Do you keep an active lifestyle? If you do, odds are you either work out or jog, both of which keep your legs pretty active. The former may even call for some treadmill work, and the latter has obviously important demands with regard to legwork. Running has traditionally been one of the more highly recommended activities for a person looking to pursue a good physical fitness regimen, and it’s fairly easy to see why – it doesn’t call for any special skills or equipment (although a good pair of running shoes can be a game changer), and its cardiovascular and calorie-burning benefits are well known to almost anyone who’s ever considered it, whether a more hardcore or casual runner.
Common injuries to runners are shin splints. Practically, almost 90% of the time runners will have had shin splints at least once. This is partly because the term shin splints actually covers various types of leg ailments, generally affecting the bones and muscles that are part of the lower leg. Shin splints can be comparatively small scale, occurring as inflammations of the connective tissue linking the tibia to the lower leg muscles – painful but comparatively minor. Alternatively, shin splints can get as bad as seeing serious separation between the fascia, or the aforementioned muscles, and the tibia. When it gets this bad, it’s incredibly painful and slow to heal.
WHY DO SHIN SPLINTS OCCUR?
Mainly, shin splits are brought on by two things. First, an excess of impact sustained by the lower leg when running. Second, an overreliance on the lower legs to push you forward when you run. The former is brought on by heel striking, which jars the fascia that connects the tibia to the muscle in your lower leg. This heel strike is a strong impact that irritates the tissue; over time this can bring painful inflammation to the area.
The second is brought on by an overreliance on the other end of the foot: the toes. When you push off too much using the forward half of your foot, this strains the calf muscles and thus also strains the connections between the muscle and the shin bone. Why? Because when you do this, you’re forcing the comparatively small cluster of muscles in the area to push your body weight up and forward against gravity, which is more than they should be doing by themselves. Overworking these muscles causes painful, sore inflammation, and can eventually lead to separating the fascia from the tibula.
Most times, though, shin splints are there to act as a sign that you’re expecting too much from your body. When runners are just starting out, they can attempt too much distance or speed for what their bodies are currently able to handle, giving their legs more intense a workout than they’re prepared to take. When a runner isn’t yet aware of their thresholds they can push their bodies too far, and thus make the mistake of not starting with a slow, manageable pace and then allowing the muscles to acclimate to the demands of increasing speed and intensity.
HOW TO AVOID SHIN SPLINTS
Don’t have them yet? Good. Here’s how to keep from getting them.
1. Avoid overstriding. Overstriding is when a runner maintains an upright posture while running. This running style makes legs move further forward. This makes the heel strike the ground heavier.
2. Warm up before running, but very lightly. Light calf stretches will do to loosen the legs enough to keep the shins from getting shocked by impact. Take a walk first, then make it a slow jog, before running full blast.
3. Standing in place, lift a knee – and remember you can do this without straining the muscles in the lower leg. That’s the ideal way of running: lean a bit forward to engage gravity and then start building momentum. Pick up your feet and stride properly.
GETTING RID OF SHIN SPLINTS
Here’s how to avoid getting bothered by them in the future.
1. Improve your running form. Note that the above advice tended to revolve around this a lot? That’s because this truly is the best way. Roll your heel evenly when it hits the ground rather than abrupt striking. Avoid putting too much stress on the toe area, as well – LIFT the toes when you run. The foot should make contact with the surface from the outside rather than rolling too much inside.
2. Allow yourself a slow start. If you’re getting started running, or with a new program, start slowly and don’t increase the intensity by more than ten percent a week. Also, allow yourself a day off every now and then with no running whatsoever. Your body will thank you and come back for work the next day without missing a beat.
3. Don’t JUST run. Cross-train and stretch to reduce the stress that would otherwise be placed on the legs by consistently only running. Strengthen other parts of the body, like your upper body and your core – take the pressure off the legs every now and again. Don’t start a jog or run without a bit of light stretching first as well – this wakes the muscles up and loosens them up slightly for the move.
4. Buy good shoes. While running can be done without fancy equipment – and sure, there are a lot of shoes that are way fancier than you really need – you should buy a good pair that supports your shins and feet. Avoid running on worn-out shoes as well; replace them every 350-500 miles.
5. Buy Cotton Compression Socks. Cotton compression socks are the best socks for runners. They give the extra comfort runners need for longer runs and just the right amount of compression for better performance.