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How to Prevent Shin Splints from Running (and Other Sports)

Painful shins—commonly called shin splints—are the bane of athletes everywhere, especially runners. Repetitive activity, particularly from vigorous and high-impact sports, can overwork the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue in the lower leg. That leads to pain and swelling, especially in the hours and days after physical activity.

Fortunately, shin splints can often be prevented through a variety of conservative tools or behavior modifications.

  1. Wear good shoes. We recommend sport-specific shoes for the activities in which you regularly participate. They should fit properly—not just the overall size, but also your foot shape, structure, and gait. (Some running specialty stores will have trained staff who can help you find the perfect fit; we can help, too.) Furthermore, shoes should be replaced once the midsoles are worn and compressed, even if they still look “nice” on the outside.

  2. Train slowly and deliberately for new activities. Don’t throw yourself full speed into a new sport or exercise program. Don’t suddenly increase your mileage or intensity by a dramatic amount, either. Start and build slowly, giving your body a chance to adjust to new stresses.

  3. Work on your form. Efficient running biomechanics reduces stress and strain on muscles, bones, and joints. In regard to shin splints, it may help to focus on taking shorter strides and striking closer toward your midfoot.

  4. You especially want to keep your calf muscles from getting too tight, although stretches for your plantar fascia (bottom of foot) and the muscles on the front of your lower leg can also be helpful.

  5. Choose your running routes carefully. Sometimes changing the terrain can be as helpful as changing your pace or distance. If you struggle with pain, try flatter and/or softer routes.

  6. Cross-train. You should not exclusively play sports or perform activities that consistently put high impact forces on your feet and legs. Instead, cut down a bit on your running (or other high-impact exercise) and replace it with low-impact alternatives like swimming, cycling, or hitting the weights.

If these prevention tips aren’t able to keep you from developing shin pain, you may need a little extra attention from one of the specialists at Gulf South Foot and Ankle. Often, the right pair of custom orthotics can provide the extra cushioning and support your feet need to reduce the pain and strain on the shins. To schedule an appointment in Metairie, call (504) 708-4810. For Covington, dial (985) 809-1464.

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