Have you ever tried to start running regularly, only to be stopped by sharp stabbing pain in your shins? Every step can feel like shards of glass breaking into your soft tissue, or maybe you feel like your bones are about to break. If you’ve experienced what I’m talking about then you know how frustratingly painful shin splints are.
You don’t have to suffer through shin splints in order to become (or stay) a runner.
A lot of you know about the knee pain that stopped me from running for 8 years and hiking for 6, but it actually started with shin splints.
I was 16, had stopped doing gymnastics and took up running. I loved the freedom and strength I felt during and after a nice long run. Pretty soon after I started running regularly I experienced that stabbing pain in my shins. Being stubborn and someone with a high pain tolerance, I just kept running. Eventually the shin splints went away; but I ended up with horrific knee pain a year later. This new pain was something I couldn’t ignore. Sharp stabbing pain literally brought me to my knees, and there was no way to run through that.
I now know these two things were connected, and had I taken care of the shin splints like I’m about to show you how – I never would have experienced such debilitating knee pain and I could have kept running and hiking all those years.
What are shin splints?
Medically speaking, shin splints (or medial tibial stress syndrome) is considered an overuse issue specifically from running and often from running on hard surfaces like pavement.
They tell us you’re at risk if:
you’re a runner or just beginning a running program
you change the duration, length or frequency of your running
you’re in the military
have high or flat arches
Then there’s a laundry list of ways to “manage” the pain, such as:
have your running gait analyzed
buy shoes with more support/cushion
try inserts with shock absorption
lessen the impact of your activities by adding things like swimming and biking and
do more strength training…
But NONE of the above address the actual CAUSE of shin splints.
Besides, if you love running and you just wanna be out there pounding pavement or miles of dirt…you don’t want to hear things like “try swimming instead.” Right?
I’m here to tell you, you can run to your heart’s content SO LONG AS you address the CAUSE of your shin splints. And – it’s fairly EASY once you “get” it.
If you live in a human body, I hope you raised your hand. No matter who you are, what you do for work or sports or even if you sit on the couch all day playing video games – I guarantee your calf fascia needs some love!
If you haven’t heard of or already tried “the ONE Stretch”, then definitely check that out too by clicking here. It’s by far the most effective and fastest way to stretch your ENTIRE lower leg compartment all at once, not just your calf or gastrocnemius tissue.
I’m giving you this technique today because I’ve received a ton of emails requesting alternatives to The ONE Stretch, since some of you have had a hard time getting into the right position and/or figuring out how to do it properly. This is a fine alternative, just keep in mind it will take a little more effort over a sustained period of time to get the same results as someone else using The ONE Stretch.
Having said that, this technique is actually BETTER for releasing adhesions in the calf. The ONE Stretch is better at stretching all that tissue and create space, but it’s more difficult to break adhesions up this way.
So today’s technique would actually be better for those of you who have knee pain, recently rolled an ankle or have a history of rolled ankles (which is due to balled up fascia in the lower calf compartment within the Achilles area) or if you just know there are adhesions in there and you want them gone (like me! I always have some good ones going on).
Why release your calf fascia?
Releasing your calf fascia can help with ALL kinds of issues, including but not limited to:
Plantar fasciitis (click here for more info on PF)
Tight calf/plantar fascia due to same side gluteus medius not firing
How to release your calf fascia using a foam roller:
While I love foam rollers, for the record (in case you’re new around here) I am NOT a fan of using them to ROLL over soft tissue – EVER. The most common areas I see people still rolling are their IT Bands and calves. The reason I’m not a fan of rolling is it essentially tries to elongate tissue in only one (well, two opposing) directions (in a straight line). You’re essentially smashing your connective and muscle tissue towards the bone and then compressing it to that bone while trying to roll it out like pizza dough.
This is incredibly ineffective (it takes a LOT more force to release fascia than rolling will ever provide) and I don’t want you wasting your time!
I want you to get the absolute most out of your self care routine, and that means targeting your fascia directly for release through compression (pinning) and movement (stretching and releasing adhesions).
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s how to release your calf fascia using a foam roller:
Choose your weapon of choice (aka foam roller). You could use a soft one like me in the video, or a much harder one. It doesn’t really matter, just remember that the harder the roller the more intense it will be.
PLEASE DON’T USE A KNOBBY ROLLER FOR THIS!
The goal here is to use the weight of your leg, and if possible some additional compression by lifting up off the ground, to compress your calf fascia to the roller. Then, you’re going to use foot movement to release the fascia.
Your gastrocnemius muscles are responsible for the action of plantar flexion (pointing your toes), so even just pointing and flexing will allow the tissues to expand and contract while compressed, which creates an all around awesome stretch for the entire connective tissue system within your lower leg compartment, and – if done correctly, it can release the adhesions stuck there.
How to get the most out of this technique:
Use as much body weight as you can – by lifting up off the ground and/or placing your other foot on the leg you’re releasing
Start HIGH just below the knee and work your way down into the Achilles.
If this is your FIRST time trying this, go verrrrrry slowly! Your job is to hunt out those fascial adhesions, and fast movement hides them. Slow movement reveals them.
Try not to rock your hips or legs side to side. Remember, you’re NOT trying to roll on the roller you’re trying to PIN or compress a piece of fascia and use your foot movement to release it.
Speaking of, move your foot in pointing and flexing movements first. Then try circles. S L O W L Y.
Spend about 30 seconds on each spot. If you’re doing it correctly that’s ALL you need! If you’re still figuring this out, going a little longer is ok.
You might find 4-6 spots moving from high to low.
Definitely get into your low calf and Achilles region! You’re likely to find a nice ball of knotted up fascia there and this technique is a great way to break it up.
If you get SORE the next day, back off how long you’re on the roller.
After you’re done with one leg, get up and WALK AROUND! Notice the difference. Then go after the second leg.
Do this as often as you think you need to. This will be different for everyone.
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If you have tight calves (and if you’re active you probably have tight calves) then your body will thank you for doing this stretch.
First let me say that while this is a SUPER powerful stretch, it’s not a FULL solution for any of the following. With that said, it’s the best possible one-off solution I can give you right now, and if you do this daily for a week I would be shocked if you don’t feel significantly better for any or all of these:
This ONE technique can address ALL kinds of issues:
Plantar fasciitis, or pain on the bottoms of the feet
Achilles tendinitis, pain or tightness
Scar tissue build-up from past sprained or broken ankles (which can lead to ankle immobility and compensation patterns up your entire chain)
Limited range of motion in the ankles
Tendonitis on the tops of the feet (usually originating in the shins, so if this is you then focus on pinning your tibialis anterior or shin muscle more than calf)
I know first hand how excruciating knee pain can be, and it stopped me from being able to run or hike for 8 and 6 years respectively. Little did I know there was one major cause that never would have occurred to me, and there was a simple solution!
What prompted this post was several of you that I know and love who are far away, have terrible knee pain and can’t come and see me for 1-1 work. You guys have been telling me how horrible it is and asking me “what can I do?!”
I couldn’t sit back and not give you something to try on your own!
The IT Band is notoriously blamed for knee pain, but I have not found it to be a major cause. It certainly can contribute, as can other factors like tight hips or a history of sprained ankles. But 70-80% of the time it is something quite surprising (that quickly becomes obvious).
Find out what the main cause is in the first video, and then I’ll teach you how to foam roll to target this one specific spot.
Keep in mind that this is addressing the #1 cause, but not ALL causes. Foam rolling for pain relief takes longer than coming to see me in my private practice (for many reasons), but it can still be effective. Give it at least a week.
Let me know how this works for you, and if you have questions feel free to comment or write me!
If you liked this post please “like” and share it!
Subscribe here and on YouTube for new posts every Monday.
For personalized help with head to toe pain issues, click here to schedule a private Skype consultation with Elisha Celeste. SUBSCRIBE below and get $15 off your first session.