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What Are Anterior Shin Splints?

The medical term for anterior shin splints is Anterior Tibial Stress Syndrome.1 Anterior shin splints occur on the front side of the shin bone and affect the tibialis anterior muscle. The muscle is located at the rear side of the lower leg and runs along the outer side of the tibia connecting the bone behind the big toe. The tibialis anterior muscle is responsible for lifting the foot to take a stride and lowering the foot to the ground for the support phase. This is the muscle that is usually worked out when walking, running and when engaged in sporting activities that have many small sprints, for example, basketball and tennis. The anterior tibialis starts having problems when there is a sudden increase in the amount of speed and time taken for walking or running, often times leading to painful shin splints.

What Are Anterior Shin Splints?

Symptoms of Anterior Shin Splints2

When one has anterior shin splints, the following symptoms may appear at the front of the lower leg or ankle.

  • Mild swelling
  • Tension or pressure
  • Burning pain or cramping
  • Weakness of the leg.

The symptoms may be on and off or persistent. They may also get worse depending on the level of activity that one is engaged in.

Exercises For Anterior Shin Splints

To ease off tightness of the anterior shin splints, four different stretches can be used including:

Standing Anterior Tibialis Shin Stretch: This is a simple move in which the leg being stretched is pulled forward so as to feel the stretch from the top of the leg through the shin. To work effectively, the stretch should be repeated severally each day.

Kneeling Shin Stretch: This stretch is done when kneeling on a mat or another soft surface to avoid hurting the skin. One should kneel with the feet flat on the floor with the backside resting on the heels. For the stretch to work effectively, one must have a good knee flexion. 

Seated Shin Stretch: Seated shin stretch exercise works well when one is seated on a desk chair in a position that one can be able to maneuver the leg under and behind.

Lying Shin Stretch: This type of stretch is done when one is lying on the side. The knee is bent on the upper leg such that the foot is behind the back. The leg is then pulled to the back several times, holding the position for approximately 15 to 20 seconds. 

Other Treatments For Anterior Shin Splints3

Rest- Resting allows for shin splints to heal naturally. 

Gentle Massage- massaging the affected area tenderly using appropriate oil can help ease the pain and reduce the inflammation. 

Exercise Modification- this involves reducing the intensity of exercises.

Hot And Or Cold Therapy- using cold therapy, such as applying ice or cold packs on the affected areas for between 15 to 20 minutes, can help reduce the pain and the irritation. Also applying hot compresses to the affected areas may help relieve the pain and inflammation. Hot therapy also helps increase circulation in the legs. 

Wearing Well- cushioned shoes to reduce stress in the shins.

Orthotics- for people to whom shin splints occur frequently and for those who have flat feet, orthotics may help eases the problem. Orthotics can be customized or purchased from the shop. 


Anterior shin splints occur when the anterior leg muscles are strained by running, often on hard surfaces or by sporting the activities that involve jumping. The condition can be worsened by wearing inappropriate shoes that do not have adequate cushioning. Having flat feet can also lead to anterior shin splints. It is important to take preventive measures to avoid getting shin splints. The best preventive measures4 include stretching before and after running or exercise; wearing shoes with good cushioning; avoid running or jumping on hard surfaces. When one has anterior shin splints it is important not to keep running or exercising through the pain. Instead, one seeks treatment, whether home remedies or professional, to avoid further damage to the leg.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 25, 2020

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