Shin Splints…2 of the most dreaded words in a runners vocabulary.
Shin splints are one of the most common injuries for runners, especially new runners.
I’ve personally struggled with shin splints for my entire running career and recently they’ve been flaring up again. I’ve been really taking extra precautions to be sure my shin splints heal up quickly and don’t throw off my marathon training.
Since shin splints are SO COMMON I wanted to do a little Shin Splint 101 with you amazing Live Lean Eat Green readers. Most people don’t pay any attention to their shins until….they hurt. So lets be extra careful and preserve those legs! Deal?
What are shin splints?
The term “shin splints” describes the awful pain on the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia). This pain is caused by repeated pounding and stress on the lower leg which is why runners get affected so easily. It makes me cringe thinking about how many times during a run your foot is just pounding against the ground AHH!
This excessive stress causes the muscles to swell putting extra pressure against the shinbone which leads to pain and inflammation in the shin area aka “shin splints”.
Shin splint pain is usually VERY sharp during exercise and then dull and more throbbing post exercise. For me the pain while running can be so extreme I just have to stop and walk.
What causes shin splints?
Shin splints are caused by repeated stress on the lower leg. The main cause is usually running but extra stress can be placed on the shin for the following reasons:
- Over pronation of foot while running- basically rolling your food inward putting extra pressure on the shin area
- Running in old, worn out shoes that don’t provide enough support
- Sudden increases in duration/ intensity of runs- read my running tips for beginners here for more on this
Not cross training- having weak calves and hips won’t help support the shin area
- Not properly stretching before and after runs- especially in the calf area- having tight calves may put extra stress on your shins and make the pain worse
Treatment & Prevention of shin splints:
1. Quality shoes + Inserts + A gait analysis- One of the main reasons people get shin splints is running in old, worn down shoes that are not offering enough support. I highly recommend going into your local running store and doing something called a gait analysis. A professional will watch you run on a treadmill and look for errors in your running form that can be corrected with the right type of shoe. Additional support can be created using inserts, ideally inserts customized for your foot.
I’ve always had a wonderful experience at Road Runner Sports. They do a full gait analysis and create custom inserts for you.
I had these custom inserts made to help support my super high arches and control my over pronation and it’s made all the difference.
You simply then remove the original inserts in your shoes and replace them with your custom ones!
2. Stretch + roll- You want to take as much pressure away from your shins as possible to help them heal. You should always stretch before and after a run and when dealing with shin splints be sure to spend some quality time stretching out your calves.
Using a foam roller or a stick can really help get deep into the muscle to relieve pressure and tension.
I LOVE my stick roller. I use it all over my entire body and you can seriously feel the knots in your muscles release as you roll it over your legs. You can get these at any major sporting goods store or save time and get one on Amazon.
3. Ice- It’s so important to ice your shins for 15-20 minutes after a run and ideally to ice a few times a day until your shin pain decreases. Icing will help decrease the inflammation in the shin and lead to much less pain and swelling.
I am obsessed with these TheraPearl Shin Packs! I use to use bags of frozen fruit and veggies but that just wasn’t practical plus my food got a little funky after being defrosted and re frosted 94857934543 times.
They makes these TheraPearl packs for all areas of the body. I love how convenient they are and that they target my entire shin. You can find them here on Amazon.
4. Strengthen your shins- It seems strange to work on strengthening your shins but I promise it will help so much for both recovery and prevention. If any of these exercises make your pain worse DO NOT continue.
- Heel drop- For this stand your toes on the edge of a step and lower and lift your heels. Basically this is a toe raise but with a larger range of motion since you’re up on the step. Repeat this 15-20 times.
- Toe Point- Sit down ideally in a chair or on the couch and simply point and flex your toes 15-20 times for each foot. You should really feel this target your shin area.
- Toe raises- Now for these you can do these 3 different ways. With your toes pointed in (in pictures below), toes pointed out or with your toes parallel. Simply raise up onto your toes then back down 15-20 times. Play around with the 3 different variations to see what benefits you the most.
Well here’s hoping I don’t have any shin issues running this weekend. I have the La Jolla Half Marathon on Sunday- wish me luck!
Have you ever had shin splints?
How did you help treat your shin splints?
Have you ever had a running injury?