Most runners at some point will have experienced the pain of shin splints and will have struggled in their attempts to deal with it. It is an injury that mostly occurs in runners or people who are walking quickly on a hard and flat surface. You may notice that if you are not used to working out on a hard surface or you are but your workout is particularly intense, you will be more prone to shin splints. It is the repetitive aggressive force on these muscles that causes them to be injured and cause such severe pain.
There are 4 main methods of prevention; having the correct shoes, being aware of the surface you are running on, analysing your form when running and using orthotics.
Most people will wear any pair of trainers to run in but this is the first mistake when trying to avoid shin splints. Having the correct footwear is crucial, worn out shoes or the wrong pair put you at risk of injury. If you aren’t sure which pair is right for you, any reputable shoe shop will be able to talk you through your options. Alternatively, if you want to ensure that you are getting the perfect pair you may want to look for a local running analysis store. They have the necessary technology and training to evaluate how you run and what shoe you would best benefit from.
When you are out running you should be aware of the terrain, particularly when switching from a soft to a hard surface. You will need to allow your legs time to adjust when switching as if you are in the middle of an intense workout on soft terrain then switch to a harder and flatter surface you will need to slow yourself down and not run as far. This will give your soft tissue and muscles time to adjust and not experience this intense pounding that will lead to injury.
Often you will have to visit a shoe shop that specialises in bio-chemical analysis to understand the issues of your running form. Shin splints often occurs when runners frequently roll their foot inwards onto the arch, have weak ankles or tighter tendons/calf muscles. Once you find what the issue is there are exercises you can do to help strengthen these weaker areas.
Orthotics are usually an option for those who suffer from weak ankles and/or flat feet and consequently struggle when running. Custom fit Orthotics mould to the shape of your foot and help realign it to a more naturally central position in your shoes. This not only helps the longevity of your shoes but will relieve the strain put on your feet and shins.
Unfortunately, there is no immediate cure for shin splints as the healing process can vary from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. This recovery period can often depend on how well you are looking after yourself and if you are letting the muscles rest. It is recommended that during this period you stop running completely to allow yourself to heal, instead opting for more low impact activities. In the mean time you should ensure that you are drinking enough water each day, take ibuprofen to reduce swelling, regularly ice the area and are having hot baths with Epsom salts.
During this time you should also look into what exactly caused the shin splints and make the necessary adjustments to your future workout.