Dedicated runners and weekend warriors alike can attest to the annoyance of shin splints. After a few weeks of pounding the pavement, a small pain may develop in the front side of the shin. In a few short runs, that tiny pain may turn into a larger injury, eventually putting a halt to your training. With shin splints being such a common injury, it’s important to know the cause and methods for recovery and prevention to keep you healthy and on the roads.
Shin splints result from excessive trauma to the tibia, and are especially prevalent in sports or activities that cause a high amount of impact like running or basketball. The repetitive stress of running makes both recreational runners and veteran marathoners susceptible to this nagging injury. Joe Vennare, co-founder of Hybrid Athlete, details the predominant causes of shin splints. “Typically, shin splints result from lack of recovery or overuse, where there is not enough time between training sessions or mileage is increased too quickly. Poor running form and mechanics can also increase stress on the feet, ankles, and knees causing pain in the shins.” This helps explain why beginning runners often suffer from this common injury. Starting a training program too quickly can overload muscles that aren’t used to heavy pounding. Runners and athletes that tend to have flatter feet or overpronate excessively when they run or walk are also more prone to suffering from shin splints.
To stay healthy and on the roads, it’s important to approach your training program with a cautious mindset. Vennare advises, “Runners should be keeping a training log to stay in tune with how far they are running and how often. Otherwise, it's easy to log too many miles too quickly or ignore recovery.” Other than simply monitoring mileage, proper footwear and strength are also crucial to staving off shin pain. Choose a pair of running shoes that combines the proper amount of cushioning and support. In most cases, it’s best to head to your local running store for a gait analysis to determine the best shoe for you. Outside of gearing up, it pays to help strengthen the muscles in your feet and surrounding your ankle to handle the pounding of running. Joe suggests jumping rope, especially single-leg skips, to strengthen the ankle and foot. Running on softer surfaces like grass or trails can also help to soften the blow on each footfall as opposed to concrete. When all else fails, rest and ice are your primary resources for healing quickly and getting back to your normal training schedule.