I’m not an expert runner by any definition of the word, but I run enough to know the intense and debilitating affects of shin splints.
I started getting them when I first ventured into the sport last year. The first few weeks were terrible, and as a new runner, I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. Eventually, I fixed the situation by brushing up on my form and creating a stretching routine any professional athlete would be proud of! Sounds easy, right??
Well, a few weeks ago, they came back! I didn’t change my routine and yet, the pain shooting up my shins was unbearable.
Shin splints are common in high-impact activities that put a lot of stress on the feet and legs. It can also be caused by something called overpronation, when the arch of your foot is in constant contact with the ground due to ankle positioning. This limits the body’s ability to absorb the impact of that connection. Sometimes, stopping your activity and stretching out the area can quickly reduce this pain — but a lot of the time, if you continue the activity that caused the shin splints, it can cause serious injury.
So, what to do about it?
Stretch: This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how little people stretch prior to a workout. Make sure to really work every area. Stretch your arms, your core, your neck, your ankles, and of course, your legs. Sure, the hamstrings are most closely related to shin splints, but if the rest of your body isn’t just as limber, it will cause muscle spasms that will carry down to those shins. I do at least 10 minutes of stretching before I put my shoes on. Try doing some yoga between runs to help keep those muscles stretched and toned.
Get new shoes: This is what I’m going to be doing in the next few weeks. My shoes are old and are loosing their support. This means there is less of a barrier between the pavement and my feet, causing more friction and more pressure on my shins/arches. If you don’t want to get new shoes, maybe try orthotic inserts to help support your arches.
Take a break: I know this isn’t what you want to hear. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear either. But if you are experiencing shin splints, continued stress on the legs will just make it worse and can lead to serious injury. Take one to two weeks off the activity that caused the shin splints. Also try to avoid any high-impact activities that would cause your weight to be placed on the arches of your feet.
Cross train: Just because you aren’t running, doesn’t mean you sit on the couch and watch TV all day! Go for a walk, swim, or hit the gym and use an elliptical or a stationary bike! As long as you avoid activities in which you jump, you’ll be fine! Maybe the better choice is to go for a long walk. Walking is just as good for you as running is, without the stress caused by having your foot hit the pavement with force.
Return slowly: When you do start running again, don’t pick up where you left off. Start slowly and work your way back up. Sometimes, increasing your speed or mileage too quickly can cause shin splints. So, when you do get back into the game, make sure not to over do it. After the run, if your shins are starting to bother you, stretch them out and ice it to reduce inflammation!
Best of luck!
What do you do to help ease the pain of shin splints? Let us know in the comments below!