Sunshine, wildlife and fresh air make running an entertaining way to get or stay in shape. Lower-leg pain can quickly turn your enjoyable run into an excruciating experience. Stretching and strengthening the muscles of your lower legs will decrease, but not eliminate, the chance you will encounter pain on your run. Toe raises work both muscle groups without weights or complicated equipment. Another bonus, you can perform this exercise virtually anywhere.
Running and Your Lower Legs
The movement associated with running can wreak havoc on the muscles of your lower legs. Each time you move your legs, the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of your calves and the tibialis anterior muscles of your shins constantly work to move your ankles and feet. Your lower legs may not be used to this constant movement especially if you are new to running or new to the fitness lifestyle. This can cause problems in the relationship between your calf and shin muscles.
Potential for Pain
One problem facing you, as a runner, is painful shin splints. Shin splints are a term used for pain in your shin bone or tibia. The cause of the pain lies in the connection between the muscles and bones of your lower leg and often center around the tibia. These small tears, although painful, heal quickly but reoccur if you have weak tibialis anterior or calf muscles. This is where toe raises help you continue running pain-free. Toe raises make your lower-leg muscles work, making them stronger. Stronger tibialis muscles help reduce shin splint pain by reducing the pressure between them and your stronger calf muscles.
This is an easy exercise to add to your daily routine, but they need to be performed correctly for them to be effective. If you are new to running, you can start doing toe raises by sitting in a chair, with your feet sitting flat on the ground. Then you lift your toes, hold for 10 seconds and slowly lower them back to the ground. Repeating this 10 to 15 times gives you tibialis muscles a good workout. As you progress and the muscles gain strength, you do the toe raises while standing. When you gain strength, place all your weight on one foot and do one foot at a time. If you get very strong, you can add weight to the front of your foot.
Calf raises complement toe raises. You perform this exercise in a similar fashion to toe raises, except you lift your heels off the ground rather than your toes. Combine both exercises to save time, if you maintain a busy schedule. For example, raise and hold your toes in the air. When your toes contact the ground, push and hold your heel in the air for 10 seconds. Performing both exercises gives you a balanced routine for your lower legs, further reducing painful shin splints and increasing your running abilities.
Lynda Schwartz is a fitness professional who began writing in 2004. She has contributed to "Women's Day" and "Good Housekeeping" magazines, as well as covered fitness and well-being for online publications. Schwartz holds a bachelor's degree in exercise science and health promotion.