.


Step 2: Get Strong Safely


Start with ABC’s – Build Pain-Free ROM

Once the pain from the initial injury subsides, it’s time to get the ankles moving again.  If you know your ABC’s, you can get down with this treatment!  Your job is to simply draw each letters of the alphabet with your big toe three times per day. If you can crush the unweighted ankle alphabet, you’ll be ready for the RX version. Advanced athletes can perform the ABC’s under their covers before bed. The feet should be covered to allow slight resistance against each movement.  Unfortunately, there is no score for this in Wodify. Sorry y’all.


Pre-WOD Ritual – Warm Muscles are Happy Muscles

If you can allow yourself to show up 5 to 10 minutes early to class to run through a few dynamic ankle movement drills, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of shin-shock mid-WOD.  Make sure to knock out this dynamic warm-up before class to avoid being super tight at the beginning. Here is an example warm-up:

Lower Leg Warm-Up
3 Minutes of Assault Bike
2-3 Rounds
10 Point Toes Up/Down
10 Foot Circles Forward/Backward
 20 Heel Walk Steps
20 Toe Walk Steps
 4/4  Unweighted Single-Leg RDL or 30 Seconds Single-Leg Balance


Address Mobility – Smash It Up and Stretch it Out

Hill running and other movements that force the toes toward the shins often shorten our anterior tibialis. The extensibility of our connective tissue is not only a result of increasing core temperature, but is also a result of us pushing past our own active range of motion. Passive stretching allows us to use external resistance to reclaim lost plantar flexion that may be tough to stretch otherwise. The Yogi’s out there may appreciate these movements!


Virasana Pose

(Shoe Laces Down, Sit Back Toward Heels)


Downward Dog (Shoe Laces Down, Toes In)


We also offer foam rolling as an option to reduce stiffness.  So, even if you’re not a part of the “I love foam rolling” camp it may be worth a shot. As the saying goes, “It ain’t stupid if it works”.


Red Band Remix

It’s always a good idea to eliminate weaknesses that may cause movement faults. The exercises I have picked are fairly basic, but can be difficult to perform depending on the severity of your injury. Our anterior and posterior lower leg muscles must be strong in order to absorb loads from the ground when running. It’s a good idea to start with a band type and tension that will allow you to move slowly through both directions. Your goal is control and stability on each band exercise. Special emphasis should be placed on keeping the big toe from “diving in” or “diving out” into inversion or eversion of the ankle.


3 Sets of 10 of Each

Resisted Plantar Flexion

Resisted Dorsiflexion


If you have any questions about this post or any of the exercises, please feel free to reach out to me and I will gladly walk you through it, no pun intended.

Coach Wayne Train out.