How To Avoid Shin Splints When Running
“Shin splint is a term used to describe pain in the lower part of your leg which usually occurs at the middle of the tibia bone (shinbone). It may happen when you run too fast or overuse your foot muscles while running. This kind of injury is also called medial tibial stress syndrome. The symptoms include tenderness, swelling, redness, sharp pains and even some severe injuries such as sprains, broken bones and dislocations. These are caused by abnormal movements of the joints between the ankle and knee. In this article I will discuss how to avoid shin splints by giving you some tips for choosing proper running shoes, using insoles, practicing strength training, strengthening other muscles around the shin, stretching and avoiding hard surface during exercise.
Choosing Proper Shoes For Runners
The most common cause of shin splints is improper footwear. Many people don’t realize it but their feet are not made to run long distances. As humans we were designed to walk and stand comfortably for hours so our feet have been adapted to do those things. However, if you’re one who runs every day or frequently jog several miles each time then your body needs special consideration. You need to get a pair of running shoes that fit well and provide adequate cushioning and stability. Here are some important features to consider including:
1) Cushioning – Most running shoe manufacturers use ethyl vinyl acetate foam (EVA) because it provides good motion control and durability. If you’re looking for extra padding then try gel inserts. They offer more cushioning than EVA foam. Some popular brands include Nike, New Balance, Adidas and Reebok.
2) Support – Stability is another factor to look for when buying running shoes. Good quality shoes should be able to withstand impact forces and give comfort for extended periods of time. A good way to test whether they do is to wear them during a 5K race. If after a couple minutes you feel your foot slipping forward then they probably aren’t stable enough. Also check for lacing system that stays tight and prevents loosening up.
3) Motion Control – Make sure there’s no room for any movement in the shoe. There shouldn’t be any space between the upper and sole.
4) Weight Limit – Check the label to make sure that the weight limit is appropriate for your height, stride length and pace.
5) Comfort – Try them on. Don’t just buy them based on advertisement pictures alone.
6) Pricing – Cheap shoes often come with inferior materials and poor construction. Look for high quality products from reputable companies.
Using Insoles With Your Shoe
Many experts recommend wearing an insert inside your running shoes to reduce pronation (rolling inward) and supination (rolling outward). Pronation causes excessive pressure on the ball of the foot which can lead to inflammation and shin splints. Supination leads to collapsing of the arches which puts excessive pressure on the toes causing blisters. Inserts help to redistribute pressure across the entire bottom of the foot. One brand name of these inserts is Superfeet. All you need to do is place them under the base of your sock and they’ll keep your feet from rolling.
Stretching Before Exercise
If you want to prevent shin splints then you must stretch before running. Stretching helps prepare your muscles and tendons for activity and reduces the chance of injury. It also increases blood circulation and improves flexibility. Ideally, you should stretch 20 to 30 minutes before running. But if you find yourself unable to take a break then at least 10 minutes is okay.
It is recommended to warm up and loosen up first. Warming up stretches your muscles and prepares them for work. Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workout. Do light jogging, walking, skipping, jumping rope or running in place. Gradually increase speed and distance until you reach your goal. After warming up, you can stretch your calves by standing on your tip toes for a moment. Then bend down at the knees and hold onto something sturdy like a table or chair. Keep your heels off the ground and raise your legs upward about 6 inches. Hold for 3 seconds and then return to start position. Repeat 15 times. Next step is to do calf raises by standing on your tip toes and placing your hands behind head. Raise your heels as far away from your buttocks as possible. Hold in this position for 2 seconds and then go back to starting position. Repeat 15 times. Finally, stand on both feet side by side with your heels touching each other. Bend at the waist and allow your right leg to fall toward your left. Hold for 3 seconds and then switch sides. Repeat 15 times.
Strength Training Exercises Around the Shin Area
Shins are highly susceptible to injury because they bear the full load of supporting the body’s weight. Therefore, you must strengthen muscles around shin area to improve overall health. Strength training exercises for shins are very effective in preventing shin splints and promoting better posture. Below are three simple exercises that you can perform anywhere without any expensive equipment.
Squats – Stand erect with your feet shoulder width apart. Place your palms on the floor beneath your shoulders. Lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Maintain your abs contracted. Slowly rise up through your ankles and squeeze butt cheeks. Return to the starting position and repeat 8 to 16 times.
Split Squat – Lie face up on the floor with your arms straight above your head. Lift your legs together and extend your torso upwards until your chest touches the floor. Contract your gluteus muscles and push your pelvis slightly backward. Now lift your legs again until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat 8 to 16 times.
Lying Leg Curls – Lie face down on the floor with your fingers placed directly underneath your shoulders. Extend your legs as much as possible. Bring your knees close towards your chest without lifting your pelvis. Contract your abdominal muscles to curl your legs up toward shoulders. Lower your legs back to the original starting position and repeat 8 to 16 times.
Strengthening Other Muscles Around Shin Area
Lower leg muscles are responsible for maintaining balance. Without them, you would lose your sense of equilibrium and possibly slip. Therefore, you should focus on strengthening these muscles. Two excellent ways to do this are doing lunges and squats. Lunges are performed by bending your right knee to 90 degrees and lowering the body into a squatting position. Push your hips backwards and return to the starting position. Perform 12 to 24 repetitions per set.
Another great exercise is wall squats. Sit against a wall with your legs stretched out in front of you. Lean your rear end against the wall while keeping your back straight. Keeping your chin up, lower your butt down toward the floor so your thigh makes a 45 degree angle with the ground. Rise up until your thigh forms a 90 degree angle with the ceiling. Repeat the same procedure with opposite leg. That means you alternate legs. Complete 4 sets.
Avoid Hard Surfaces During Exercise
Hard surfaces such as asphalt pavements can cause shin splints. The best way to deal with this problem is to wear soft soled shoes or sneakers instead of regular running shoes. Soft soled shoes absorb shocks that occur during running. Soaked shoes help protect your feet from hot pavement during summer and freezing cold asphalt during winter. Another alternative is to run on cushioned tracks. Tracks are made of rubberized material and sometimes covered with grassy field turf. They’re available at many track facilities and parks. The last option is to run barefoot. Sometimes barefoot running is unavoidable but it’s always better to choose softer surfaces rather than concrete ones.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
There are many preventive measures you can take to avoid shin splints. First, ensure that your running shoes fit well. Second, wear snug fitting socks. Third, stretch properly before running. Fourth, strengthen other muscles around your shin area. And finally, avoid hard surfaces during exercise. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy running without having to worry about shin splints.”
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