Shin splints are one of the most common running injuries, and they don’t discriminate, plaguing both new and seasoned runners alike. A catch-all phrase to describe many types of soft tissue pain on the front of the legs, the term “shin splints” most often refers to pain on the front outside of the lower leg. When left untreated, they can become a huge source of pain and seriously hamper your training.
Rather than dealing with a lengthy recovery period, nip this irksome injury in the bud and with these helpful tips to prevent shin splints!
- Build up slowly: One of the most common causes of shin splints is building up mileage too quickly, which puts extra stress on the muscles before they have adapted to the increased workload. Avoiding overload is one of the best ways to prevent shin splints. If you’re a new runner or you’re building up your mileage for a longer race, make sure to follow the “10% rule” and add your mileage on slowly.
- Buy properly fitted running shoes: Another common cause of shin splints is ill-fitting or worn-out running shoes. Head over to your local running store and get fitted for the perfect pair of shoes. If you’re a new runner or prone to injuries, buy a shoe with plenty of arch support. Leave the minimalist shoes to other runners until your muscles and body are ready – the best shoe to prevent shin splints is one that supports the foot.
- Calf and shin strengthening exercises: Want to run longer faster and avoid shin splits? Start doing calf and shin strengthening exercises after your runs and on off days. Runner’s World magazine has a great list of shin strengthening exercises for runners to get your legs strong. Examples include:
- Toe curls
- Monster walks
- Heel drops
- Single leg bridge
- Point and flex
- Tow walk
Just make sure not to do shin strengthening exercise right before you run, as this causes muscle fatigue and can increase your injury risk!
- Cross Train: Another way to strengthen your muscles and prevent shin splints is to do something all runners should be doing anyway – cross train! Cross training can be any form of exercise other than running, and it should generally be a lower impact activity that gives your joints and muscles a break from the pounding of running. Swimming, cycling, weight lifting, fitness classes, and yoga are all great examples of exercises that will help you get stronger and recover from your runs faster, all while helping to prevent and manage shin splints!
- Focus on Cadence: Many runners never learn how to run to prevent shin splints. Overstriding can also contribute to shin pain. Running coaches recommend focusing on a shorter stride at a quicker cadence to prevent muscles on the front of the shins from over stretching. Competitor Group offers some helpful tips on how to increase your cadence