During my days as a track athlete, I came to know shins splints a little too well. The constant running and pounding will undoubtedly bring about some discomfort in your lower legs. But I am here to tell you don’t panic! There are ways to fight back against the pain you are feeling and get back to running that doesn’t require you to completely take time off. Follow these tips to understand how to sooth your shins and get back on track!
- Progress Gradually - This may sound like a no-brainer, but many people tend to dive in to running and do a little more than their bodies can handle. Build strength and endurance first and slowly increase mileage.
- The Shoe Matters - Make sure your shoes fit and that they have proper cushioning. Yes, those minimalist shoes you wear may be the cause of your shin splints. Shoes with improper support will cause over pronating and rolling of your foot. Visit a local running store to get some expert advice on shoes and get the right fit.
- Cross Training - This is especially important if you are already experiencing shin splints. By cycling, swimming, or rowing you can maintain your fitness level and log miles while taking it easy on the shins. If you currently run 5 day per week, try a 3/2 training ratio. Run 3 times per week and cross train 2 times per week. You will notice relief quickly!
- Mid-Foot Striking - Resist the urge to run up on your toes or to heel strike! Flat, mid-foot striking will encourage correct biomechanics, help you run with a proper gait and prevent injury.
- Don’t Over Stride - The usual culprits here are people who tend to strike heel first. Think to slow down your cadence and run with proper mid-foot striking form. This will help you perform with proper body mechanics.
- Use Ice - Ice those shins! The ice will bring recovery to the area and help reduce swelling and discomfort. You can ice for up to 10-15 minutes every hour.
- Stretch and Foam Roll - Stretch out those calf muscles and get to work foam rolling them as well. Tight muscles are going to contribute to the pain you are feeling in the shin. Work on both loosening the calves and strengthening them.
- Switch Running Surfaces - While recovering from shin splints, look for softer ground to train on. Find a field and do running workouts in the grass to give your legs a break from the pounding taking place on the road and tracks.
- Consider Orthotics - Consider visiting your doctor to get some recommendations on orthotics for your shoes. These can sometimes be a life saver and can be customized to your feet providing that added support you may be missing!
Remember that the key to getting past shin splints is patience! Take your time, listen to your body, take steps to heal, and get back out there better than before!