Shin splints are one of the most common overuse injuries for athletes, particularly among brand new runners. Chances are, if you decided to suddenly become a runner one day and head out for a five mile run several days in a row, you’ve experienced the dreaded shin splints.
Early treatment and prevention are the tickets to keeping avoiding shin splints for good.
The last thing you want when you’re adventuring the world is a shin splint, so we’ve put together a list of ways to better enjoy your days without an annoying injury.
What Causes Shin Splints?
Shin splints are an overuse injury common in new runners that occurs when excess stress is put on the tibia (the shin bone). The tibia plays the role of shock absorption each time your foot strikes the ground.
Seasoned runners and athletes generally don’t experience shin splints, largely because they have strengthened the shin bone over time.
Inexperienced runners, however, are running on a shin bone that is going through a bit of shock with the new high impact activity.
In response to the added stress, the shin bone becomes overworked.
Other common activities that are known to cause shin splints include sports that require sudden stopping or directional changes, such as:
- Some forms of dance
- Thru hiking
How to Prevent Shin Splints
Addressed immediately, shin splints can be treated quickly and, with the right preventative measures, may never occur again.
Left ignored, however, shin splints can develop into a stress fracture and sideline you for months. Early treatment and prevention is key to saying goodbye to this common injury.
Frozen Ice Cup
Freeze ice in a paper or silicone cup and run the ice along your shin for 10-minute intervals on each leg. Doing this in a cup allows you to peel back the holder as the ice melts. It’s a bit less messy than using an ice cube and less cold on your hands!
If you find that your shins ache when you walk, then it’s time to rest for a few days. As mentioned above, treated immediately upon onset, shin splints have a pretty quick recovery time. You can likely return to exercise within a week or so.
Ease Back into Running
As your shins begin to heal, ease slowly back into running. It’s natural to want to hit the ground running (pun intended), but you’ll want to mix in low impact cross training, like cycling, swimming, and rowing.
The general rule is to increase total weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent.
Run on Softer Surfaces
Running on hard surfaces like asphalt and concrete increases the impact and therefore likelihood of shin splints.
Trail running or sticking to surfaces like tracks help to absorb the impact better and be more forgiving on your joints, bones, muscles, and tendons.
Get the Right Shoes
If you’re looking to get into running, then head to your local running store to get your feet analyzed and select the right shoes for your unique gait and form.
You may want to consider wearing a shoe without a heel drop, like the Primal 2. Zero-drop shoes allow your foot to strike the ground with less impact. Reducing the impact will not only help prevent shin splints, but can also help to prevent and repair other injuries.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by the frequency of shin splints among people who wear ill-fitting shoes. Shoes that are shaped like the foot (ahem, Lems) offer the room for your foot and toes to fully extend, reducing your likelihood of injury.
Next, consider wearing Correct Toes, silicone spacers that retrain your feet to go back into their natural position.
Stretches and Exercises to Heal Shin Splints
Eccentric Calf Raises
Stand on a step, tiptoed on one leg and slowly lower down.
At the bottom of the movement, use your opposite leg to raise your body back into a single leg tiptoe position. You can use a wall or railing for balance, if needed.
Aim for three sets of 10 once daily. When you have built strength, you can add a weight if you like.
Spell the Alphabet
This is great exercise to do throughout the day while you’re sitting at your desk or watching TV. Simply extend one leg and spell the alphabet with your foot. Once you’ve gone through, switch to the other foot.
Perform the alphabet several times throughout the day.
With your knees in prayer position on top of a foam roller, simply lean forward onto your hands and roll back and forth along your shins.
Strengthen your Feet
Our feet are essential to nearly every athletic movement we make and we tend to forget about them. Incorporating foot strengthening exercises into your daily routine will go a long way to preventing other injuries.
With the right care, footwear and strength routine, you’ll be able to avoid shin splints without a problem.