Walkers and Shins

We have all got a bit carried away with our training at times and have suffered those sore shin muscles. Hopefully we have all been sensible and eased back and allowed time to repair the damage done by our over-exuberance. I have see the odd occasion when someone has not heeded the warning signs and has paid the big penalty - serious leg damage and a serious setback to training, if not the end to a career.


Shin splints results from the muscle imbalance that we all notice when we see the thick knot of the calf muscle at the back of the lower leg, and the small, trim muscles along the shin, on the other side of the lower leg. Calf muscles pull the forefoot down when an athlete runs, and shin muscles pull the forefoot back up. The stronger calf muscles can strain the weaker shin muscles in this tug of war.

The following points are pertinant to this particular injury:

  • Keep away from sloping terrain as this inbalance is a primary cause of shinsplints. Do not train along the camberred sides of roads. Try to find flat biketracks or such like.
  • Throw out those old shoes that have collapsed at the heel and either cause the foot to pronate inwards or outwards. Poor foot plant is the cause of many leg problems and good shoes are the best way to ensure that they never occurr in the first place.
  • Quick-start training programs exacerbate shin splints. Slowly building intensity and duration can help the lower leg muscles strike more of a balance.

Shin splints must be overcome in two opposing ways

  • First you must stretch the opposing muscles (the calf muscles at the back of the leg)
    • To stretch calves, stand flat-footed facing a sturdy wall, about 18 inches back. Extend your arms, pressing your palms flat against the wall, and slowly bend your elbows to ease your torso towards the wall, keeping your feet flat all the while. You should feel a gentle stretch in your calves. If you feel a tug, or any strain, stop at once.

  • Secondly you must increase the strength and suppleness of the shin muscles.

    • Stair climbing is the best exercise for strengthening shins, but ease into it. As with any muscle strengthening program, start modestly and allow your body to adjust to moderate intensity stair climbing before looking for muscle gain.
    • Also: try picking up marbles with your toes, and holding them for a count of ten.
    • A great way to stretch the shins is to sit on your haunches and rock side to side. This stretches the shins and ankles and really does wonders for tight shins.

Finally some general points

  • Careful stretching of the calf muscles before and after walking/running are a vital part of walking training
  • If you are out training and your shins are tight, it is best to stop immediately and stretch. There is no such thing as walking through shin splints. You will only walk into a prolonged period of pain and injury.
  • If you're getting over a case of shin splints, you might want to pop a small wedge into the heel of your shoe for a couple of days. That takes some of the strain off the muscles along the front of the lower leg.