Shins That Win
Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.
By Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.
You want to get into shape, get fit, get
rid of some stress and maybe some extra pounds in the process. In your mind
youíre ready to racewalk regularly. But physically, those shins just arenít
cooperating. If any part of your lower leg (from the front of your ankle to
below your knee) is screaming out in pain, youíre a candidate for the tips
Well, donít give up so easily. The tips
below will help strengthen your weak and wimpy shins and make them SHINS THAT
WIN. Or at least shins that donít hurt. Before you complain about the front of
your legs hurting, follow the prescription below.
Stretch your calves (back of your
lower leg) everyday. Tight calf muscles cause the anterior leg muscles to work
harder to elevate the foot. According to Dr. Perry Julien, a sports podiatrist
in Atlanta who was part of the medical team for the Olympic Racewalks and
Marathons, tight calf muscles are often the cause of shin pain. Dr. Julien says
that the two best things racewalkers can do to prevent foot injuries and shin
discomfort are things that donít cost as much as a visit to the doctor. Stretch
your calf muscles often and buy new shoes before yours wear out. Bob Andersonís
book Stretching is a great resource.
Rock in a Sock - Put a rock in the toe of your sock (use a long sock.)
Dangle the sock (with the rock) over your toes; i.e. donít put the sock all the
way on your foot, but rather about half way on. Use the dangling part of
the sock as a weight and flex and relax the foot 10 times. Do both feet
for three sets.
Walk on your heels everyday to strengthen your shin muscles. In my
advanced racewalking classes, the students walk around the track on their heels
for 30-40 second intervals. Try it in your house for 10 seconds at a time.
Repeat during the day five or ten times.
Write the alphabet with your toes. You can do it in bed before you go to
sleep or under your desk at work. If youíre really resourceful, get in a few
letters in your car at each red light. See if you can finish the whole alphabet
by the time you arrive home. Both feet, of course.
Flexing and pointing the foot at the ankle joint will help strengthen the
shin muscle. Place a hand weight or Velcro weight (one pound to start) on your
bare foot. Sit where you can dangle your legs from a stool or table. Slowly
flex your foot up and then point your toes down. Think of your ankle as a
hinge. Do it 10 times with each foot and repeat three times.
Peas, please! Icing reduces inflammation while youíre continuing to
stretch your calves and strengthen your shins. Use a bag of frozen peas (only
20 minutes at a time) every time you finish a workout. I prefer frozen peas,
but yes . . . you can use corn in a pinch. Brussels Sprouts are out of the
Are you warming up for at least 8-10 minutes with slow racewalking before
you get into a regular pace? Starting out too fast can make your shins beg for
After warming up for 8-10 minutes stop by a tree, pole, or car and do calf
stretches before you continue your walk. Just remember not stretch cold
Make circles with each foot.
Go clockwise, then counterclockwise. The ankle joint is your point of rotation.
If youíve tried the nine items above and still have shin pain, see a sports
podiatrist. Excessive pronation (rolling in of the foot) is another cause of
shin pain. It can be controlled with an orthotic, a device which controls
pronation and is molded specifically for your foot by a podiatrist. If
pronation is your problem, orthotics could be your answer. Since orthotics are
expensive try the other nine items first. With the exception of new shoes, the
other suggestions are free. Provided youíre not eating the peas.