Shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome, is the inflammation of the tendons and muscles near your tibia, or shin bone. The condition is common, especially among runners and other athletes who "pound" their feet on a hard surface during vigorous exercise. Step aerobics, the activity of stepping on and off a low bench in a rhythmic pattern, can cause shin splints in some people. With adjustments to your technique and footwear, you can still do step aerobics with shin splints.
Buy a pair of supportive athletic shoes that will act as shock absorbers as you participate in step aerobics. Sneakers that feature ample padding in the forefront area will deflect stress from your shinbone. A firm sole that is not overly flexible can also protect you from pain.
Wear arch supports in your shoes if your feet are on the flatter side. The built-up arches stabilize the lower part of your foot, including your ankle, taking stress off of your shin as you step up and down.
Examine your bench or step to ensure it is of an appropriate height for you. Stepping up too high increases the force load of your body weight on your foot and lower leg, causing additional discomfort in shins that are already injured. The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine recommends a step that limits your knee position to between 83 and 90 degrees as you step onto the platform. The height of the step will vary depending on your leg length and overall height.
Warm up and stretch out before you engage in aerobics. Take a five-minute walk to loosen up and stretch out your calves. Lower leg flexibility can make you more comfortable when you are plagued with shin splints. Stand on the aerobics step and drop your heels down off the side. Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds as you stretch your calves and Achilles tendons.
Avoid bouncing as you perform the steps of your aerobics routine. Too much jump in your step places excess stress on your lower legs and feet, contributing to increased pain and increasing the risk of stress fractures. Step up and down with your foot planted firmly in the middle of the bench as smoothly as possible.
Return to step aerobics gradually as you recover from shin splints. Overdoing it, in any sport, can cause a rebound injury and longer recovery. Intersperse your aerobics workout with another form of exercise that does not strain the shins, such as swimming or cycling. Stop the aerobics if you experience pain during exercise.
Ice your shins after your workout. The cold eases any residual pain you might feel and reduces inflammation in the muscles and tendons around your tibia. Wrap cold compresses or ice packs in a towel to protect your skin from burns. Ice in 20-minute increments.