Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Blake Smith
Shin splints are small tears in the area where the lower leg muscle attaches to the tibia| aka the shinbone. The tears result from overuse| and since the pavement taxes your muscles more than a treadmill| many runners complain of shin pain when they first begin outdoor runs. Shin splints often occur because the calf muscle becomes stronger than the tibialis anterior| the muscle on the outside of the shin. Even if the ache isn’t that bad| it’s still a minor injury. Pushing through the pain could result in more severe tears an injury that could sideline your running routine altogether.
- Check your form: Are you a heel striker? Landing on the heel can result in shin splints| knee injuries| or a pulled calf muscle. To prevent shin pain| focus on landing midfoot rather than on the heel.Strengthen the lower leg muscles: Since shin splints can be caused by muscular imbalance| strengthen the muscles in the lower legs by doing variations of walking on your toes and heels as well as this seated shin-strengthening exercise using a dumbbell.Run on softer surfaces: Pavement is tough on the joints and muscles. As opposed to asphalt| running on dirt roads or woodsy trails could eliminate the pain immediately. Don’t skip stretching: Make time for stretches that target the lower legs| including these seven calf stretches even on days you don’t exercise? and this yoga pose that stretches the shins.Don’t just run: Cross-train with other types of exercise to strengthen all your muscles and to maintain flexibility. Bike| swim| hike| walk| do yoga| and hit the weight room at your gym.Rest: Some days of rest are in order| but that doesn’t mean you have to stop all physical activity. Do low-intensity exercise that doesn’t aggravate your shins| such as walking or swimming laps. If resting doesn’t help| then make an appointment with your doctor to ensure it’s not something more serious like a stress fracture.Ice| ice| baby: Taking a full ice bath may not be the best idea during the colder months| but using an icing cup for massage protects your fingers from freezing and provides a perfectly sized contact point for troubled shins.Roll out: A foam roller can be part of your best defense against shin splints. When you feel the pain start| simply foam rolling the muscles on the shin can ease the ache.Add an incline: Running downhill can make you more susceptible to painful shin splints by putting pressure on your shinbones| but running uphill can alleviate that stress (just be careful when you head down!). This also means you should add a little incline when you run on a treadmill. Just setting the machine to one percent can really help keep shin splints at bay. Ease into outdoor runs: Once the weather warms up| don’t expect to be able to run at an eight-minute-mile pace for 45 minutes straight like you could on the treadmill. Wind resistance| uneven terrain| and the lack of a moving belt to propel your steps makes for a much harder workout. Doing too much| too soon| is a surefire way to end up with shin splints or another injury| so slow down your pace| run shorter distances| and don’t be ashamed to take walking breaks when necessary.