Can Duck Walks Help Prevent Shin Splints?

A TikTok video of a woman walking funny on the sidewalk went viral. She walked on her heels with her toes pointing out, then she walked on her toes with her heels pointing out. She said her cross-country coach in high school prescribed duck walks to prevent shin splints. The video got more than 400,000 likes and more than 3,000 comments from runners looking for ways to prevent this nasty injury.

If you've never had shin splints, consider yourself lucky. According to Foot and Ankle Clinic, shin splints plague runners, tennis players, and dancers. Runners will get them if they bump up their weekly mileage too quickly or if they suddenly switch from flat roads to hills. Other causes for shin splints could be overpronation, lack of stretching, or running on the same side of a road with a significant camber. 

Could duck walks be the most effective, yet awkward, move to prevent shin splints?

Some trainers and athletes suggest duck walks

According to Shape, duck walks could help prevent shin splints because they could strengthen the muscles on either side of your shin. These muscles help in flexing your foot. However, doing them incorrectly could cause injury because they could strain the knee.

Wilcox Running uses duck walks as part of an overall plan to prevent shin splints. You start by tapping your toe on the ground for 30 seconds to warm up the anterior tibialis, which is one of the muscles on the front of the shin. Follow with 20 to 25 slow calf raises. Proceed with the duck walk, walking in one direction on the heels with toes out, then come back on the toes with heels pointing in. Then you walk backward carefully toe to heel, rocking your foot like a rocking chair. This activates the muscles in the back of your legs.

The Foot & Ankle Clinic suggests walking on your heels for 30 seconds followed by regular walking for 30 seconds. However, the clinic didn't suggest angling the toes outward as in the duck walk. They also suggest tracing the alphabet on the floor with your toes. Former pro runner Jason Lehmkuhle did duck walks as part of his injury-prevention strategy (via Runner's World). He also included eccentric calf raises and alphabet tracing in his plan.

Other ways to prevent shin splints and stress fractures

According to The Foot & Ankle Clinic, it's important to know the difference between a shin splint and a stress fracture. If you run your fingers along your shin, a shin splint will hurt in this general area. A stress fracture will hurt in a specific place. 

If you're prone to shin splints, it's best to stretch your Achilles tendon and calf muscles. You can also stretch your shins by kneeling on a carpeted floor. While sitting on your calves and heels, press your ankles into the carpet until you feel a stretch in your shin, and hold this for 10 to 12 seconds.

To prevent stress fractures, the key might be calf raises. Runner's World says that runners with stronger calves have fewer issues with stress fractures. If you can't do a single-leg calf raise on a step, begin with both legs on a flat surface. Complete three sets of 15 calf raises twice a week at first, and progress to the single-leg variation on a step.