Top Tips to Avoid Shin Splints

Are you a runner, even a casual one, then you absolutely need to avoid shin splints. Chances are that either you are, or you’re considering getting into it. These days, more and more people are becoming aware of the benefits of running and putting some serious thought into getting started. Running has long been one of the more popular exercises to consider for general fitness, for a lot of reasons. Virtually everyone can do it, it requires no particular special skills, and even equipment considerations are down to a fair minimum. The cardiovascular benefits are clear, and it can help burn calories at a good rate over time.

Odds are, however, if you run then you may also be familiar with shin splints. Yes, virtually every runner – and possibly people who are getting into running – has encountered this at least once. “Shin splints” is actually a catchall term of sorts for various leg ailments, typically occurring in the lower leg and having to do with the bones and muscles in that part of the limb. Shin splints can range from painful but minor inflammation of the connective tissue that covers and connects the lower leg muscles to the tibia in the lower leg, to a much more serious disconnection and separation between the muscles (the fascia) and the tibia. The latter is made worse by the high level of pain and the comparatively slow healing process.


Shin splints are mainly caused by two things: either too much impact to the lower legs when running, or too much dependence on the lower legs to propel you forward. The former is mainly a result of heel striking, which irritates the fascia or connective tissue in your lower legs. The impact of landing your heel when you take a running step jars the connective tissue, and over time this causes inflammation and pain in the area. This could worsen over time, which means that action must be taken to address it before that can happen.

It can be somewhat confusing to note that the other end of the foot can be as much of a cause for concern as the heel that faces heel striking. Overuse of the lower legs, on the other hand, can occur when you push off too much with the toes. This puts a lot of strain on the calf muscles, which in turn demands a lot of your shins as well. This strain comes from the fact that this relatively small group of muscles must now move the weight of your body and combat the pull of gravity, which is too much work. Overworking the muscles in this area is what results in the inflammation that causes pain and soreness, and if left unchecked will eventually lead to the more drastic potential outcome of the fascia separating from the tibia.

It’s not just these two potential causes that lead to shin splints. Beginning runners can sometimes take on too much in terms of distance or speed, leading to their legs having to sustain more impact and intensity at a time than they’re ready to. Overcommitting is surprisingly common, partly because beginning runners might not be aware of their thresholds and partly because of the desire to accomplish as much as possible very quickly. Another possible reason is the lack of a proper warmup – many runners, beginning and otherwise, make the mistake of going too fast too soon, instead of starting with a slower pace and increasing speed as the muscles acclimate. This combines with the tendency for beginning runners to push off with their toes to result in shin splints because of both factors.

Avoid Shin Splints With These Tips

Correcting your running stance can go a long way toward helping to eliminate heel striking. Heel striking tends to occur when a runner keeps his trunk upright when running, which results in the legs reaching further out front in order to take a running step. This overstriding lands the heel and causes each running step to take a heel strike. Ideally, one lands each running step on the mid-foot area, letting the impact spread through the foot properly and avoid causing a heel strike.

Dealing with the other possible causes is simple – make sure to warm up before each run, not with full-on stretching (although there are calf stretches that can help loosen up enough to prevent shin splints) but with jogs. Don’t start with a fast-paced run yet, but let the leg muscles get used to the rhythm of the impact that comes with each step.

Furthermore, here’s a technique that might draw one’s attention to how to avoid the main factors that cause shin splints: Stand in place. Lift a knee off the ground, and notice that you can do this without straining your lower leg muscles. You can even let the foot dangle from the knee as the knee comes up. The shin and calf muscles don’t do any of the work. The same is true when running – lean slightly forward, pick up your feet and let your momentum and gravity keep you moving at a run. Don’t push off with your feet.

Healing Shin Splints

If your efforts to avoid shin splints did not succeed, you’ll certainly want to heal from them, right?

Commonly, it might be advisable to give your legs a rest for a while. This is standard for inflammatory ailments in the legs, and it makes sense to let them rest and knit themselves back together. While enjoying a bit of downtime, icing the shins may help relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation – also standard treatment for inflammatory injuries. If you must exercise, some doctors advocate switching to swimming-based exercises as they don’t force your legs to carry your weight. There can be a good workout had in the water.

Of course, prevention is better than a cure – especially since these treatments, as it were, are symptomatic. They mainly reduce the pain that results from the problem, but they don’t get rid of the problem itself. Consider that it would ultimately be best to pay attention to the way you run and the pace you set for yourself, to keep shin splints from becoming a concern at all in the future.

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