Lower limb injuries are extremely common amongst runners. In this post, we take a look at how to get rid of shin splints and what to do to stop them returning.
If the pain is constantly showing up every time you run then there’s a good chance that you’ve developed one of the more common running injuries – shin splints (or medial tibial stress syndrome to use its Sunday name).
So the big question is, how do we get rid of it and get you back to running ASAP?
Thankfully, with proper treatment you’ll be back on your feet in no time at all.
I know this sounds terrible, and sacrilegious of sorts, after all, runners are used to pain and it’s often seems like it comes with the territory. Difficult is good. Painful is not.
Taking time off to rest is widely accepted by both the medical community, as well as the athletic community to be the first step in the battle of the shin splint.
Resting is one of the best things you can do for your body to recover. Rest allows your muscles and bones to repair the damaged caused by repeated impact stress.
If you just can’t or won’t stop your training, it’s advised to wrap your leg(s) with tape or use compression socks.
Reducing the intensity, duration, and frequency of your workouts can also help in reducing shin splints.
Yep, we just did that. we used a 90’s rap lyric to reference the need to ice your legs.
All joking aside, icing the affected area can help limit the pain by reducing the swelling and inflammation of the tissues that are damaged as a result of shin splints. Ice for 15 minutes at a time a few times a day. You may need to do this for several weeks to months.
Another great way to get you on the road to shin splint recovery is to do something other than running. Switching up the type of impact training you do allows other muscles to do the majority of the work while still being able to do some useful training.
Try swimming some laps in the pool, or get on the bike and ride a few miles. Rowing and aquajogging are also great low-impact alternatives. The ladder, is done by wearing those blue buoyancy belts you see the seniors wearing in the pool at the YMCA.
Strap on a belt and jump into the deep end of the pool. Grab some aqua weights for added resistance. Perform a running motion for 20-30 minutes or until you feel like you’ve gotten a good workout.
You can also try sprinting for 10-30 seconds and then resting for 1-2 minutes.
Stretching is one of the best ways to increase strength and flexibility. There are several stretches that you can do the help improve your lower leg strength and prevent shin splints from returning.
Regularly stretching the calf muscles can help reduce and prevent pain. This can be performed by placing both hands on a wall and leaning into it with one leg outstretched behind you.
You can also do this by sitting on the ground and using a resistance band, belt or towel around the foot; gently pull your foot back toward you and hold for 10-15 seconds. Repeat this 2-3 times per leg.
You can also stretch your shin by kneeling on the ground with your feet and legs together. Make sure your toes are pointed directly behind you and then begin to slowly sit back on your heels until you feel the tension in your shin. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds and repeat 3-5 times.
The video below offers a fantastic guide to some other stretches that you might consider.
Once you’ve rested a bit you can add strength training of the lower leg into your routine to help strengthen and fight the return of shin splints.
Performing exercises that target the muscles of the shin and calf will make you a stronger and more resilient runner.
Calf raises are a great exercise to add stability and strength.
Perform them standing, using the wall or a chair for stability.
Begin by raising your heels, pushing down until you are on your toes. Slowly lower your heel back down to the ground.
You can do this on one leg for increased difficulty.
You can also perform raises with your shin muscles. This exercise is accomplished by standing with your back against the wall and placing your heel about one foot away from the wall. Keeping your heel on the ground and raise your toes up as far as you can. Then lower yourself back down in a controlled fashion. Do sets of 10-15 reps. three times.
Another good way to increase your shin strength is by using resistance bands. This can be performed on the ground by tying the band around a pole or other secure object and putting your toe in the loop of the band and flex your shin and pull your toes toward you. Slowly return your foot to a vertical position. Complete 10-15 per leg for three sets.
Heel walks are a more advanced exercise you can add in once you’ve completed the above exercises for a week or so. Performing heel walks is as simple as it sounds. Walk around on your heels. Take care to keep your toes pointed straight ahead. Walk around on your heels for 3-5 minutes per day.
What does prevention have to do with recovery? Part of the recovery process is to strengthen and do things that prevent rather than just stave off pain and injury. The key to prevention is preparation. And the best way to prep, besides the above tips, is to make sure you have the right shoes for your running biomechanics.
If you can’t remember how many miles are on your shoes or when the last time you bought new ones, throw them out. It’s suggested you replace shoes after 300 miles.
Many running watches and running apps have the ability to track mileage on a specific pair of shoes so you don’t lose track and risk injury.
When it’s time to replace those beloved, perfectly broken in running shoes be sure to visit your local running shop.
Any good running specific shop will have knowledgeable staff that can assess your gait and stride to help fit you in the best shoe for you.
Getting the best running shoes for shin splints can mean the difference between a glorious run on clouds and an excruciating trek with a shoe that is just not meant for your foot.
Now that you know how to get rid of shin splints and are armed with the tools you need to completely recover, you can rest assured that you’ll be back on your favorite road or trail in no time. Remember when going back to running not to increase your mileage by more than 10% per week.