Get rid of shin splints: 4 Simple steps to pain free running
Get rid of shin splints: 4 Simple steps to pain free running
One of the most common running injuries we get asked about is shin splints and how to get rid of them. In this post we'll cover what shin splints are, but more importantly, what is the best way to avoid getting them?
What are shin splints?
Before we get onto how to heal shin splints, let's talk about what are shin splints.
A common misconception about shin splints is that they are an actual condition of the shin bone or tibia.
That is not true. It's normally one of the muscles that are running down the tibia.
Typically it is the medial or inside of the shin that normally hurts.
The connective tissues between the muscle and the shin becomes inflamed and it actually starts to pull away from the shin, causing shin pain. That is really the pain that you are feeling. (Side note: extreme levels of pressure and tightness may actually indicate compartment syndrome)
There is, therefore, pressure running through the tibia. So, if we don’t treat it and you keep running through it, shin splints will ultimately turn into first pre-stress fracture (which is a little bit of bony oedema and bleeding on the actual bone).
Ultimately, if you continue running, it could turn into a stress fracture of the tibia.
Shin splints are an extremely common novice runner’s injury, one of the most common running injuries that novices get.
This is because as human beings we are always driven to succeed, improve, go faster, get better and run longer.
Often this is what happens as we always build up too quickly, and we then typically get shin splints.
Get the best running shoes to prevent shin splints
When people start running they very seldom start off in the right pair of running shoes.
They decide they want to start running to get fit and improve the quality of their life or to run a marathon. Whatever the reason is, they go into their closet and pull out whatever shoes they've got in there.
Their excitement and exuberance to get started, plus very often incorrect footwear is a lethal combination when it comes to shin splints.
Shin splints are caused by:
- Doing too much too soon
- Running in the incorrect running shoes
- Not having a body that is adapted for exercise
Those are the most common causes of shin splints.
Don't ignore the pain from shin splints...
The other major issue with shin splints is people also tend to ignore the pain.
Pain is a signal from your body telling you something isn't right.
Runners think it will get better as they get a little bit fitter but that is generally not the case. This is why people often end up with quite a serious case of shin splints.
The good news is, even if it is serious, it shouldn’t take more than two weeks to deal with the actual pain.
How to heal shin splints fast...4 simple steps
To heal shin splints from the acute phase can take anywhere in the region of 48 hours to two weeks, depending on how far you pushed yourself into the pain.
The first thing you need to do is rest.
I know, it's the last thing a runner wanted to hear...
...but continuing to run is just going to make the shin splints worse.
You can also take an anti inflammatory if needed to help speed up recovery, but this is not a long term solution.
The second thing you need to do is run an ice pack over the affected shins for 20 minutes three times a day.
This will also help settle the inflammation.
Thirdly, a very simple strength training program will help strengthen your lower and upper legs, as well as your glutes and core. Exercises like toe raises and forward & lateral band walks, for example, are perfect.
And then lastly, grab a foam roller and foam roll your legs.
In a nutshell...
What you can do right now to heal shin splints fast:
- Rest (Take an anti inflammatory, if needed, to settle the inflammation)
- Run an ice pack over the affected area 3 times a day for 20 minutes
- Strength training twice a week
- Foam rolling daily
How to prevent shin splints in the first place
Ideally, not getting shin splints in the first place would be first prize.
So avoiding shin splints altogether would be the best case scenario, but how do you not get shin splints?
Firstly, I would encourage you to build up really slowly.
Follow a structured running training plan that will give your body time to adapt to the increased training...
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Short videos showing you EXACTLY what to do (Number 6 will turn you into the "Marathon Slayer" so that you don't hit the wall and implode later in the race)
...If in building up really slowly the pain returns, I would then suggest that you go see a physiotherapist.
Couple that with seeing a biokineticist because there is most probably a good chance then that you have an imbalance between your anterior and posterior compartments as we call it.
Effectively what that means is this: The muscles on the front of your leg are stronger or weaker than the muscles on the back of your leg.
Because of that, there is strain being placed on those anterior muscles causing them to get inflamed.
Balance out your biomechanical imbalances
So sorting out those imbalances, making sure you build up slowly. Doing that will help decrease the chances of the injury returning.
Thirdly make sure you are in the correct footwear. Ask your bio or physio to access your running gait and suggest what the appropriate style of running shoe would be for your running style.
If you have flat feet and need arch support, then get into a pair of running shoes that offer that support.
These are a few simple things you can do to get rid of shin splints, or even better, avoid them in the first place.
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