I received an email with a question on what causes shin splints and how to treat them. Shin splints are pain in the leg below the knee and above the ankle. It often happens late in the training season for athletes due to overtraining and to new runners who are starting out after a period of rest. Symptoms are pain, tenderness and sometimes swelling, but trust me, you will know it when you are suffering from them!
Shin splints are a progressive injury so if they go untreated, they continue to worsen. What may have been a dull pain that went away as a runner is warmed up will swiftly turn into a painful, acute pain that interferes with running.
1. Watch Intensity and Distance: Sometimes they can be treated simply by lessening the increase in distance or intensity. I have already felt an onset of shin splints, cut out a run day or ran less than I planned and they vanished. Then, I slowly added the milage back in.
2. Ice: The best thing you can do for shin splints is ice the area to lessen the inflammation. After a long run, I run a cold bath and soak my muscles for 7-8 minutes to cut down on inflammation, but ice packs can be used – as long as they are not applied directly to naked skin, which can cause frost bite. Wrap them in a thin towel and ice frequently.
3. Stretch: After every run, I stretch out my calves which are the main offender of shin splints in my experience. Below are pictures of effective stretches for shin splints:
4. Look at the shoes you are training in: Shoes can be a huge offender in running injuries. Make sure that you have between 300-500 km or less on them. This article offers a great explanation on how shoes can cause shin splints.
5. Mind your form: Incorrect running form will cause injuries. Check out the photo below for correct running technique. (Except for the landing between heel and midfoot bit. Running on the front of the foot causes your body to naturally assume correct form and is correct.)
Best of luck with those shin splints!
Runners – anything I missed?