The Infamous Shin Splints

Shin Splints Stink. Period.
Learn How to Deal with this Common Running Injury 

Shin splints can be a runner's worst nightmare. You make the commitment to exercise, and then all of a sudden, you're sidelined. Your shins are throbbing with every step. Shin splint pain commonly happens when runners start a new exercise program. Shin splints are due to an imbalance between the muscles that lift the foot (the muscles on the front of the leg) and those that pull it down (the muscles in the back of the leg).

Overstriding can be the cause of shin splints, running too far too soon, as can wearing improper running shoes. You are overstriding if you habitually "reach" with your lead leg in a virtually straight position. When your leg is straight, the first contact with the ground occurs hard on the heel. The result is a lot of shock shimmering up through the lower leg and shins, possibly affecting even your knees, hips and back. The result is pain and possibly injury such as shin splints.

Try shortening your stride when you run to avoid overstriding. It may seem like you're shuffling or running slower when you do this (which is why you started overstriding to begin with!). Just be sure to lift your feet, strike the ground lightly with your midfoot and roll forward onto your toes.

Given you have the right shoes (you have, right?), what else could cause the the pain? Well, doing too much too soon is another cause of shin splints. This is why our training starts out slow and builds little by little. If you take a couple of extra rest days, the shin splint pain should eventually go away. As you develop your shin muscles and adjust to your new program, the shin splints should go away. Here are a few tips to get you through the pain:

  • Strengthen your calf muscles with exercises: Toe Raises can help build the shin muscles and improve their flexibility so you can overcome shin splints. Try writing the entire alphabet with your toes lifted in the air. Repeat with other foot.
  • Replace old shoes: Shoe cushioning is exhausted every 400-500 miles or about 6 months, often long before the soles or uppers show wear. Even if you haven't worn your shoes for the entire 6 months or so that you've had them, they still break down over time. These old, dead shoes can contribute to shin splints, as well as foot and leg fatigue. You may consider an orthotic that provides a more supportive foot bed, such as Superfeet.
  • Alternate running days: Our training plan has specific days of rest. If you have shin pain, run only every other day until the pain disappears. Try walking if running is too painful.
  • Warm-up before going fast: Warm up walking at an easy pace for ten minutes before you begin any running.
  • Stretch after your warm-up: Stop and do your stretch routine, especially the legs, after your warm-up.
  • Slow or stop if you feel shin splint pain: If the pain does not go away quickly at a lower speed, end your run. 

When in doubt, talk to us about any pain you're experiencing. We can work together to modify your plan that will allow you to rest but keep you on track to reach your goals!

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