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Avoiding and recovering from Shin Splints

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

How to Avoid Shin Splints

Shin splints are a common running injury characterized by pain in the front or inside of the shins. They are caused by repetitive stress on the shinbone and the connective tissues attaching the muscles. While shin splints can sideline you from running, there are some effective ways you can help prevent them:

Proper Training Progression

Increasing your mileage or intensity too quickly is a primary cause of shin splints. Build up gradually and don’t ramp up more than 10% per week. This allows your body to adapt without overloading the shins.

Stretch and Strengthen

Tight calf muscles put extra strain on shin muscles and tendons. Stretch your calves frequently before and after runs. Also strengthen your shins with toe raises, heel walks and alphabet drawings with your feet. These exercises will help take pressure off your shins.

Check Your Shoes

Replace running shoes around every 300-500 miles. Worn out shoes lack proper cushioning and support, causing undue stress on shins. Getting fitted properly for new shoes at a specialty store is also important to prevent shin issues.

Mind Your Form

Poor running form like over-striding and heavy heel striking can contribute to shin splints. Focus on taking quicker, shorter strides and landing more lightly on your mid-foot. Keep your head and chest lifted as well. Consider gait retraining.

Run on Softer Surfaces

Pounding on concrete day after day can pound your shins as well. Run on softer surfaces like grass, dirt trails or tracks at least some of the time to reduce impact on shins. Also use a treadmill periodically.

Ice and Rest

Icing shins after runs can help control inflammation and pain. If shin pain persists more than a few days, take a break from running until it subsides. Cross-train to maintain fitness.

Shin splints can happen to any runner, but following these tips will help you avoid them. Build your mileage gradually, watch your form, stretch and strengthen your lower legs, and be diligent about recovery. With proper prevention and care, you’ll stay shin splint-free.

BONUS: Here is a list of exercises to help avoid Shin Splints

Calf Stretches - Tight calf muscles contribute to shin splints, so be sure to stretch them regularly. Do standing calf stretches with toes pointed straight ahead and also with toes angled inward. Hold stretches for 30 seconds on each leg.

Toe Raises - Raise up on your toes and lift your heels. Hold briefly, then lower back down. Repeat on one leg at a time or with both feet. Can perform with knees bent or straight.

Alphabet Ankling - Write out the alphabet with your feet, moving your ankle through its full range of motion. Keep letters small and controlled.

Heel Walks - Walk on your heels rather than your toes, engaging the shin muscles. Can be performed for short distances.

Toe Walks - Opposite of heel walks, walk on your toes to stretch out the calves.

Calf Raises - Stand with toes on a step or weight plate, heels hanging off. Raise up on toes, pause and lower back down again.

Here is my favorite piece of equipment for Calf Raises:

Resistance Band Inversion/Eversion - Sit with legs out straight. Loop a band around feet and turn feet inward/outward against resistance.

Seated Shin Raises - Sit with legs extended. Use muscles to point and flex feet, keeping shins engaged.

Pencil Rolls - Roll a pencil beneath arches of feet to massage and stimulate muscles.

These exercises can be done as a warm-up/cool-down routine 2-3 times per week to build shin strength and flexibility. But be sure to start any new exercise gradually.

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