People don’t think about their shins until they start to hurt. And when they hurt, you could be looking at some significant recovery time. A recent study revealed that it takes, on average, 70 days to recover from shin splints. Shin splints are typically caused by several factors, some of which include:
High interval activities: Running on hard or sloping surfaces can add stress on your front leg muscles.
Incorrect technique: When you run, you may also supinate (feet roll toward the outside edge) or overpronate (ankles roll in), causing your front leg muscles to double the work to keep you stabilized. This can be made worse by wearing shoes with inadequate support.
Overuse: Shin splints are quite common among beginner runners who take on too much too fast.
How to Prevent Shin Splints
There are several ways you can speed your recovery. First, reduce the pain by using an ice pack on your lower legs right after the incident. Put the leg on ice for 20-25 minutes multiple times throughout the day. If it’s too cold, try wrapping the ice in a towel so that it does not touch the skin.
You can also use compression aid (compression bandages or compression socks) to help with swelling, along with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
Once you’ve successfully managed the pain, your next goal is to prevent them from happening ever again. Here are eight ways to prevent or decrease your risk for shin splints.
Steadily Increase Mileage
In the case of shin splints, it’s important not to run through the pain. Listen to your body and stop as soon as you begin to feel pain. Doctors advise you should not go back to running until you have been pain-free for at least a week.
Practice on Softer Surfaces
Running on rough surfaces like concrete puts a lot of stress on your joints, muscles, as well as your bones. To prevent shin splints, vary your terrains. Try running on grass instead, especially if you enjoy long runs. The treadmill is also a great alternative. Running on a treadmill is easier on your body than running on the sidewalks.
Get Enough Rest
If you’re first starting your journey as a runner, avoid running every single day. A day’s rest will restrict the stress on your body and give it a chance to recover properly. Even if you’re a veteran runner, you should at least take one or two days off from running each week to reduce your risk of shin splints and other foot-related injuries.
Use your rest days well. Consider cross-training with an activity that requires less pressure on your shins. This could be low-impact aerobic activities, such as biking, swimming, or aqua jogging.
Get the Right Running Footwear
Wearing the wrong shoes can also cause shin splints. Always make sure your shoes are fit for the task. Get help from a specialist at a shoe store to make sure you’re getting the right running shoes. Additionally, consider replacing your running shoes every 350 to 500 miles if you’re a committed runner. Running in footwear that has lost its cushioning may lead to shin splints. You can also try putting shoe inserts to make it easier for your calves.
Try Strength Training
Sometimes, shin pain occurs because of weak anterior tibialis muscles. This muscle is responsible for flexing the foot at the ankle. Doing simple shin stretches, such as toe raises or heel raises, can help grow your calf and shin muscles, which will help prevent shin pain. Consider performing these exercises after your run for a nice stretch.
How to Do Toe Raises
Toe raises are pretty easy to do and don’t require any special equipment. You can practically do them anywhere. Try to do these exercises a few times a week to strengthen your anterior tibialis muscles and prevent shin splints.
- Stand straight on the edge of a platform (or a step) with your toes hanging over the side.
- Hold onto something for balance (wall, railing, or chair).
- Raise your toes as far up as you can with only your heels on the edge.
- Move your toes on your feet upward toward your knees as far as you can and hold for a brief second, feeling the stretch in your shins.
- Gently lower your toes to the opening position.
- Do 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
How to Do Heel Raises
- Stand with feet hip-width apart.
- Hold on to something for support (a chair or wall).
- Lift your heels off the ground and hold for two seconds. You’ll feel the gastrocnemius (calf muscle) stretch.
- Gently lower and repeat. (To increase intensity and balance, try this one leg at a time.)
Be Mindful of Your Form
Changing your form (footstrike) can help you to prevent shin splints. Landing on your heels may cause tension in the lower leg. Likewise, landing on your toes can put stress on the gastrocnemius (calf muscle). Avoid heel striking or toe running and alternatively, try landing on the middle of the foot. Preferably, you should land midsole and then push yourself off with the front of your toes.
Stretch Your Calves
Make sure you stretch your calves after your runs. If your calves are oddly tight, massage them using a foam roller or a massage gun. Believe it or not, just five minutes of massage after a run can make a huge difference.
Fortunately for you and other runners out there, shin splints can usually be managed effectively and with the proper exercise program. If your pain doesn’t subside, stop running, and seek professional help. Physical therapists can examine how a person moves, determine how their body responds to certain treatments, and then establish a proper program for further prevention and recovery.