Shin splints are an injury which have derailed my running in the past. As a podiatrist I’m passionate about treating and educating others. This guide is both personal and professional. Treating your shin splints starts with knowing them. Let’s get started.
If you’re like me, you’ve started the ‘running mission’ at some point in your life.
Whether it’s seeking a little extra Vitamin D, having the dream of running in a charity event or just wanting to get a tad bit healthier, we’ve all had that motivational moment where we’ve decided running is the sport for us!
Again, if you’re like me, sometimes taking it slow and following a reasonable, well-structured running program, accompanied by a complementing strength program, doesn’t seem important.
All that matters is getting the kilometres in to soak up that Vitamin D and flatten out that stomach!
And… once again… if you’re like me, after run number 3 or 4, just when you’re feeling like your cardio strength and lung capacity is finally beginning to improve… BANG!
Those shins decide to rain on the parade of all your running hopes and dreams.
What Are Shin Splints?
‘Shin splints’ or Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS) refers to pain experienced on the front inner (anterio-medial) edge of the shin bone (tibia).
Broadly, shin splints develop when the muscles surrounding that tibia bone are overloaded and overused.
The increased load on these muscles results in a strain of the periosteum – a fibrous sheath that lines the tibia – resulting in pain.
The pain associated with shin splints is usually felt in the lower two thirds of the shin bone.
It can be experienced during or after running or other exercise, can be sharp or dull in nature and can sometimes be present when palpating, or pressing on, the region.
Why Do I Have Shin Splints?
So why has your body decided to develop pain right when you were motivated to take up running? Great question! There are so many potential causes of shin pain, and everyone’s risk factors are extremely varied. Some possible risk factors include:
- Training errors:
- Too much too soon
- Change in running surface
- Change in terrain
- Lots of hills (downhill can be the worst)
- Starting a new sport
- Biomechanics and gait:
- Having a shin that rotates in or out (or both!) really quickly when running
- Having a very high-arched and rigid foot type
- Shoes that are too old
- Shoes that are inappropriate for the kind of activity you’re participating in
- Muscle weakness
How Can I Fix My Shin Pain?
Addressing the risk factors specific to your running journey is the best way to treat shin splints.
For some clients, this may mean a brief period of rest, followed by the development of a considered running program, incorporating strength training, to ensure the area is not working beyond its capacity.
Pop over here for some inspo on stretches for shin splints and strength exercises for shin splints.
It may also mean the prescription of custom foot orthotics for shin splints to balance out the load on your shin bone by reducing twisting movements. A change in footwear may be recommended to assist in load management on the shin bone, as well as some strength exercises (as mentioned above) to ensure the calves and surrounding muscles are equipped to handle the load of running and other heavy exercise.
I cannot stress enough how important getting the right shoes for your shin splints are.
If shin pain is getting between you and your running life goals, a visit to a podiatrist for a full biomechanical assessment is a good place to start! A podiatrist will have a close look at your training and injury history, the way your foot moves through gait and your footwear to develop a treatment program tailored to your own unique risk factors.
Check out the articles embedded in this page and throughout our blog to learn more about the intricacies of shin splints, as well as some exercise tips and tricks to get you back working towards those running goals!
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