A great many runners—professionals as well as amateurs—run too much too soon and develop medial tibial stress syndrome, or shin splints, one of the most common running injuries. What can be done to prevent this? Eric Small, MD, Pediatric and Adult Sports Medicine specialist with Westchester Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine and Medical Director of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine with Westchester Health, offers guidance and advice in a recent blog.
When runners or other athletes train, explains Dr. Small, they put stress on their shin bones which respond to that stress by bending slightly from impact. When the athlete rests after a workout, the shin bones and connective tissues rebuild and get stronger. However, it takes time for your body to do this rebuilding. When new or inexperienced runners run too much too quickly—without giving their bones and muscles time to recover—the shins become overstressed and develop shin splints.
5 best ways to reduce your risk of developing shin splints
1. Don’t increase your mileage too quickly.
Shin splints usually occur when a runner increases his/her distance or frequency of runs too quickly, not allowing for recovery time. Solution: Stick to the 10% rule when training. Do not increase your mileage or frequency by more than 10% each week.
2. Run on softer surfaces, when possible.
Running on hard surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt roads, increases the stress and impact on your muscles, joints and bones. Solution: Vary your running surfaces. Try to find grass or dirt trails to run on, especially for higher-mileage runs.
3. Give yourself enough rest and recovery time.
Solution: When you first take up running, avoid running two days in a row. This will limit the pounding on your muscles, joints and bones, and give your body a chance to recover. Even if you’re an experienced runner, taking at least one or two days off from running each week will reduce your risk of shin splints and other overuse injuries. A “rest day” can be a complete day off or it could be a low-impact cross-training activity, such as swimming or biking.
4. Get the right running shoes.
Wearing the wrong shoes can lead to shin splints. If your shins have been hurting you, you may need more stability or cushioning in your shoes. Solution: To make sure you have the right running shoes for your particular foot and gait, get advice from an expert at a running specialty store. Also, you should change your running shoes every 250-300 miles.
5. Do heel raises, toe raises and calf stretches.
Weak calf and shin muscles are often the cause of shin pain. Solution: Doing simple exercises such as heel and toe raises and calf stretches can help strengthen these muscles and reduce or even prevent shin splints. Doing them after your run will also give you a good stretch. If you feel mild shin pain while you’re running, stop and do a quick calf stretch. (If the pain is severe or gets worse the longer you run, stop immediately.)
To read Dr. Small’s blog in full, click here.