I’ve gotten a ton of people recently coming to me with shin splints and plantar fasciitis.
There is a close relationship between the two so I’m not surprised when runners end up having troubles with both. They can be due to improper footwear, over-pronation of the foot, incorrect running/walking form or just plain-old OVERUSE.
Below is a quick breakdown of each injury and then some prehab/rehab stuff you can do to make the pain go away!
Shin splints are not your bone splintering apart. Shin splints are actually pain in either the anterior or posterior tibialis, the muscles of your shin.
Shin splints can occur from improper footwear, improper gait mechanics (overstriding), over-pronation (when your foot rolls inward) and just plain-old overuse. (Today I will not get into proper gait mechanics or discuss the shoes you should wear, but you should be aware that these two things MAY be a potential cause of your pain.)
Here are some ways you can help alleviate the pain and even start correcting the muscle imbalances that may be occurring because of one of the issues above.
How many of you runners that suffer from shin splints roll out the muscles of your lower legs, other than potentially your calves?
Don’t lie. I know not many of you do.
The fronts and sides of our shins are often forgotten when we roll out.
To roll out your shins, sit on the ground with one foot flat on the ground and your knee bent. Take a tennis ball or other small ball and dig it into the muscle down the front of your shin. Start right below your knee. Make small circles, digging the ball in as much as you can. After making circles in one spot, move the ball down lower on your leg toward you ankle. Work your way all the way down your shin.
You can also use a roller or tennis ball to hit the outside of your shin. Place the roller or tennis ball on the side of your lower leg right above your ankle. Press your leg down into the roller and roll up toward your knee and then back down. Hold on any tight spots and rock your leg side to side to dig in deeper to those spots.
Here is a link to a full video library that includes a few different ways to roll out your shins and your entire lower leg.
Stretching can also help alleviate the pain of shin splits by lengthening potentially overactive muscles.
You can hit your shins from a couple of different angles using one basic stretch. Standing, point your toe. Place your big toe on the ground and let your foot fall forward, pressing the top of your foot toward the ground. You can change exactly what angle you hit based on how you point your toe. Your big toe can point straight ahead or out to the side or even inward.
You can also make circles with your foot in that position to loosen up your shin and improve ankle mobility.
You should also make sure to stretch your calves as they me tight and part of the problem!
A good way to stretch and help strengthen is by doing heel walking. Flex your feet and walk around on your heels. This could be a great part of your pre-run warm up.
Also, ABCs are a great ankle mobility and lower leg muscle strengthening exercise. Sit or lie down and point your toe. Draw the alphabet with your big toe.
If you do have shin splints from overuse, make sure to also rest up and then start a rehab program.
If you have shin splints from over-pronation, you may also need to loosen up other muscles like your adductors while strengthening your glutes.
Ice and anti-inflammatories can also help alleviate pain BUT they will not “cure” the problem.
The best “rehab” program is a prehab one. If you know you are going to be upping your mileage and have suffered from shin splints in the fast, stop the problem before it happens. Foam roll before and after workouts and make sure to stretch and warm up properly. Work on your ankle mobility even if you aren’t having pain at the moment. Also include the proper strengthening exercises in your program.
Take care of your body BEFORE you have pain so that an injury doesn’t sideline you later!
Plantar Fasciitis is pain on the bottom of your foot and can occur along with heel spurs or even because of heel bone spurs.
It is a common overuse injury in runners and has a lot to do with over-pronation and lack of calf flexibility. You are more at risk if you are overweight, have high arches, do repetitive high-impact activities or suddenly start or up your activity level.
Usually your plantar fasciitis feels the worst when you wake up or after you’ve been sitting for a while. It tends to feel better when you’ve warmed up.
The quickest way to get rid of plantar fasciitis is by rolling out all the tight muscles involved.
Roll out your calves with either a tennis ball or roller. Start at the base of your calf right above your ankle. Rock side to side and then move the roller or ball up higher on your calf. Hold on any tight spots.
You can also flex and relax your foot to dig in deeper to any trigger points. Or you can make small circles with your foot. Both help apply more pressure to the tight area.
You also need to roll out the bottom of your foot no matter how much it hurts. The smaller and harder the ball you use, the more you dig in and the quicker you will get everything loose (AKA the quicker everything will feel better!).
Standing, place the ball under your arch. Press down into the ball and roll it all along the bottom of your foot. Hold on any tight areas. BONUS: Take a small water bottle in the refrigerator and freeze it. Then use the cold bottle to roll out your foot! The cold really helps alleviate the pain (both from the injury itself and the actual rolling out haha).
You must stretch your calves AND the bottom of your foot.
To stretch your calves you can do Bear Squats or more traditional static calf stretches. To do a bear squat, start on your hands and knees. Then press back off your knees, driving your butt up to the ceiling and your heels down into the ground. Hold for a second and then relax back down to your hands and knees. Repeat for 10 to 20 reps. A great dynamic warm up stretch!
To stretch your feet, you can put your toes against a wall while keeping your heel on the ground. Lean forward into the wall.
Or you can flex your feet and sit back on your heels while kneeling on the ground. This stretch can even be added to the beginning of the bear squat so that you can stretch both your feet and your calves.
A great foot strengthening exercise requires only a towel. Place a towel on the ground. Using your bare foot, scrunch the towel with your toes. You can also practice picking up the towel with your foot.
Doing these moves always remind me of the movie Die Hard….when the guy tells Bruce Willis to take off his shoes and makes fists with his toes. (Am I weird? Probably.)
For both of these injuries, you will want to use a lot of the stretches and mobility exercises outlined in the Ankle Mobility post (This post shows the stretches discussed here)! They will help you strengthen and stretch your feet and lower legs so you can move pain-free!
For more foam rolling techniques, check out this Trigger Point Video Library. And for a great recovery workout for runners, click here! This workout will help you prevent injuries and develop great strength to run further, faster.
NOTE: This post doesn’t include all of the prehab/rehab options out there. It also doesn’t address all the causes of these two injuries. See a PT if your pain is sever or persists without lessening while trying some of these easy home remedies.