Shin Splints are a type of leg pain that is experienced mostly by athletes, specifically runners.
What are Shin Splints?
Shin Splints are essentially small tears in the area where the lower leg muscle attaches to the tibia (shinbone). These tears are often the result of overuse. It can also happen because the calf muscle is stronger than the tibialis anterior (the muscle on the outside of the shin).
There are also other factors that can aggravate shin splints:
- Shoes that lack support
- Downhill running
- Hard surfaces
- Supinating when running
Shin splints can start as a minor injury, but it’s ideal to prevent the condition as soon as possible to avoid more severe tears. Allowing for the pain to continue could negatively impact your running routine. However, if you're already experiencing persistent pain, consult with your Doctor.
Below, are ten ways to prevents shin splints from occurring.
How to Prevent Shin Splints
1. Change Your Running Form
A common culprit of shin splints is improper running technique. More specifically, styles like "heel striking" and "toe running."
If you’re the type of runner who lands on your heels, then it's time to check your form. Doing so creates added stress on your lower legs. In a similar fashion, toe running can overwork the calf muscles.
These running styles can both lead to shin splints, calf muscle strains, and various knee problems.
To prevent these issues it's best to land mid-foot and then roll through the fronts of the toes.
2. Build Lower Leg Strength
Shin splints can also be caused by muscle imbalances. You can prevent these imbalances by performing various exercises that will help build your lower leg muscles.
To name a few:
- Toe and Heel walks
- Heel rocks
- Calf Stretch
3. Run On Soft Surfaces
Concrete and asphalt aren't necessarily leg muscle-friendly. Running on these harder surfaces can put added pressure on your muscles, bones, and joints.
Scout your local area and find softer surfaces to run, such as dirt roads or woodsy trails. Running on these surfaces can help to eliminate shin splint problems.
4. Stretching is a must
Some runners will skip a stretching routine and begin their run immediately. Perform stretches that target your lower legs to prevent shin splints.
You should always do some form of lower body stretching, even on the days you don't run/exercise.
5. Get Better Shoes
Running with shoes that have a lack of support can aggravate your shins and lead to injury. You should invest in properly cushioned shoes and change them every 300-400 miles.
6. Get Some Rest
Don’t exhaust yourself!
If you're a beginner runner you should avoid running on consecutive days and run in a split instead. The body needs time to recover and taking a day off between running days allows this to happen. If you're experienced, even taking 2-3 days off a week will be beneficial for your body.
Resting doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to halt all physical activity. You can do other low-intensity exercises or stretching on off days.
7. Take a Refreshing Ice Bath
An ice bath can help reduce swelling/inflammation, and tissue breakdown by constricting blood vessels and limiting the inflammatory response after a workout.
As the tissue warms up, your blood circulates and the healing process is jump-started.
8. Your Weight
When you're running you're transferring the shock equivalent of 2.5x your body-weight. As you can imagine, the less you weigh, the less pressure you put on your feet and lower legs. This helps to avoid shin splints.
9. Try Inclined Running
Running downhill puts more pressure on your shins. Running uphill on an incline can help alleviate this added stress.
When training on a treadmill, ensure you have the machine set to a small incline. Even a small incline of a few inches can be beneficial.
10. Run at a steady pace
When it's warmer weather, don't expect to jump back into a 7 minute mile pace. Your outdoor run is not always going to correlate to your indoor training on a treadmill. You have to account for other factors like uneven terrain, weather, wind resistance, etc. All of these can result in shin splint related problems.
Shin splints are a common problem with athletes. Luckily, there are a number of ways to prevent them. In order to avoid shin splints, consider following the above advice. If you're already experiencing persistent shin related pain, make an appointment with your Doctor as soon as possible.