SHIN SPLINTS SUCK
Just stating the obvious. Unfortunately, it seems no one cares about them until it’s too late and you have them. If that’s the case, I’ve got some bad news. Studies show, on average, it takes 71 days to rehab shin splits, so prevention should be a priority.
First, we will address what I get asked all the time. How do I deal with my shin splints? Once you have shin splints, you will want to ice your shins as much as you can 10-20 mins on, 10-20 mins off, repeat. You will also want to invest in some good arch support, either better shoes or insoles for your current ones. Some of the exercises that I will mention below will also help, but rest will be of utmost importance. To remove the stress that has been causing the inflammation of your soft tissues, or that may have even caused microfractures to your tibia is a priority. You will need time off, perhaps weeks up to a couple months. No one likes time off and some cannot afford it, so let’s dive into how to prevent them.
Preventing shin splits doesn’t take a lot of time, a few common sense practices and a couple strengthening exercises performed regularly will go a long way. These are not 100% fool proof as each person is different and some shin splints may be caused by hip imbalances and improper running form which I may address in another blog later. This will however assist the majority of you that are prone to get or have had shin splints.
1. You will want to slowly increase the distances or intensities that you run. It’s best to not to go from jogging a few miles to running a half marathon or from not running to running a 5k. Gradually increase your total distance week to week. Running on an incline, uphill can also assist as it will cause you to naturally land on the balls of your feet and increase dorsiflexion.
2. I’m combining a few things on this one, but basically you want to lessen or soften the impact of your foot and the running surface. This can be done a few ways. Land on the balls of your feet when running, which is proper and allows your muscles to absorb the impact vs heel striking, which is your heel (a bone) taking on the impact. Better shoes or insoles can also assist with this by taking on the force of impact and assist with arch support. Lastly run on a softer surface if possible, grass or a track is better than the road or sidewalk. You basically want to soften the impact on your feet and legs which is also less stress on your shins.
3. Do a few of the exercises and stretches in the accompanying video. Start with 1-2 sets of 8-12, work up to 3-4 sets of 15-20 for the exercises. Do each stretch for 2-3 reps of 15-30. You will notice the exercises focus on strengthening your anterior tibialis, toes towards your knee or dorsiflexion with exception of the toe grabs which is for arch support and toe strength. First 2 exercises, shown up close and at a distance, focus on driving through your heel and lifting your toes towards your knee. 3rd and 4th exercises focus on pointing your toes towards your knee, opposite of the resistance. Keep your toes off the ground in the 5th exercise or heel walk. The 6th and final exercise is toe grabs, stand on a towel and bunch it up using your toes, flex and relax repeatedly. Also incorporate the 2 stretches, the first stretches your soleus and the 2nd your gastrocnemius , the 2 muscles in your calves which are often too tight.
Any questions, comments, or feedback, please let me know. I'm all ears :)