Do your shins ache after your daily run? Do you feel pain just sprinting to catch the bus? It could be shin splints. The pain occurs when you put too much pressure on the shinbone — also known as the tibia — or when the muscles next to the shinbone (the anterior and posterior tibial muscles) are overworked.
You may get shin splints from a long bout of high-intensity exercise without proper stretching. Or, they might be the result of doing too much activity too soon. There are a few key groups in which anterior shin splints and posterior medial shin splints are most common:
- 13% of runners and athletes
- 22% of dancers
- 8% of military recruits
Other factors can aggravate anterior shin splints and posterior medial shin splints, including:
- Running on hard surfaces. This can put added strain on your front leg muscles.
- Supinating when running. This can cause your front leg muscles to work harder to keep your feet stabilized.
- Wearing shoes with poor support. Shoes with poor support can’t handle the shock of 2.5 times your body weight, which is created by the impact each time your foot hits the ground.
- Running downhill. This can add pressure to the leg.
- Anatomical abnormalities. Abnormalities such as flat foot syndrome, in combination with heavy exercise, might contribute to shin splints.
Fortunately, with proper rest and treatment, you can get rid of the pain. Read on to learn how to prevent shin splints and get back to your daily exercise routine as soon as possible.
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If you’re trying to figure out how to prevent shin splints, there’s good news. With some simple tips, you can lessen your chances of enduring this painful experience. If you’re already experiencing persistent pain, however, it’s best to make an appointment with your doctor.
1. Shin stretches
When determining how to prevent shin splints, one of your first options should be shin splints stretches. Every time you feel mild shin pain as you’re doing exercise, stop and do a quick calf stretch. As you stretch the anterior tibial muscles, you should feel calf pain relief. While it’s thought that it is impossible to fully stretch these muscles, doing some exercises will at least give allow for a degree of elongation. If the pain is not mild and continues to get stronger, stop what you’re doing and take some rest.
What’s more, don’t forget to do shin stretches after every workout. Shin splint stretches can make a big difference and prevent any future pain. If your calves are very tight, consider massaging them yourself or treating yourself to a professional sports massage. Physical therapy and taping methods can also help address shin splint pain.
How to stretch shins
Wondering how to stretch shins? Aim to strengthen the calf and hip muscles.
To stretch your posterior tibial muscles, simply place your toes on the edge of a stair or curb. Slowly raise your body up on your toes and then drop down, stretching your foot and calf muscle as your heels lower. Hold for 10–20 seconds and repeat 3–5 times.
To stretch the anterior tibial muscles, stand on one foot while the stretching foot is placed behind and its toes are firmly on the ground. Pull the leg forward until you start feeling the stretch. Hold it for 15–30 seconds on each leg.
To stretch your hip muscles, lie on one side with the feet together. Rotate the hip outward and then back again. Repeat this shin splints stretching exercise 25 times.
2. Choose softer running surfaces
As we’ve previously mentioned, running on hard surfaces can put a lot of pressure on your muscles, bones, and joints. Instead of concrete, try to run on grass or dirt trails whenever possible — especially if you’re planning a lengthy run. Consider opting for treadmill runs at least once a week to prevent shin splints.
3. Get the right athletic shoes
Another way to prevent shin splints is running in properly cushioned shoes. Wearing the wrong shoes may aggravate your shin splints and lead to serious injury. Also, make sure you replace your running shoes every 500–600 km (300–400 miles).
4. Take time to rest
If you’re a beginner, try to avoid running on two consecutive days. Breaks in between running days allow your muscles, joints, and bones heal, and your body recover. If you’re an experienced runner, make sure you take one or two days off from running each week. You can replace running with a low-intensity workout, which gives your body a break and can help prevent shin splints and other injuries.
5. Improve your running techniques
Avoid heel striking and toe running. When you land on your heels, you create a lot of stress on your lower legs. Similarly, toe running can overwork your calf muscles and lead to shin splints. The best place to land when running is the middle of your foot. Make sure you land on the center of your foot and then roll through the front of your toes.
6. Maintain a healthy weight
Each time your foot hits the ground, it experiences a shock equivalent to 2.5 times your body weight. Maintaining a healthy weight can put less pressure on your feet and help you avoid developing shin splints.
7. Increase your activity gradually
Another way of how to prevent shin splints is by not increasing your activity too quickly. Doing too much too fast is a common mistake among runners, and they often end up with an overuse injury. What you should strive to do is increase your speed and distance gradually. Start with 20 minutes of a walking-running combination every second day. Increase your walking distance 10% each week, while simultaneously amping up your run-to-walk ratio by 10%.
You can treat shin splints by taking the following steps:
- Rest. Rest your body, as it needs time to heal.
- Apply ice. Apply ice to your lower leg for 2–3 days. Do it for 20–30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours.
- Take painkillers. Anti-inflammatory painkillers can help you with your pain and swelling. Remember, though, that your injury is still there. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling better and overusing your leg.
- Use shoe inserts. Insoles or orthotics can take the stress off of your lower leg.
Shin splints can cause uncomfortable pain and prevent your daily exercise. Luckily, there are a variety of different ways for how to prevent shin splints, including proper rest and improving your running technique. To avoid injuring yourself, make sure you do shin splint stretches after each workout and increase your activity gradually. If the pain doesn’t go away or if you think you have a more severe injury, please see your doctor immediately.