Being an avid runner has its perks, from feeling more confident in myself to building endurance and my joints! But the downfall of it is being more at risk to common running injuries, particularly shin splints. These minor yet nasty injuries can keep you from running comfortably, which is why I want to prevent them from happening in the first place.
But what are the ways on how to prevent shin splints? I’ll be tackling what shin splints are and the ways to avoid them from happening to you, whether you’re a runner or not!
- 1 What Are Shin Splints?
- 2 How to Prevent Shin Splints
- 3 Wrapping It Up
What Are Shin Splints?
Before anything else, what are shin splints in the first place?
Have you ever felt your shins aching after a run or short sprint? Then it might be shin splints. Medical professionals also call this the medial tibial stress syndrome, which comes from stress on the shinbone and tissues attached to those bones. It results in inflammation and pain around the area.
You’ll be surprised that this is a common injury, with athletes, runners, and dancers suffering from it because of the stress they put to their feet!
But why else does it happen? There are several reasons beyond just running too much! It can come from:
- Having flat feet, as the impact of steps causer your feet’s arches to collapse
- Wearing shoes that don’t offer good support or in the wrong size
- Working out without proper warmup or cool-down stretching
- Having weak core muscles, hips, and/or ankles
- Becoming even more active and intensely increasing your activity level immediately
When you have shin splints, it will be uncomfortable and cause a lot of pain, even if you’re just walking. That’s why it’s better to prevent it from happening to avoid the difficulty of walking or continuing your runs.
How to Prevent Shin Splints
Now that you know what shin splints are, what are ways to keep them from happening to you? Here are six tips on how to prevent shin splints:
1. Build Up Runs Gradually
I’m sure some of you have experienced pain after their first run, or if they went even harder than before! That’s one of the reasons why one gets shin splints!
Rather than running too much right away, I recommend that you increase both your speed and distance gradually. Don’t go five miles when you’ve just started running for the first time. The same goes for those who just begun any exercise or workout, avoid adding too much stress to your body, which might not be able to handle yet.
You’ll need a break-in period before going into more intense workouts. If you’re a runner like me, begin with a 20-minute combination of walking and running. Only increase your speed and distance by 5% every 1-2 weeks at most.
2. Cross Train and Strength Training
Running can shock your entire body, especially around the feet. Rather than just sticking to runs, you should also supplement those workouts with other exercises that don’t affect the joints as much.
You can do other training sessions such as rowing, swimming, or cycling. If you plan on cross-training, it’s best to do runs thrice a week and cross-training sessions of your choice twice a week. You’re still doing five cardiovascular workouts weekly and reap the benefits of it!
Besides cardio, it’s also suggested to pair it with strength training. You don’t need to lift heavy, but to work on your lower legs with strengthening exercises. Exercises like heel or toe raises will do a lot of good!
3. Have Proper Running Posture
Another reason why runners are more prone to injuries is because of their posture. If you have a poor running posture, the more you’re at risk of getting injuries from stress in the wrong areas.
When you run, make sure to run midfoot rather than try to do a heel or toe strike. When you hit the heel, it causes overstraining and stretches your shin muscles. Running on your toes can stress your calf muscles, which can lead to more injuries.
The same goes with your stride, which should be a bit shorter, which doesn’t only reduce the risk of shin splints, but make you faster! Count your cadence within 30-seconds and take a 30-second break, trying to keep your strides shorter after each set.
4. Use the Right Shoes and Orthotic If Necessary
While a lot of runners swear on running barefoot, it might be causing shin splints! Without proper arch support, your foot is overpronating, which can cause overuse injuries. You should opt for using stability or motion control shoes if you’re overpronating, or neutral shoes with enough support. Read more articles on choosing the best running shoes for shin splints for more information.
Besides this, your shoes should also be made of high-quality, replaced as needed (usually after 300 miles). By doing this, you can run with more confidence knowing your feet are supported and comfortable, without much risk of injury.
For those who heel strike and/or overpronate too much, you may need additional support from orthotics. These can both prevent and treat shin splints, as well as other overuse injuries.
5. Do Shin Stretches
You should always warm-up and cool down with shin stretches to prevent any injuries. If you begin to feel a bit of shin pain while running, you should also stop to stretch a bit for relief.
You can stretch your shins by doing the following:
- Do 10 reps of toe curls per foot
- Stand with your hands on the hips and shift your weight to your left leg, lifting your right leg in front of you. Flex your toes to your shin and point it away, repeating this 10 times and moving to the next leg
- Stretch your calves and if they’re tight, use a foam roller or massage tools to loosen up those knots that can cause injuries
6. Maintain Healthy Weight and Diet
Whenever your foot hits the surface, it would experience shocks over twice your body weight. So if you’re on the heavier side, it can increase the risk of injuries like shin splints. That’s why it’s important to maintain a healthy weight for your height to put less pressure on the feet.
Besides maintaining a healthy weight, it’s also best that you pair it with a proper diet. It’s not enough to eat enough calories to maintain an ideal weight range, you have to know WHAT you’re eating!
I highly recommend that you begin eating more fruits and greens to fuel your body properly. It’s also best to increase your vitamin D and calcium intake, which can improve your bone structure. You can get more vitamin D and calcium from dairy products, then up your protein with lean meats.
To treat shin splints, try following these helpful tips:
- Make sure to give your body the rest it needs, as it takes some time to heal. Give it up to three days or until the pain has completely disappeared
- Ice your shins for better comfort and ease the swelling. Ice it for about half an hour every four hours until the pain is gone
- If the pain gets too intense, you can take anti-inflammatory painkillers as needed. It’s best to ask your doctor before taking any medication for shin splints, though
- For shin splints that don’t get better or come back repeatedly, then you may need a physical therapist to see if there are more exercises to be done to treat pain and issues around the area
You know that your shins have healed once the injured foot is as flexible and strong as the other side. You’ll also be able to push harder on spots that used to feel painful, as well as a sprint, jog, walk, and/or jump without discomfort.
Wrapping It Up
Shin splints are irritating injuries that can, fortunately, be prevented wit the right exercises and diet. And even if you already have it, you can treat them quickly with these tips. That way, you can start running again and breaking records.
Hopefully, my ways on how to prevent shin splints helped you out! So don’t wait any longer and begin implementing these stretches and tips to your routine now. If you have any questions or want to share your tips and experiences on how to prevent shin splints, then comment below, your thoughts are much appreciated!