Shin splints -- a common and painful problem that most runners are familiar with and have probably experienced at one time or another. This condition is characterized by pain, swelling, or soreness around the lower front part of the leg- the shin. Shin splints are caused by overworking the shin bone and attached muscles through constant pressure and stress on the area. While temporary pain relief such as ice applied to the site and plenty of rest help to alleviate complaints of pain, this condition has the potential to worsen significantly as pain returns with the continuance of exercise. The best way to treat shin splints is to heed preventive measures and follow up every run with rest and proper stretching.
Before you even start running regularly, it’s absolutely crucial to select the right shoes for arch support, balance, and correct fit. Your shins absorb the impact of each bounding step you take so a pair of running shoes well suited to reduce this stress is recommended. In fact, splurging on more than one pair of shoes and rotating accordingly may be best as regular running tends to wear down the soles and tread of your shoe bottoms.
Selecting your path beforehand is the next logical step to help lower your risks of developing shin splints. Running on smoother and gentler surfaces reduces the strain on your legs. Thus, each step forward absorbs less shock and your leg muscles don’t have to work double time. Avoid rocky and uneven surfaces if you can.
Stretching before and after you embark on a run is the ideal next step for shin splints prevention. Focus on improving the flexibility of key body parts such as the quads, hamstrings, and calves to improve durability and longevity during a run. Spend at least 5 minutes ensuring you are properly stretched out and light on your feet before you take off. In addition, your hip flexors play a critical role in carrying a bit of the pressure off of your leg muscles, including the shins. Incorporate hip stretches in your regular pre-stretching routine to reduce the risk of overworking your shins and subsequently causing shin splints.
Lastly, you may dismiss this suggestion as mere common sense but it needs to be said-- don’t overdo it! It can be difficult to rationalize this idea especially as you ramp up the frequency of your weekly runs in preparation for an upcoming marathon. Constant stress on the shins is ultimately what causes shin splints and a sudden increase in these repetitive movements increases your risk factor. Gradually increase the intensity of your runs as you go and build up to runs that require longer distances by completing shorter runs in shorter bursts of time . Spreading out your workouts gives your body time to heal and readjust for the next run.
Do your best to abide by these recommendations and shin splints will only be a painful memory of your distant past.