Shin Splint Exercises

Shin splint exercises can help you relieve pain along the front of the shin bone (tibia)—the large, long bone that runs down your lower leg.

Exercises to prevent and ease shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, include toe raises and walking on your heels. They help strengthen the muscle groups that support your shins so that they become less prone to exercise-induced inflammation.

A shin splint happens when the muscles, tendons, and tissues covering the shin bone become inflamed, often due to running, jumping, and other repetitive physical activities.

This article explains which shin splint exercises are best for shin bone pain and how to do them. It also includes several shin splint stretches that can help reduce shin bone inflammation to keep shin splints away.

Toe Walk

woman Standing and rising onto toes
Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M.

Walking on your toes strengthens the muscles in your lower legs, especially your calves. If you have weaker lower leg muscles, toe walking may feel strenuous at first, so it may help to start with toe rises then work your way up to toe walking.

To do a toe rise:

  • Stand in place and rise up onto your toes with your heels off of the floor.
  • Try to hold the position for 10 seconds.
  • Slowly lower your heels back to the floor.

Once you've mastered standing in one place, start walking on your toes.

  • Start with your toes pointed straight ahead. Walk about 25 steps.
  • Next, point your toes inward and walk 25 steps.
  • Finish by pointing your toes outward. Walk another 25 steps.
  • Keep your heels off the floor.

You can do this shin splint exercise at least once per day. If you feel pain at any point, stop.

Single Leg Bridge

Fit woman does a single leg bridge exercise

Undrey / Getty Images

One of the best shin splint exercises is the single leg bridge. This exercise targets three major muscle groups involved in running: the hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes.

If you tend to get shin splints while running, this exercise is key, as strengthening these muscle groups helps reduce shin stress.

To do a single leg bridge:

  • Lie flat on your back with your arms straight by your side.
  • Bend your knees, planting the bottoms of your feet on the ground.
  • Press your heels and the back of your shoulders into the ground and raise your hips to the ceiling, bringing your knees to a 90-degree angle with the ground.
  • Raise one leg straight in the air, keeping your hips high.
  • Hold for 10 seconds, then switch legs and hold for another 10.

Aim for three sets of 10-second holds per leg. Note that this exercise may be uncomfortable for some people with lower back or knee pain, so listen to your body and proceed gently.

Toe Curl

Man does toe curl exercise with small towel

OlgaMiltsova / Getty Images

Toe curls are an especially important shin splint exercise for those with flat feet because they strengthen and support the arches and flexor muscles of the feet as well as the toes. This helps the arch of the foot distribute stress more evenly so that less stress is placed on the shins.

You can do this simple, low-impact shin splint exercise while standing in place or sitting in a chair. All you need is a smooth-surfaced floor, a hand towel, and a chair if you choose to sit.

To do a toe curl:

  • Place the towel on the ground in front of you.
  • Step one foot onto the towel, lining your heel up with the end of the towel closest to you.
  • Scrunch your toes, clenching the towel towards you.
  • Aim for 10 repetitions per foot.

Try to do this exercise at least once per day.

Elevated Calf Raises

Person does calf raises at the gym

Ruslanshug / Getty Images

By strengthening your calf muscles, calf raises increase ankle stability, mobility, and balance. Having strong calf muscles also helps redirect some of the impact from running, walking, and jumping away from your tibia and onto your calf muscles.

For this shin splint exercise, you will need a curb or step that you can safely stand on. Some people find it difficult to stay balanced during this exercise, so it may help to stand close to a wall, rail, or chair that you can balance against.

To do calf raises:

  • Stand up straight on a step with your hands on your hips or resting against another surface to balance you.
  • Scoot your feet back so that only your toes and the balls of your feet are on the step.
  • Keeping your toes straight ahead, brace your core, then push through the balls of your feet, lifting both of your heels into the air.
  • Squeeze your calves at the top of each lift and count to two.
  • Take a full three-count to slowly lower your heels back down so that they are parallel with the step or slightly lower to feel more stretch.

Start with a set of 10 calf raises at a time. As the exercise gets easier, you can increase the number of raises you do or try performing the exercise while holding dumbbells.

Seated Calf Stretch

Seated ankle dorsiflexion and calf stretch to prevent shin spints
Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M

When your calves are tight, your ankle range of motion becomes more limited, causing increased pronation, in which your arch flattens upon impact with the ground. Pronation places more stress on your shins, raising your risk of shin splints.

The seated calf stretch is an easy shin splint stretch you can do to relieve shin splint pain. You can also do this stretch before exercising, to help loosen up your calves and prevent excess pronation.

To do a seated calf stretch:

  • Sit on the floor with your knees straight.
  • Loop a rope or towel around the front of your foot and use it to pull your foot to a totally flexed position.
  • Keep your legs flat on the floor. The motion should only be at your ankle joints.
  • Stay in the flexed position for 30 seconds.

You can repeat the seated calf stretch five times per day or more depending on your activity level.

Heel Walking

woman doing heel walking exercise
Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M.

Heel walking is a quick and effective shin splint exercise that you can do at home or on the go. This exercise strengthens the muscles around your lower shins as well as your calf muscles and quads (the large muscles in the front of your thighs).

To heel walk:

  • Stand straight with your feet flat on the ground.
  • Place your hands on your hips, brace your core, and lift your toes as high off the ground as you can without losing balance.
  • Walk twenty steps. Lower your toes and rest for a count of five then repeat.

Start with three sets of 20 steps then increase your steps as the exercise becomes easier.

Ankle Dorsiflexion Stretch

Standing ankle dorsiflexion stretch against wall.
Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M.

Dorsiflexion occurs when you raise your foot upwards towards your shin while your heel stays in contact with the ground. If you have poor dorsiflexion, you may strike your toes against the ground when you walk or run, placing excessive stress on your shins.

The ankle dorsiflexion stretch helps prevent this by improving the mobility and flexibility of your tibias and surrounding muscles.

To do the standing ankle dorsiflexion stretch:

  • Stand facing a wall.
  • Keep your knee straight and your heel on the floor.
  • Place the front bottom part of your foot against the wall. You'll feel a stretch in your calf muscles.
  • Count to 15, then switch feet.

The ankle dorsiflexion stretch can be done before and after exercising to prevent shin splints or any time you experience shin splint pain.

Straight Knee Calf Wall Stretch

Straight knee calf muscle stretch against wall.
Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M.

This shin splint exercise stretches your calves and Achilles heels, preventing them from becoming too tight. A tight achilles tendon leads to poor dorsiflexion, which increases your risk of shin splints.

To do the straight knee calf wall stretch:

  • Stand with your body square to the wall.
  • Stretch out your arms and hands and lean against the wall.
  • Keep one knee straight with your heel and foot firmly on the floor. Gently lean forward until you feel a pull in the back of your leg.
  • When your knee is straight, this stretches the superficial calf muscle, called the gastrocnemius.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

You can repeat this stretch five times or more as needed. This is a great shin splint stretch to do before and after exercise or to relieve shin splint pain.

Wall Toe Raises

Exercise to help strengthen muscles in front of lower legs.
Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M.

This shin splint exercise strengthens your lower shins, calves, and quads to help your lower leg absorb the stress of impact more evenly. All you need for toe raises is a wall to lean your back against.

To do wall toe raises:

  • Stand with your back against a wall.
  • Keep your heels on the floor and raise the front of your foot up toward the front of your lower leg.
  • Hold that position for 10 seconds then lower your foot back down so that it almost touches the floor. Repeat.

Start with three to five sets of 10-second holds then increase as it becomes easier for you. You can use this exercise to warm up for a workout or as part of your training to prevent shin splints.

Foot Step Holds

Stepping forward with heel striking the floor, but the front of the foot is held up and does not touch the floor.
Terence Vanderheiden, D.P.M.

This shin splint exercise slows the action of walking to a halt, stretching and strengthening the individual muscles and tendons involved. It engages your quads, hamstrings, calves, Achilles tendons, tibias, and the arches of your feet, all at once.

To do a foot step hold:

  • Stand comfortably with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Take a normal-sized step forward with one leg and let your heel touch the floor. Stop before the front bottom part of your foot touches the floor.
  • Do not let the front part of your foot hit the floor.
  • Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Step back, so your feet are side by side and shoulder-width apart as when you started.

Start with three sets of 10 holds and work your way up to more holds as needed.

How to Deal With Shin Splint Pain

Shin splints can disrupt even the most motivated runner. Ideally, you'd prevent them from happening at all, but that's not always possible.

To treat your shin splints at home, follow the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) method of self-care:

  • Rest: Avoid high-impact activities, especially those that caused your shin splint pain. It can take up to two months for shin splints to get better—even longer if you don't give them adequate rest.
  • Ice: Apply ice packs to your shins to ease pain and swelling. You can apply an ice pack for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, every three to four hours. Never apply ice directly to your skin.
  • Compression: Compression socks increase blood flow to your shins to aid with healing and reduce swelling. If you don't have compression socks, you can use an elastic bandage (such as an ACE wrap) instead. Avoid wrapping your shins too tight, as this can cause more swelling.
  • Elevation: While at-rest or icing, prop your leg up so that your shin is above the level of your heart. Elevating your shins improves blood flow to reduce swelling.

You should be pain-free from shin splints for at least two weeks before returning to exercise. Upon your return, take care to exercise at a lower level of intensity and slowly work your way back up. If you begin to feel shin splint pain again, stop what you are doing and RICE.

It's important to warm up and stretch thoroughly before each exercise session as well. In addition to stretching, you should:

  • Try to run on soft surfaces.
  • Get adequate rest between runs.
  • Try to avoid heel striking and toe running, especially when running downhill.
  • Wear supportive shoes or orthotics to reduce stress in your shins.

Your running posture makes a big difference, too. One 2019 study notes the importance of "kinematics." This is how runners place their feet when running. Kinematics can play an important role in preventing and recovering from shin splints.

If you're living with shin splints or trying to avoid them in the future, it's a good idea to connect with a physical therapist. Look for someone who has experience helping athletes with this distressing condition.

A physical therapist can also help you improve your running form to reduce your risk of shin splints moving forward.


Shin splints are common in runners and other athletes. Fortunately, there are a number of exercises that can help treat or prevent them. These exercises help stretch and strengthen the shin as well as the foot and leg muscles that support it. 

Start slow with your shin splint exercises, increasing the number of sets you do when you feel like you're ready. As always, stop and rest if you feel pain. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does foam rolling help shin splints?

    Possibly, but only when used before exercise. According to a 2019 meta-analysis, there is limited evidence to support the use of foam rolling to prevent or treat any sports injury. However, the study authors report that foam rolling may be beneficial when used pre-workout as part of a warm-up.

  • Do compression socks help shin splints?

    Maybe. Compression socks or compression sleeves are commonly recommended to help ease the pain of shin splints. However, the science behind the claim is purely anecdotal. A review of published literature on treatments for medial tibial stress syndrome found no evidence to support the use of compression socks for shin splints.

    That said, wearing compression socks will not cause any harm, and some people swear it helps.

  • Can shin splints be caused by shoes?

    Yes, wearing the wrong shoes for your activity can cause shin splints, such as running in casual sneakers without arch support. Old running shoes that have lost their cushioning or are worn down on one side can also lead to shin splints.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  7. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Shin splints - self care.

  8. Okunuki T, Koshino Y, Yamanaka M, et al. Forefoot and hindfoot kinematics in subjects with medial tibial stress syndrome during walking and running. J. Orthop. Res. 2019;37(4):927-932. doi:10.1002/jor.24223

  9. Wiewelhove T, Döweling A, Schneider C, et al. A meta-analysis of the effects of foam rolling on performance and recovery. Front Physiol. 2019;10:376. doi:10.3389/fphys.2019.00376

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By Terence Vanderheiden, DPM
Terence Vanderheiden, DPM, is a podiatrist in Massachusetts with a subspecialty in the area of podiatric sports medicine.