What to do for Shin Splints?

I have been pushing my boundaries a little bit this summer however I have noticed that when I push myself harder, I start to get shin pain. Any suggestion for strengthening up the shins and reducing shin pain?

Shalora,  from Oregon

Dear Shalora,

SHIN SPLINTS, A dreaded word for any athlete!  I am so sorry that you are experiencing this pain.  Shin Splints are a horrible feeling.

Shin Splints refer to the deep pain that you feel behind the tibia or shinbone.   It is really common among dancers actually.  It typically can be caused by environment:  i.e. bad floors, poor shoes, hard surfaces etc… Dancing, jumping, or changing directions quickly with any of these environmental factors will cause the shinbone to have to absorb a lot of impact and they can quickly become overly fatigued.  Shin Splints can also be caused by a physical imbalance within the body.  If you are flat-footed, roll inwards with your feet, have tight calves, lean forwards or backwards or even tightness in the hips, back, hamstrings or gluts, then this imbalance can cause stress on the shin and leave you at risk for Shin Splints.  Eek! So its important to look at multiple factors as the possible cause of your Shin Splints.   Of course prevention is the key and there are many easy exercises that can help drastically!

Here is how you can prevent Shin Splints:


Picture A: Toe Spread

  • Improve the Strength of Your Feet:
    • Foot Press – Standing with feet flat on the floor, press the toes downwards into the ground. Keep the ankle still and try not to let the toes curl or scrunch.
    • Toe Spread – Spread the toes apart as far as you can then return to normal. See Picture A.
    • Toe Wave – Lift the toes and place down one at a time starting with the pinky toes. See Picture B.
Picture B: Toe Wave

Picture B: Toe Wave

    • Toe Lifts – Try to lift each toe up one at a time.
    • Object Lifts – Try to lift a pencil up with the toes… or pull a towel towards you with your toes scrunching repeatedly.
    • The Worm with your Foot-  Scrunch the toes, see picture C,  and roll through the foot like a worm backwards and repeat forwards.
Picture C: Toe Scrunch

Picture C: Toe Scrunch

Many of these are great to do next time you are stuck waiting in line, sitting at your desk, on a long phone call or while you are watching TV.  Making an effort to incorporate these strengthening exercises into your everyday life will make a huge difference!

  • Improve the Strength of Your Shins: 
    • Toe Taps – Slow floor taps with intense focus on flexing the foot slowly and as high as you can.
    • The Alphabet – Draw the Alphabet with your big toe.  Start with all caps… move to adding cursive eventually!
    • Heel Walks – As easy as walking on your heels.
    • Flexion with Resistance– Tie a thera-band or resistance band around a secure and stable anchor. Tie the other end around your foot at the ball of the foot.  Slowly flex the foot with conscious effort to keep leg and foot aligned. See Picture D.
Picture D: Flexion with Resistance

Picture D: Flexion with Resistance

  • Try a Wiggle Board, Wobble Disc or Balance Disc.  There are a variety of products on the market that help you strengthen the muscles of the foot, ankle, calf and shin by creating an unstable surface that you stand on to wobble all your little muscles strong!
  • Tap Dance! I once had a teacher that used to joke that tap dancers never get shin splints. Wish that was always the case, as you can also overload the shins with too much tapping! But it does make a lot of sense!  Most of the actions that you are performing to make your tap steps and sounds are strengthening and stretching the shins, calf and ankle. If you have a great tap teacher that warms the class up properly and always includes strengthening exercises in the tap warm-up then you will definitely reap the benefits. Keeping the Shins strong yet not over worked is key!  I have to admit, in my entire life, I have only ever had Shin Splints once, there might be some truth to that Tap Dance statement!

Once you develop Shin Splints, honestly the best thing to do is cut out dancing until it heals. As a dancer, I understand that is not always an option.  So the best plan is to be really proactive!

Here is how to treat Shin Splints:

  1. RICE- Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. (As much as possible)
  2. Take ibuprofen or another over the counter pain reliever to reduce swelling.
  3. Wear quality footwear at all times.  Put away the Ballet flats, flip-flops and Uggs for a few weeks and focus on wearing shoes with quality support.
  4. Massage and stretching.
  5. Consider shoe insoles or arch supports.

I knew a friend in high school that would freeze little Dixie Cups filled with water.  Then would peel the paper away and the shape would be the perfect curve to roll up and down the shin.  The deep ice treatment would help get deep into the leg muscles and bones.

Here is a link to some great additional informational sites:



How to tape your Shin Splints:


Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, injuries can happen, especially when you are pushing yourself.  Remember that it is essential to always listen to your body and warm-up properly before you dance. If your pain consistently gets worse even with the above efforts,  it is important to consult a doctor.  Hope this helps!

Happy dancing!


“Love your body. Be kind to it, nourish it, tender it. It is the pure instrument of expression that allows you to experience life on this plane.”

Lets further the art of dance together… ASK MS. SONYA, I want to help!



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