Tibialis Anterior Muscle: Big Toe, Ankle and Shin Pain

What pain and symptoms are associated with the tibialis anterior muscle?

Tibialis Anterior Pain Pattern

Pain in the shin traveling down through the ankle and into the big toe can signal tibialis anterior muscle dysfunction.

  • Pain in the big toe
  • Pain in the front of the ankle going up the front of the shin
  • Occasionally there will be swelling of the shin bone
  • Can contribute to shin splints
  • Can be a cause of weak ankles
  • Can contribute to drop foot which can cause tripping and falling

Where is the tibialis anterior muscle?

The tibialis anterior lies along the outside of the shinbone (tibia). The muscle attaches to the top of the shinbone and descends down the leg, following the outside of the bone. The muscle’s tendon crosses the top of the foot by the inside ankle and connects to two bones  (medial cuneiform and first metatarsal) on the bottom of the foot.

What movements does the tibialis anterior control?

  • Turns the bottom of the foot inward
  • Bends the foot up toward the body via the ankle

Activities that cause tibialis anterior muscle pain and symptoms:

  • Running or walking on uneven ground
  • Climbing
  • Toe tripping
  • Shin splints
  • Muscle often becomes painful after an ankle sprain

Interesting facts about the tibialis anterior muscle:

  • Trigger points and a tight shortened tibialis anterior can make it difficult to pick up the foot and can contribute to ‘tripping over your own feet’.
  • Pain from trigger points in the tibialis anterior is sometimes diagnosed as gout or turf toe.
  • Is often the primary cause of  “growing” pains in the feet and ankles of children.


Tibialis Anterior

You use the tibialis anterior muscle when you turn the bottom of your foot inward and when you bend your foot up toward your body.

Clinical diagnoses to which the tibialis anterior muscle symptoms may contribute:

  • Anterior compartment syndrome
  • Shin splints
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Hammer toe
  • Claw toes
  • Gout
  • Turf toe

Other muscles that should be considered and examined in conjunction with the tibialis anterior muscles:

Satellite Trigger Points: Flexor Digitorum Longus, Flexor Hallucis Longus, Peroneal Muscles, Extensor Hallucis Longus

For more information see: Tibialis Anterior Function and Anatomy

Help with Tibialis Anterior Muscle Pain

Sombra Warm Therapy Gel provides pain relief.

Warm Therapy Gel For Lower Leg Pain

Sombra Warm Therapy Pain Relieving Gel is a pain relieving gel that I use both personally and professionally in my massage therapy practice. It provides warmth without burning heat and is works for relieving tightness and pain.  Applying Sombra to the muscles on the front of the leg, and down to the top of the foot can help reduce pain and tightness caused by the tibialis anterior muscle and shin splints. I recommend Sombra for chronic pain and pain from arthritis.

Cold Therapy Gel For Lower Leg Injury and Pain

Biofreeze is recommended for recent muscle injury

Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel is an excellent pain relieving gel and I recommend it for those who have sudden onset muscle pain or recent injuries.  It is better to use than warm therapy gels and creams for muscle pain caused by inflammation as it cools the area much like ice. A recent study showed that Biofreeze decreased pain 2 times more than ice and the pain relief lasts 9 – 10 longer. If  your low leg pain is from a recent injury or recent shin splints I would recommend Biofreeze.

Hot / Cold Wrap For Sore Shins and Lower Leg Injury and Pain

Hot Cold Wrap for Shin Splints and Sore Shin Muscles

If you have chronic pain from an old injury or participate in activities that strain the lower leg muscles the Thera Pearl Shin Hot & Cold Wrap  can be used to apply heat or as an ice pack. It works on the shin or the calf wrapping around the leg with two Velcro band closures. The packs can be stored in the freezer for cold therapy or popped in the microwave for heat. Use this on the tibialis anterior muscle to ease pain in the front and side of the lower leg and treat shin splints


Lower Leg Calf Muscle Brace and Support


The The Shock Doctor Calf Shin Wrap is an adjustable wrap that provides support for the low leg muscles. It can be used for shin splints as well as sore strained or sprained calf muscles. Provides compression as well as heat to help relax the muscle and improve mobility. Use this brace if you need more support after injury or need adjustable compression or tightness  for chronic pain support.  If you suspect or have ever been treated for blood clots consult your doctor before using compression or supports on your legs!

Compression Sleeve and Socks for Shin Splints and Lower Leg Muscle Recovery


A compression sleeve used by many athletes, the BeVisible Sports Men and Women Shin / Calf Compression Sleeve provides compression, support, and warmth without adding bulk to the lower leg muscles. This sleeve is recommended by athletic trainers and shin splints and overuse injuries of the lower leg muscles. The sleeve is also great as a preventative measure against shin splints and tired sore muscles after sports activities.  Compression sleeves are also shown to reduce recovery time after strenuous activities and injury.  If you suspect or have ever been diagnosed with blood clots consult your doctor before using this brace.



Eurosocks Patented Recovery Graduated Compression Sock

Over the calf graduated compression socks
The graduated compression socks have become a go-to for both amateur and professional athletes for lower leg, ankle and foot injury recovery. Graduated compression helps relieve pain from muscle stiffness and soreness as well as discouraging inflammation.  The socks wicking fabric keeps skin dry and DryStat technology inhibits the growth of odor-causing microbes. The over the calf style works very well tibialis anterior muscle recovery as the sock will cover the entire muscle. If you suspect or have been treated for blood clots, consult with a doctor before using compression on the lower legs.


Self Treatment For Shin Splints and Low Leg Pain

The Trigger Point Workbook can help you resolve muscle pain throughout your body.

Do you know that small knots and other dysfunction in the tibialis anterior contribute to shin splints and pain in the lower leg going into the foot and big toe? 

If you have shin splints, low leg, ankle, and foot pain,  I  recommend that you purchase Claire Davies The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief Mr. Davies explain the trigger point phenomenon and muscle pain in everyday language.  But what makes this book worth its weight in gold are the individual muscle trigger point treatments that Davies has compiled. His diagrams and step by step instructions help you locate which muscles are contributing to your pain,  how to find the trigger point and treat it. If you suffer from unresolved lower leg, shin splints, and foot pain I highly recommend this book. It takes time and practice to master finding trigger points, but once you learn you have a tool and method to help relieve muscle pain throughout the body.  This book is a must-have for anyone interested in finding the cause and self-treating muscle pain.




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