The underrated tibialis anterior muscle

The tibialis anterior muscle is important for walking and running. It is the muscle that bends your ankle up towards your face (dorsiflexion).

The left foot is dorsiflexed by the tibias anterior which is the bulgy muscle you can see under the knee
This is what the muscle looks like under the skin (the red bit is the muscle belly, and the white bit is the tendon, which attaches the muscle to a couple of bones on the inner aspect of the foot)

The tibialis anterior muscle is in the upper third of the leg, just to the outside of your shin bone (tibia). It has a long tendon that runs down your shin towards the inside of your foot. When this muscle contracts, it lifts up your foot towards your face. Because the muscle belly is short, it can be a hard muscle to foam roll. In general, foam rolling is much better for longer and larger muscles. I therefore usually give this muscle a self-massage or I’ve even had it acupunctured.

When you walk very quickly or run, tibialis anterior can get sore from the fast movement up and down of your ankle, or if you’re doing some uphill walking/running, you have to dorsiflex more because of the angle of the incline, and that can make it sore too. You can see a video of my foam rolling technique on my Instagram or Facebook. I’m a bit of a noob on here and haven’t figured out how I can upload a video to my blog yet… but below are a couple of screenshots from the video:

Top: foam rolling my right tibialis anterior with the left leg extended Bottom: foam rolling my left tibialis anterior with both knees tucking up

I hold my upper body in a low plank position and place my leg at a slight angle (because the tibialis muscle is slightly to the outside of the midline). I roll the muscle up and down whilst keeping my core squeezed tight and strong. By leaving the top leg extended, you are working your back muscles and gluteus maximus of that leg. By bringing both knees up, you work your abs more, in particular the obliques because you are at a slanted angle. Either way, this way of foam rolling is fantastic for both releasing the muscle as well as strengthening your core – I love this exercise!

If you haven’t tried this way of rolling, or haven’t heard of the tibialis anterior before, do give it a try. It will help with post-run conditioning. There are so many smaller muscles in running that get less attention. Most people know about hamstrings and quads, but two muscles that I really love to pay attention to are the tibialis anterior, and the tensor fascia lata, which I’ll dedicate a future post to!

Take care,

Miko xx

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  1. Heba says:

    Hi Miko
    Tibialis anterior (and posterior) get a great release with a hard spikey ball. It’s excruciating but so good.

    1. Miko says:

      Thanks Heba! I do have one of those but I’m too chicken to do it on tib ant… I might try it after a run sometime!

  2. Callum barnes says:

    Hi Mika!

    Really interesting, I often feel like fitness starts from the foot and moves up, small muscles are so easily neglected!

    I was wondering if you had any thoughts on excercices to recover from acl tear? Mines totally gone and the wait for surgery is long… I’m doing the basic physio, building the quads, flexibility, and balance board, but feel like I’m neglecting g the hip and ankle.

    Any advice would be much appreciated, you’re a superwoman!

    1. Miko says:

      Hi Callum,
      I’m sorry I don’t know much about ACL tears, so I’m unable to advise… I think you’ve done the right thing to see a physio though! Miko

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