Foam Rolling Your Shins To Relieve Shin Splints

Perform this simple foam rolling exercise to relieve your shin splints.

If you want to avoid getting shin splints and get rid of any of that tightness that happens in the front of your leg, foam rolling is a great way to target that area.

Learn the benefits of foam rolling and how to perform a simple exercise that stretches your shins and relieves pressure from shin splints. Watch the video to see a demonstration from fitness expert Lauren Williams.

Don’t have time to watch it? Here’s the full transcript.

What Is a Foam Roller?

A foam roller is a large cylindrical piece of exercise equipment made of solid foam. Foam rollers come in different sizes and firmness to massage your muscles.

Foam rolling acts like a massage by using a technique called myofascial release. The myofascial release gives your muscles a deep stretch, which can help relieve pain in your myofascial tissue, which covers your muscles.

You can use foam rollers before exercise to lengthen and loosen the muscles, after exercise to prevent soreness, or anytime to release tension. Also, in addition to soreness, foam rolling can help with the following exercise injuries:

  • Shin splints
  • IT band syndrome
  • Runner’s knee
  • Lower-back pain
  • Jumper’s knee

Foam Rolling Benefits

No matter when you decide to use a foam roller, the tool provides several benefits, including:

  • Prevents knots, or adhesion, in your muscles: Collagen, a protein naturally found in your body, binds together to form knots between the layers of your muscles. The friction and pressure from foam rolling prevent that binding.
  • Increases your range of motion: When knots form, your muscles get stuck in a shortened position, reducing the range of motion of your joint. Also, after exercising, a tissue-repair process in your body leads to inflammation. Combined with a lack of movement, it can also cause knots. Foam rolling can prevent knots and increase your range of motion. 
  • Increases blood flow: The pressure from foam rolling can increase blood flow to your muscles, which is good before and after exercise.
  • Relaxes your muscles: Myofascial release, like foam rolling, gives you a generally good feeling and relaxes you.

Who Should Not Use Foam Rollers

You should not foam roll on any area of your body with an open wound, inflammation, or bone fracture. You may also want to caution against foam rolling if you have the following health conditions:

  • Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Osteomyelitis, inflammation of bone tissue
  • Myositis ossificans, a benign mass that hardens into bony tissue.  

Foam rolling is generally safe. But if you have concerns, talk to a healthcare provider.

How To Foam Roll Your Shins

When it comes to foam rolling, people often neglect the shins, instead focusing on the back of the leg. Shin splints, a common exercise injury, happen when you have inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around your lower leg.

Using a foam roller can help with the inflammation and give you some relief from the tightness and pain. Take note of the following steps on how to foam roll your shins:

  • Put the foam roller on flat ground.
  • Come onto the foam roller right underneath your knees on your shins with your arms out in front of you on the floor.
  • Roll down to your ankles and then back to the knees. Be careful not to roll over the knee joint.
  • Go all the way down to where the ankle is, so you get the full shin.

A Quick Review

Before or after exercising, try incorporating foam rolling into your stretching routine. The myofascial release gives your muscles a deep stretch, which can help relieve muscle pain. Foam rolling can also eliminate knots, increase your range of motion, improve blood flow, and relax your muscles. 

There are several sizes, colors, and shapes of foam rollers. So, find one that fits you and try Williams's foam rolling routine for your shins.

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  1. American Council on Exercise. 6 benefits of using foam rollers.

  2. American Council on Exercise. Foam rolling 101.

  3. Konrad A, Nakamura M, Bernsteiner D, Tilp M. The Accumulated Effects of Foam Rolling Combined with Stretching on Range of Motion and Physical Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-AnalysisJ Sports Sci Med. 2021;20(3):535-545. Published 2021 Jul 1. doi:10.52082/jssm.2021.535

  4. Bartsch KM, Baumgart C, Freiwald J, et al. Expert Consensus on the Contraindications and Cautions of Foam Rolling-An International Delphi StudyJ Clin Med. 2021;10(22):5360. doi:10.3390/jcm10225360

  5. Merck Manual. Shin splints.

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