Top Tips To Avoid Lower Leg Injuries


Plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis and shin splints are the three most common lower leg issues that I treat in the clinic. You probably never thought much about it until the pain in your heel, under your foot or along your shins, really started bothering you.

A thin ligament-type structure that connects from your heel to the front of your foot, the plantar fascia (PF) or the thick cord like tendon at the bottom of your lower leg, the Achilles tendon (AT), can be trouble spots for many athletes – the repetitive motion of walking and running plus too much load on the foot by overtraining, excessive hill running or too much speed/effort work can damage or tear the PF and AT, causing soreness, pain and inflammation. Issues with gait or biomechanics, incorrect or worn out footwear, lack of leg strength and flexibility issues nearly always factor in to the equation as well. Shin splints (SS) are often exacerbated by tightness in the muscles at the front of the shin such as the tibialis anterior and the peroneus muscles - areas that are very hard to stretch.

In most cases, ‘itis’ – issues characterised by inflammation, have built up over months and even years and can be very persistent problems. In addition to foam rolling muscles of the lower legs (see video 1), strength work to avoid overloading the structures of the foot and rolling your foot on an ice bottle or a foot roller (see video 2), these simple stretches will help keep trouble at bay and prevent the PF and AT from getting sore and inflamed.

PLEASE NOTE – these static stretches are perfect post run and as part of a wider flexibility programme. Static stretches are of no benefit pre-run or as part of a warm up. Dynamic stretching of the lower leg is the best way to ready the PF and AT for action – see my bonus top tip video 3 at the end of the article!

Top Tip #1 – Stretch!

Get your lower leg muscles nice and flexible with these stretches. 2-3 times a day should start to really benefit both PF and AT.

Stretch 1: calf stretch –

  • Face a wall and stand 12 inches away from it.

  • Extend one leg behind you, keeping both feet flat on the floor and pointing forward with your back leg straight.

  • Push the lead knee towards the wall, keeping hips straight and lifted high, back straight and head up. You should feel a stretch in the calf muscle of the back leg.

  • Hold for 20 seconds immediately post exercise, or 60 seconds to develop flexibility at other times.

  • Repeat with the other leg

Stretch 2: Soleus stretch –

  • Face a wall and stand 12 inches away from it.

  • Extend one leg behind you, keeping both feet flat on the floor and pointing forward with your back leg straight.

  • Push the lead knee towards the wall, keeping hips straight and lifted high, back straight and head up. You should feel a stretch in the calf muscle of the back leg. Now bend the back leg allowing the heel to raise slightly. Keep bending the knee until you feel the stretch move lower down – towards the ankle, and deeper.

  • Hold for 20 seconds immediately post exercise, or 60 seconds to develop flexibility at other times.

  • Repeat with the other leg

Stretch 3 – Tibialis anterior and peroneus stretch –

  • Kneel on a mat with the tops of your feet flat on the floor and your bottom over your heels.

  • Hold for 20 seconds immediately post exercise, or 60 seconds to develop flexibility at other times.

Top Tip #2 – Foam roller!

The best way to relieve the muscle adhesions, knots, sore bits and reduce inflammation is through regular massage. If you have a good sports therapist or a sports massage therapist, then you should book in once a month to help keep on top of your muscle health. In between sessions – massage yourself with a foam roller.

Check out the video to see how to use it self-massage the lower leg.

Top Tip #3 – Roll and stretch your foot!

To help relieve soreness under the foot and tightness in the lower leg – massage your feet – with a frozen bottle, massage ball or foot roller. Then give it a good stretch!

Check out the video to see how to relieve soreness in the PF and AT with a foot roller and a great way to stretch your foot to avoid PF issues and SS.

Bonus Top Tip #4 – Warm up properly!

One of the best ways to alleviate soreness during activity is to warm the muscles, tendons and joints of the lower leg and feet properly.

Check out 1 move that will change your life forever!!

Be sure to share this post with a friend in need!!

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