The stretches described here will help you prevent shin splints or recover if you’re having shin splint pain. We’ll also give you some prevention and recovery tips from an expert.

It’s important to stretch out tight calf muscles, your gastrocnemius and soleus. These large muscles at the back of your leg run from your knee to your heel. Stretch each calf muscle separately. Here are seven stretches to try.

Remember

Shin splints are lower leg pains along the inside or front of your shin bone (tibia). The medical name for shin splints is medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS).

  1. Stand with your hands against a wall or on the back of a chair for support.
  2. Put one foot behind you. Keep your feet flat and pointed straight ahead.
  3. With your back heel down and back leg straight, bend the front knee until you feel a stretch in the calf of your back leg.
  4. Keep your back straight throughout the stretch.
  5. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch 2 or 3 times, and aim for stretching 3 times a day.

  1. Stand with your hands against a wall or the back of a chair for support.
  2. Put one foot behind you. Keep your feet flat and pointed straight ahead.
  3. Bend your front knee slightly. With your back heel down, bend your back knee. If it’s too hard to keep your heel down, shorten your stride.
  4. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch 2 or 3 times, and aim for stretching 3 times a day.

  1. You can do this exercise standing on a stair step, a curb, a step stool, or a thick phone book. Be sure to hold onto a railing or something heavy for balance, with at least one hand.
  2. Stand with the balls of your feet on the edge of the stair step (or whatever you’ve chosen to use for this exercise).
  3. Slowly let one heel hang off the step until your feel a stretch at the back of your leg and the Achilles area.
  4. Hold the position for 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 3 times, up to 5 times a day.

  1. Sitting on the floor, bend one knee and put the other leg out in front of you, with your heel on the floor.
  2. Loop an exercise band, a towel, or a belt around the ball of your foot.
  3. Slowly pull your toe towards you and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

You can also do this stretch sitting in a chair, with one leg extended and your heel on the floor. Loop the band or towel around your heel and slowly pull your toe towards you.

This exercise stretches the front (anterior) of your tibia muscle.

  1. Sit on your feet, with your toes pointing slightly in, your hands on the floor in front of you.
  2. To increase the stretch, lean forward to raise yourself up, resting on your toes. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.

  1. Sit on the floor or a bench.
  2. Secure an exercise band around something sturdy and loop it around the top of your foot.
  3. With your toes facing up, flex your ankle toward you to the count of 2. Return your ankle down to the count of 4.
  4. Do 10 to 20 repetitions of 2 to 3 sets daily.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Raise your heels to the count of 2, and lower them to the count of 4.
  3. Make sure you’re on the tips of your toes. Use a chair or wall for support if you need it.
  4. Do 10 to 20 repetitions of 2 to 3 sets daily.

To make the exercise harder, try doing it on one leg. Or point your feet in or out to exercise a different part of the muscle.

What can you do to prevent shin splints? We asked physical therapist, Jody Coluccini. She has a doctorate in physical therapy and has been practicing for 39 years. She’s now at Cape Cod Rehab in Massachusetts.

Footwear

Coluccini emphasized that preventing shin splints begins with your footwear. “Excessive or prolonged pronation (walking with your arches rolled inward or downward) causes excessive stress on the posterior tibial tendon, which inserts directly on the tibia,” she said.

“Orthotics can be custom fit or purchased over-the-counter,” Coluccini said, but you “should be assessed and fit by a professional for comfort and correction of abnormal mechanics.”

She also recommended shoes with a “sturdy heel counter and cushioned insole to provide good stability and reduce impact load.” And buying new shoes when your old ones show signs of wear, like wearing down unevenly on the bottom of the shoe.

Exercise

Coluccini advised “strengthening of ankle and foot muscles as well the knee, hip, and core for more efficient mechanics.” She also recommended stretching any tight muscles, “especially the calves (gastrocnemius and soleus).”

“Warm up before and cool down after activities or sports,” Coluccini advised, “with light plyometrics (jumping exercises) or dynamic stretching.”

Increase any activity or training level gradually, Coluccini said. “If a walker or runner, stay on level and softer surfaces (woods and trails) versus hard pavement and hills.”

When any symptoms appear, Coluccini advised: “Modify your program immediately. Consider rest or changing to lower impact activities — elliptical, bicycle, swimming — while healing.”

Last, but not least, Coluccini said, “Maintain a good weight (for you). Excessive weight may contribute to tissue overload and strain.”

How long will recovery from shin splints take? Coluccini said that it “varies, depending on the age, condition, and health” of each person. Also important, she said, is “compliance with treatment recommendations.”

In general, Coluccini added, “Most younger people, athletes, or more fit older adults who are compliant with recommendations recover in three to four months. For those with more significant strength and flexibility impairments, or issues that may impact mechanics and healing, my experience is that recovery may take upwards of six months.”

Anyone can develop shin splints from overuse or repeated stress on your legs. But it’s a common injury of runners, dancers, athletes, and the military.

The exact physical mechanism that causes the pain . Most people recover after a period of rest and ice and low impact activity.

If your pain from shin splints doesn’t go away after rest, or if it returns, see your doctor. They can check to see if there’s another problem causing your leg pain, such as a stress fracture or tendinitis.

Shin splint pain can be intense and keep you away from your favorite activity. But you can take measures to prevent them. And once you have shin splints, there are measures, including rest, icing, stretching, and low-impact exercise, to help you heal. More studies are needed to determine which activities are the most helpful.

If your pain persists or worsens, see your doctor to rule out other problems causing the pain.