Shin Stretches for Your Anterior Tibialis

Targeting Your Shins

woman doing kneeling shin stretch

Photo: Ben Goldstein / Model: Ana Alarcon

If you have tight shin muscles or pain, you may want to spend some time stretching your anterior tibialis muscle. This muscle is at the front of your lower leg. Its action is to flex the foot upwards, as well as to control the foot as it lowers back to the ground. This muscle mostly gets a workout when running, walking, and in sports such as tennis and basketball, which have a lot of little sprints.

The anterior tibialis will begin complaining if you suddenly increase your amount of time or speed of running or walking, often to the point of painful shin splints.

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Watch Now: 4 Stretches to Help Tight Shins

It can be difficult to stretch the shin muscle fully because of its anatomical arrangement. In fact, some experts say you can't really stretch this muscle, you can simply give it some elongation, as you foot won't flex enough for a true stretch.

The standing stretch is an easy one for most people to do. You don't need any equipment or even any space; it is done with a simple move.

Standing Anterior Tibialis Shin Stretch

woman doing standing anterior tibialis shin stretch
Photo: Ben Goldstein

You might call this the toe drag stretch.

  • Stand up. You may want to use a hand on a wall or other support for balance.
  • Bend both knees slightly.
  • One foot remains squarely on the ground. The foot to be stretched is placed just behind this stable foot, with the toe of the stretching foot touching the ground.
  • Keeping your toe firmly on the ground, pull the stretching leg forward so you feel a stretch from the top of your stretching foot through your shins.
  • Once you feel a good stretch, hold it for 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Repeat the stretch with the other foot.
  • You can use this stretch as part of a warm-up stretching routine, or as part of a cool-down. You can also simply do it at any time during the day.

Kneeling Shin Stretch

woman doing kneeling shin stretch
 Photo: Ben Goldstein

Kneeling isn't just for church, you can also use it for gently stretching the shins. You must have good knee flexion to do this stretch as you will be sitting on your heels.

  • Kneel on a mat with the tops of your feet flat on the floor and your buttocks over your heels
  • Hold for 15 to 20 seconds.

Seated Shin Stretch

woman doing seated shin stretch
Photo: Ben Goldstein

You don't even have to get out of your desk chair for this variation of the anterior tibialis shin stretch. This one works best with a desk chair where you can maneuver your leg under and behind you while seated.

  • Drop your knee towards the ground so the toe of your foot is extended into the ground as in the standing stretch.
  • Gently pull forward while the toe is planted in the ground, similar to the standing stretch but seated.
  • Hold for 15 to 20 seconds.
  • Repeat for each foot.
  • You may want to do this stretch several times each day.

Lying Shin Stretch

woman doing lying shin stretch
Photo: Ben Goldstein

This stretch is very similar to the lying quadriceps stretch. If you move the knee backward at the same time, you are doing the lying quad stretch.

  • Lie on your side with the knee bent on the upper leg so your foot is now behind your back.
  • Reach back and grab your forefoot, pulling it to your back.
  • Hold for 15 to 20 seconds.
  • Repeat for each foot.

Exercises for Shin Splint Relief

You can use a range of exercises to stretch and strengthen your calf and shin muscles in different ways. If you have nagging shin splint pain, this set of nine exercises will target not only the anterior tibialis but will also work on your calves, foot, and ankle flexibility. It's a good program of stretches and strengthening exercises to help prevent shin splints.

  • Seated ankle dorsiflexion and calf stretch
  • Bent knee ankle dorsiflexion and calf stretch
  • Toe walking
  • Heel walking
  • Standing ankle dorsiflexion stretch
  • Straight knee calf wall stretch
  • Bent knee calf wall stretch
  • Wall toe raises
  • Foot step holds

Physical Therapy for Ongoing Problems

If you have ongoing problems with shin splint pain, you may want to consider physical therapy for shin splints. A therapist will be able to give you a customized set of stretches and exercises designed to help your specific needs. Your therapist may also explore taping methods. Ask your doctor or medical plan for a referral or look for sports therapists in your area.

A Word From Verywell

Tight shins and shin pain can keep you from fully enjoying running and other sports. Rest and recovery are the main forms of self-treatment. Ease back into your activities and be sure to warm-up before vigorous exercise.

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