How To Prevent Shin Splints When Running & More FAQs

February 27, 2024 6:22 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Your new running routine makes you feel healthy and energetic, but there’s one problem: those darn shin splints! It seems like every time you start climbing that big hill, the aching in your lower legs becomes almost unbearable. Let’s look at common shin splint questions so you can avoid pain while running and live your life to your feet’s content.

Shin Splints FAQs

What Is a Shin Splint and Who Gets Them?

Shin splint pain occurs when the muscles connected to your shinbone and your shinbone itself become inflamed due to the stress on your muscles, tendons, and bone tissues— that’s why it’s more formally referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome (stress on your leg bone).

Usually, shin splints are the result of overuse or overworking your leg muscles and tendons. They are most commonly felt by athletes who participate in repetitive activity on their feet. For example, runners are prime victims of splints and other foot-related problems, for they can spend hours repeating similar, high-impact movements. However, runners aren’t the only ones who get shin splints. Dancers, military persons, and those involved in sports with quick footwork— like tennis— can also experience this lower leg pain.

You are more likely to suffer from shin pain if you:

  • Recently intensified or switched up your training routine (duration, frequency, or difficulty).
  • Run or exercise on uneven surfaces or up hills.
  • Run or exercise on hard surfaces, like concrete.
  • Recently began a sport or activity with quick or repetitive movements.
  • Have flat feet or overpronation.
  • Have high arches.
  • Don’t warm up prior to exercise.

The Difference Between Shin Splints and Stress Fractures

With shin splints, muscles can become tired and unable to absorb the impact of your movement, putting excessive pressure on your tibia bone and causing pain and swelling. Extra, repetitive activity against weakened tissue can eventually cause bone cracking or stress fractures

For those who suffer from bone cracking, fracturing can occur without proper rest. This requires a long recovery period— sometimes a few weeks of rest and ceasing the activity that caused the problem. If you suspect you may have a stress fracture and not just shin splints, this would be a good time to seek the help of a podiatrist.

How Can I Prevent Shin Splints When Running or Walking?

Pre-existing conditions such as flat feet, high arches, and poor foot posture can cause or worsen shin splints. However, even if you have relatively healthy feet, continuous running can still cause shin splint symptoms due to the repetitive stress on your legs.

Here’s our best advice for avoiding shin splints while running:

  1. Listen to your body. If you are experiencing shin pain, stop your running activity and reduce high-impact exercises. 
  2. Be mindful of form. Sloppy posture while running or walking can cause stress to other areas of your body and put excessive pressure on your muscles or tibia bone.
  3. Get specialized care. If you have a pre-existing condition like flat foot or high arches, never do activity barefoot or without proper footwear support. You may need to consult a podiatrist for a custom fitting or special orthotics.
  4. Get better shoes. Always choose footwear with good support and the right fit. We suggest you replace running shoes at least every six months to avoid reduced arch support.
  5. Care for your muscles. Always do a warmup and finish off with cool-down stretches when you run. 
  6. Lessen your impact. Mix less muscle-intense activities into your routine, like swimming, biking, and walking, to give your legs a break from running.
  7. Improve your diet. Follow these nutritional tips for improved foot and ankle health.
  8. Care for your body. When you feel pain after running, consider using a cold pack for shin splints, take pain relievers, and rest for a few days. Slow stretching and foot yoga may also help keep your feet happy.

Do Compression Socks Help Shin Splints?

Although there are compression socks meant to help shin splints, there is very little research to back them up at this time. Keep in mind that compression socks may be an option for other foot problems.

What’s the Recovery Period for Shin Splints?

If you are experiencing shin splint pain, you will likely be advised to give your body time to heal or to cut back on your activity.

The suggested recovery time and care will vary based on your level of injury or pain, but if your tibia bone is crack-free and you just have muscular stress, reducing your activity might be all you need. Oftentimes, this is a matter of decreasing the intensity, duration, or frequency of your activity. If you find your pain re-occurring, this may be an indication that insoles for shin splints or other options could help. 

Send Your Shin Splints Running

If, even after resting and adjusting your routine, you are still experiencing frequent shin pain, it might be time to see a professional. You may need advice on the best shoes for shin splints, tips on how to reduce the chance of shin splints when running or require X-rays to check for any stress fractures. Luckily, we’ve got a full team ready to help. Schedule an appointment with The Foot & Ankle Group today.

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