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Suffer from shin splints? This stretch can help

Performing this stretch consistently can help ease pain — and prevent it in the future.
Young woman working out on graphic background
The kneeling anterior tibialis stretch not only stretches the shins, but the ankles and legs, too.TODAY Illustration / Stephanie Mansour

We’ve all experienced shin splints at some point. They can be an uncomfortable side effect of persistent running and jumping — and the pain can be downright debilitating.

Many sports-related injuries are due to overuse and this is the why shin splints are so common in runners. Luckily, there are stretches you can do that will not only help ease the pain, but prevent it from creeping up in the first place. The kneeling anterior tibialis stretch is one of those moves that is great to incorporate into your stretching routine if you’re looking to relieve some pain caused by shin splints.

What does the anterior tibialis stretch do for the body?

While the kneeling anterior tibialis stretch is perfect for relieving pain associated with shin splints, it’s also a great stretch for your ankles and legs and can help relieve tightness. Plus, performing this stretch consistently can help prevent pain from future shin splints.

The common mistakes people make when doing the kneeling anterior tibialis stretch

Shin splints can be extremely painful, and that’s why it’s important to take the kneeling anterior tibialis stretch slowly and gently. I often find that my clients make mistakes regarding the positioning of their ankles and legs. It’s important to sit properly in order to truly feel the stretch and reap the benefits.

I’ve also seen people slouched over when performing this stretch. Although the stretch works on your lower legs and ankles, the posture of your back is still important in order to keep your breathing steady and your head in proper alignment. To avoid these common mistakes, follow these tips:

  • Try and keep your butt resting gently on your heels and prevent it from slipping between your ankles.
  • Keep a straight back with your hands resting on your knees.
  • Look forward at the wall ahead of you and focus on your breathing.

How to do a modified anterior tibialis stretch

Because putting all of your body weight on your ankles can be painful for those with intense shin splints, I recommend first performing a modified version of the anterior tibialis stretch using a chair. Performing this stretch while standing with one foot resting on the chair will give you extra support and put less pressure on the shin.

Place a chair behind you and stand up straight. Place the top of your right foot on the seat of the chair with your toes pointing behind you. Slowly bend your left knee so that you’re placing pressure on the right foot. Bend until you feel a stretch in the right shin and ankle.

How to perform the kneeling anterior tibialis stretch correctly

If you’re ready to try the kneeling anterior tibialis stretch, make sure to keep the common mistakes in mind and perform the move gently to the best of your ability.

  1. Start in a kneeling position so that the tops of your feet are resting on the mat.
  2. Keep your back straight with your hands resting on your thighs. Remember to look forward.
  3. Slowly lower your butt down to your ankles, keeping your back straight.
  4. Once your butt touches your ankles (or you lower as far as you feel comfortable), make sure your thighs are resting directly above your calves.
  5. Breathe slowly, and if you would like more of a stretch, try using your hands to lean your body backwards, placing more weight on your ankles.

4 exercises that will help you perform the kneeling anterior tibialis stretch

There are plenty of stretches that target the same region as the kneeling anterior tibialis stretch. If you’re struggling, try some of these moves to get you warmed up.

Ankle ABCs

Sit on the floor with your feet out in front of you. Start with your right ankle. Point your toes out in front of you and draw the ABCs with your toes slowly. Switch sides and perform on the left foot.

Standing front crossover shin stretch

Standing up straight, cross your right leg over your left. Curl your right toes back toward your body so that the top of your right foot is resting on the ground. Slowly bend your right knee. Hold for 30 seconds before switching legs.

Seated shin stretch

Sit on a chair with your feet on the ground, and knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Curl your right toes back toward your body so that the top of your right foot is resting on the ground underneath the chair. Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.

Toe walking

Walking on your toes can help stretch the shins and ankles. Find an open space and walk on your toes for about 30 seconds. Take a break and repeat.

More ways to master the move: