How to Prevent Shin Splints
Are you a new runner or making changes to your workout routine?
Shin splints, medically known as “medial tibial stress syndrome” are one of the most common running injuries. If you are a new runner or starting a new sport, such as soccer, basketball, or track, you need to know how to prevent and heal shin splints.
The pain you feel from shin splints is mostly due to inflammation of the muscles and tendons in the lower legs.
High Impact Activity - Running on hard or inclined surfaces
Incorrect Technique - “Overpronate” (ankles roll in or feet roll toward the outside edge)
Heel Striking - most common
Overuse - Doing too much too soon
To reduce the pain, place an ice pack on your lower legs after you run. Keep an ice pack on the leg for about 20 minutes every 3-4 hours. TIP: Wrap the ice in a towel, do not allow it to touch the skin directly. Another great way to help reduce swelling is compression gear, such as compression bandages or socks.
1. Check Your Form
Make sure you have good running form! This will help you avoid shin splints. Avoid heel striking or toe running, try to land on the middle of the foot. The goal is to land mid-sole, then roll through and push off through the toes. If you still have a problem with your form, try contacting a running coach to help evaluate the issue. We are big believers in keeping off your heels altogether when you run and if your heel touches the ground, it will simply kiss the ground without really contacting it, causing a striking motion that can cause shin splints.
Newton Running has some great videos that can help keep you off of your forefoot when running.
This one in particular, shows good form and teaches the technique.
2. Strength Training
If you increase your distance too quickly or are new to running, you could experience pain due to weak anterior tibialis muscles. These muscles run along the front side of your lower leg and are responsible for flexing the foot at the ankle. Simple exercises such as heel raise or toe raise will help strengthen your calf and shin muscles to prevent pain.
3. Gradually Increase Training
Overtraining puts a strain on your body as a whole. Ease into running and slowly up your mileage or intensity when your body is ready. The important thing to remember is to not run through the pain. Listen to your body and do not return to training until you are pain-free. Also, before you start running, walk for a bit and let the legs warm up and build to a run. Speed will come in time as a byproduct of great form.
4. Run on Softer Surface
Running on hard surfaces, such as concrete, can add a lot of stress to your muscles, bones, and joints. Take turns running on a treadmill, sidewalk, dirt trails, or grass.
Running is great! BUT it can be too much for your body. Crosstraining will not only make you feel better but probably help you see results faster. Switch it up with some low-impact exercises, such as swimming, pilates, or yoga.
This is a no-brainer! Stretch, stretch, stretch! Stretch before you start exercising, stop if you feel pain mid-workout, and stretch after your workout. If your calves are tight use a foam roller or massage tool over the calf. Five minutes of self-massage after a workout will make a huge difference.
Start slow when getting into a new running routine and make sure preventative medicine comes into play. We can’t stress this enough. Also, make sure to get off your heels when running. You will feel more sore in the calf area, but once you become accustomed to the technique, you will be able to go long distances without pain.