Today I thought I’d talk about shin splints. I’ve written about my problems with shin splints plenty of times in the blog (Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and Exhibit C, just as some examples!). I’ve read many articles on shin splints, gotten advice from all of you, and gotten lots of advice from an athletic trainer friend. So today, I thought I’d bring all of that advice together into one post!
First of all, what are shin splints?
Webmd puts it like this:
“Shin splints aren’t really a single medical condition. Instead, they’re just a symptom of an underlying problem. They might be caused by:
- Irritated and swollen muscles, often caused by overuse.
- Stress fractures, which are tiny, hairline breaks in the lower leg bones.
- Overpronation or ”flat feet” — when the impact of a step causes the arch of your foot to collapse, stretching the muscles and tendons.”
And P.S. They’re painful. Really painful.
So how do you help fix them?
1. Start a good stretching program.
Make sure you’re stretching your calves really well, because tight calves can also have a negative affect on your shins.
Some stretches I do:
You want to keep your back heel on the ground during this stretch. First keep the back leg straight and stretch for 10 seconds, then bend the back leg slightly and stretch for 10 seconds. You can also do “wall push-ups” while in this position to feel a nice stretch.
Cheesy picture, but you get the idea. Put your toes on the wall, keep your heel on the floor, and bend your body slightly toward the wall, to feel a good stretch. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
- Another thing you can do it walk around your house on your tip-toes for a minute, then walk around on your heels for another minute. These exercises strengthen your calves and shins.
- If you have a foam roller, you can also use it to help massage your calves.
2. Make sure you have the right shoes.
This one seems like a given, but I’m saying it anyways. If you can, go to a running shoe store that has trained professionals who can help you pick out the right shoe for you!
And while you’re at it, consider getting inserts. Yes, they’re more money, but if they’re going to help prevent injuries, I think they’re worth it!
3. Ice your shins.
My trainer friend has started having my ice both before and after my runs. He even said to ice on days that I wasn’t running, because I was having so many problems with shin splints. Honestly, I’m bad about being consistent with this. But every article you read talks about the importance of icing, so you should probably do it!
I have found that the best way to ice my legs is filling a Styrofoam cup with water and sticking it in the freezer. Then I peel away the Styrofoam and rub the ice directly on my shins for about 10-15 minutes.
4. Use compression gear.
I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know all the technical reasons for why this stuff works. But wearing the compression sleeves after a long run does something to help with circulation. If you’re interested in the compression sleeves, I would recommend doing a little more research on your own before purchasing them.
5. Elevate your shins.
Elevating helps to reduce swelling. Plus, this is the perfect excuse to be lazy and sit in front of the TV for a couple of hours.
6. Run somewhere new.
Recently I was running in a park on a trail made of asphalt. My shins were really hurting. So I switched over to another trail made with dirt. Pretty quickly, my shin pain went away.
I can’t say it will be this “magical” every time, but I do think where you run matters. Sidewalks made of concrete are usually the toughest on your shins. Asphalt roads are a little better, and running on a track (often made out of rubber) can be even better.
So if you have the option, try to switch up your running routine by finding a new location to run … a hiking path, the treadmill, your local high school track, etc. Not only will it help beat boredom, but it could also give your legs the break they need!
Yeah, I know this one will be tough for a lot of people. But rest really is key when it comes to shin splints. I took about 3 weeks off from running back in January because of my shin splints, and honestly, I don’t think it was enough. I should have waited even longer. But I was just soooo worried about training for my half-marathon in April, that I just had to start running again. And guess what? The shin pain continued.
So do yourself a favor and give your body the rest it needs. Do cross-training … use an exercise bike, go swimming, lift weights, etc. But take a break from running for a little while, and your body will thank you for it!
So there you have it. Shin splint 101.
Just to be clear, I’m not a doctor or any type of expert in this field. I’m just sharing advice I’ve received and strategies that work for me. I hope some of you find them helpful, as well!
Question for ya …
Any other advice on shin splints?
Ever had any running injuries? Or other fitness-related injuries?
What did everyone do this weekend??