Thursday, September 10, 2015

How To Prevent and Treat Shin Splints

My biggest problem with running in high school was that I didn't know how to do it in a smart way. I was always wanting to be better, go further, run faster. I wanted to be able to be the best.  The problem was that I didn't listen to my body and I never gave myself a break. When you do this to yourself, a couple things tend to happen.

1. You get injured.

2. You get burned out.

3. You don't perform well in races.

All three of these things happened to me several times through high school.  I was constantly injured, I would get frustrated and burned out easy, and because of those things, I rarely did as well as I wanted in my races.

My sister took this picture of me being "focused" on race day. 

Because it sucks really bad to be injured, I wanted to share a few of my tips on curing and avoiding one of the most common injuries, and the one I had the longest: Shin Splints.

If you've never had shin splints, let me explain what it feels like.  There are a couple of different ways that I've heard it described. To me, it felt like someone was stabbing me in the shin over and over when I ran, and eventually, that feeling happened even when I walked.

What causes shin splints? They usually happen when your muscles and tendons get swollen and irritated.  This can happen from running downhill a lot, not having the right support in your shoes, and slapping your feet, or heel striking too much when you run.

What you can do if you have shin splints: 

Ice, ice, ice! Seriously, it helps more than you'd think. Ice for 15-20 minutes after every run. My favorite way to ice my shins is to freeze paper cups of water and then rub my legs down with them after my run. But ice packs or even a bag of frozen peas on your shins works really well.

Source: Roman Paradigm massage and therapy

Take a break. I know that sucks, but it really is best for recovery.  If you can take a week or maybe even two off when you start showing signs of shin splints, your shins will heal so much faster.

Get new shoes.  A lot of times when you have shoes that are worn out, it will cause shin splints. Also getting the right kind of shoes will help you prevent them. Also getting supports, whether they are orthotics that are made specifically for you or just some that you found over the counter, they will help ease any pain and keep the pain away.

To control the pain while you're going about your daily activities, take some kind of over the counter pain reliever. I take Advil, but use what works for you.

What to do to prevent them:

Get the right shoes. Like I just said, if you get the right pair of shoes it could save you a lot of injuries, not just shin splints.

Stretch. There is a lot of back and forth with when you're supposed to stretch and what kind of stretching to do.  Stretching is smart. I know this from experience. I got injured a lot less when I took the time to stretch my calves and shins. HERE are some good stretches for your calves and shins.

Run on softer ground. The grass is obviously softer than concrete. Even running in the road is a little softer for your feet to land on than the sidewalk.  So mix things up. Don't just run on the sidewalk or the treadmill all the time.

Pace yourself on speed and on distance. Don't go all out all at once. Increase your miles gradually and then your speed.

Do shin strengthening exercises. Tap your feet while you sit at the computer. Or, "write" the ABC's with your feet.

I'm not a dr, I'm not a personal trainer. But take it from someone who knows from experience what shin splints are like. It's better to prevent them than to get them, and it's better to heal them than to ignore them. I got a stress fracture after 4 years of having shin splints, and I can't tell you how much I wish I'd just taken that break.

Proof that stress fractures suck. One of my high school friends snapped this picture of my cross country friends carrying me to the bus because I fractured my shin. Bad quality, but you can tell I was crying. It hurt like mad. What you don't see is that my shin has ice taped to it and I took Ibuprofen every couple of hours to finish up our California trip.

Now when I get shin splints the first thing I do is consider what caused them. Are my shoes old? Am I just getting back into shape and overdid it? Then I adjust my work out schedule and get new shoes, I baby my shins for a few weeks until they are back to normal.

Have you ever had a long-lasting injury?


  1. I've been feeling like I'm getting shin splints lately and need to be more proactive about taking care of them. I definitely need to do more stretching and I'll have to do the icing as well. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Yes. Ice and stretch. Shin splints are not fun and I highly recommend not getting them. Hope those things help!

  2. Went running yesterday and you know what? I NEED new shoes. NEEEEEEED.

    1. Go get some!! My favorite are mizuno but I've heard really good things about brooks too. It's amazing what new shoes can do.