Last updated on November 3rd, 2022 at 04:54 pm
The main reason that squatting hurts your shins is due to a lack of ankle mobility. Firstly, this lack of mobility/flexibility in the ankles’ means that you probably tend to push through the balls of your feet rather than your heels when you squat. You may also notice that your heels come off the floor whenever you squat. This is actually why many people choose to squat with weight plates under their heels.
Why Do You Put Weights Under Your Heels When Squatting?
So, we’ve established that the main reason your shins hurt from squatting is because you tend to push through your toes due to a lack of ankle mobility.
Firstly, when you push up through your toes, you are in effect leaning forward ever so slightly.
This may not be noticeable to the naked eye or even to yourself, but trust me it’s happening.
And this slight forward motion places additional stress on the knees.
You’ll notice that your knees bend excessively forward, which in turn means that the shins also bend far more forward than they should.
The reason you push through your toes is usually because you lack flexibility in the ankle.
So, this is why you’ll often see people put weights under their heels when squatting.
Basically, by placing a 5-10lb plate under your heels you can compensate for your lack of ankle mobility.
This will actually help you to squat deeper, while also helping you to push through your heels at the bottom of the movement.
So, the squat will now work the quads and glutes to far greater effect, while also taking the pressure off the knees and shins.
What you’re doing here is reducing the amount of dorsiflexion required from the ankle joint.
This is something to consider if you lack ankle mobility.
How Can I Improve My Ankle Dorsiflexion For Squats?
If you’re looking to improve ankle dorsiflexion for squats you’ll need to follow a three-step process.
Namely, ankle mobilizations, foam rolling, and stretching.
Ankle mobilizations can typically be done with resistance bands.
One of the most basic movements is attaching one end of the band to a sturdy platform, so that it’s held in place, and then placing the other end over the front of your ankle.
You can then bend at the knee while pushing the shin forward.
Foam rolling is highly effective for helping with any soft tissue stiffness.
You can use a foam roller on your calves, followed by using a lacrosse ball on the soles of your feet.
Finally, soft tissue stretching is a must.
The best movement to improve ankle mobility will be the heel drop stretch.
This involves standing on a raised platform with your heel hanging off the end, much in the same way that you start the calf raise exercise.
However, rather than performing a calf raise you drop the heel into a stretch, which will help with the ankle soft tissues.
You can check out these stretches in more detail with accompanying videos at squatuniversity.com.
Can’t Squat? Fix Your Ankles
Use The Goblet Squat To Increase Mobility
The goblet squat is also a fantastic tool for helping to improve mobility.
We tend to view the goblet squat as a way to improve hip mobility.
Plus, you will typically find that after just a few sessions you will definitely be able to squat a lot deeper and with better form.
However, the goblet squat also happens to help a great deal with ankle mobility too.
I would honestly rate goblet squats as one of the best exercises ever.
Personally, I goblet squat every single week, numerous times.
You can use lighter weights as a great warm up.
Perhaps you could perform high volume reps and sets of goblet squats as a conditioning workout.
And if your gym has heavy enough dumbbells you could even turn goblets squats into a strength-based session.
Basically, if you want to improve flexibility in both your hips and ankles’ then use the goblet squat.
Foot Placement Can Hurt Your Shins While Squatting
Something else to consider if your shins hurt from squatting is your foot placement.
Basically, the closer your feet are together, the more stress you place the shins under.
This is especially true if you have poor ankle mobility.
Now I realise that you can of course squat with varying foot placements.
So, there is nothing wrong with having the feet close together (if you DON’T have poor ankle mobility).
In fact, narrow stance squats are often seen as a great way to activate the quads, glutes, and adductors more than usual.
Then again, you can also train the squat with a wide stance, although be wary, you don’t want your squat stance to be too wide.
This type of squat will actually train the hips through all three planes of motion.
However, what you’ll find with wider-stance squats is that the shins remain more vertical.
This will relieve a lot of the pressure typically placed on both the knees and the shins.
So, if you generally find that your shins hurt during squats you may want to consider a slightly wider stance.
It could even be that you currently squat with a fairly narrow stance without actually realising it.
The standard squat is usually performed with your feet placed slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
Your toes should also be pointed out slightly at an angle of 15-30 degrees.
Finally, your knees should always point in the same direction as your toes whenever you squat.
So, these should be your initial checkpoints.
Many people who complain of sore shins whenever they squat are often guilty of allowing their knees to fall inwards.
By allowing the knees to fall inwards you’ll also be placing additional stress on the knee and ankle joints, the shins, and even the lower back.
So, being wary of where your knees are in relation to your feet is extremely important.
With that being said, your squat stance can vary ever so slightly based on your anatomy.
We are all different, and therefore the standard squat technique may not suit everyone.
How to Squat For Your Anatomy
If your shins hurt while squatting this will typically be due to poor ankle mobility. You may notice that your heels come off the floor and you end up pushing through your toes. This places a great deal of stress on both the knees and the shins. You can take the pressure off your shins by regularly performing ankle mobility drills, or placing weight plates under your heels to counteract poor mobility, plus ensuring that your stance isn’t too narrow when you squat.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.