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I've been running for about 5 years now and almost every year I get problems on the medial side of my shins. If I keep running, eventually the soft tissue even swells up enough to be palpable and painful.

I know I have very poor ankle stability, when I try ice skating it's so bad that the medial side of my shoes even touches the ice. I also have quite some pronation, all the way through my roll off, that get's worse when I start running faster. Together my weak ankles and some overweight, this is resulting in some recurring shin problems.

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Here's some nice images from under my feet when walking

I started running again 2 months ago and focused on building it up slowly and not running too much (max 3 x 5km per week). I hoped this would prevent it from recurring and built up sufficient strength, but this morning I started feeling one of my shins again.

So now I'm looking for exercises I can do (at home) to strengthen my ankles!

It's also fine if its whole leg exercises, but my main focus is on increasing my ankle strength.

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This isn't really the answer you're looking for but, change your running style. Put more emphasis on intensity less on distance. The longer the distances that you run the higher risk that you'll have issues with injuries. I have similar issues with getting shin splints and runners knee (in the anterior portion of my right knee) probably due to pronation issues. I find that if I run for more than 6mi (9.6km) or hike for more than 15mi (40km) I start to experience consistent pain throughout the rest of the exercise. –  Evan Plaice Mar 29 '11 at 16:11
    
(cont) Limiting distance and focusing more on increasing intensity instead enables me to stay in really good physical shape without any of the injuries. Doing higher intensity runs will also increase your Type II muscle strength which should lend more muscular support for your ankles. Shoes may also be a huge factor when it comes to shin splints. –  Evan Plaice Mar 29 '11 at 16:12
    
@Evan Plaice, I'm open to any suggestion! But it's only 5km so that's not really a distance. Besides it was an 'interval training' while staying under 160 bpm :\ Due to several reasons I haven't worked out for the past 6 months, so I need to get in shape no matter what I do. Also as far as shoes are concerned, I'm currently wearing the most stable Saucony's. On top of all that, I'm trying to focus on limiting my stride length to reduce the impact forces and it generally felt great. Which is why I was surprised to suddenly feel the pain again. –  Ivo Flipse Mar 29 '11 at 16:25
    
@Ivo Well, sprints will definitely help build more muscle (which increases support). Are you sure the shorter strides aren't causing more harm than good? Are you still able reach a sufficient extension of the muscles during each stride? –  Evan Plaice Mar 29 '11 at 16:33
    
They would also apply greater strain on my soft tissue @Evan, I'm assuming that you shouldn't sprint if you can't even run. I could try running on my toes, like you do in sprinting, if only to extra work the muscles around my ankle. I'm just worried that it might makes things worse. –  Ivo Flipse Mar 29 '11 at 17:17
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1 Answer 1

up vote 12 down vote accepted

In my personal experience, simple walking will do a lot to strengthen the ankles. I had Achilles tendinitis in January in both ankles due to trying to run without having conditioned myself properly. I took a couple weeks off of all unnecessary walking or being on my feet, then started walking every day for the next 6 weeks. I started running again at the beginning of March using the Couch to 10K app on my iPhone. It steps you slowly into running with intervals of running and walking.

Active.com has a nice list of ankle-strengthening exercises to prevent ankle injuries, shin splints (which it sounds like you have), and Achilles tendinitis (which I had in January). These exercises include...

Balance exercises:

  • Balance on one leg for 30 seconds, building to a minute. (Bodybuilding.com suggests building on this exercise with weights or on an unstable surface like foam) (WikiHow suggests using a Balancing Board)
  • Play a game of catch with a friend while balancing on one leg.
  • Do one leg squats (squat about halfway down while balancing on one leg).

Resistance Band exercises:

  • Inversion (rotating the ankle inward)
  • Eversion (rotating the ankle outward)
  • Dorsiflexion (lifting your toes toward your head)
  • Plantar flexion (pushing your toes away from your body)

(For a simpler description of inversion and eversion, see WikiHow's notes on "Ankle Turns")

Body-weight exercises:

  • Scissor hops (standing in a "lunge" position, jump and switch your forward foot with your back foot)
  • Squat jumps (jumping from a quarter-squat position)
  • Bounding (their description is rather unclear, but you should sort of "hop" forward like you're running on your toes, but very slowly, around 50% of running speed)

Bodybuilding.com also suggests swinging dumbbell calf raises, where you do a single leg calf raise while swinging a dumbbell around randomly.

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Nice exercises, I can try those resistance band ones while reading something. –  Ivo Flipse Mar 29 '11 at 21:49
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