The Best Way to Prevent Painful Shin Splints Before They Start (Hint: It Could Be Your Running Form)
Shin splints oftentimes sideline even many seasoned runners and can be among the most nagging of running injuries. Also, medically-classified as “tibial stress syndrome”, an athlete’s running form is one key mechanics indicator to predict their susceptibility to acquiring shin splints. When they occur, shin splints may target the limb’s “interior” region; the front part just below the knee. Or, the pain may be “posterior” in nature, causing discomfort along the leg’s inside edge.
Symptoms of this common running injury include, according to Johnson Health Tech North America’s blog (johnsonfit.com/blog/shin-splints-causes-prevention-and-treatment): “…a dull, throbbing ache in the front of the lower leg… [which] can manifest during or after exercise, either along the edges of the shin bone or deeper in the muscle.” In many cases, unfortunately, this condition- caused by inflammation of the fascia, or soft connective tissue attached to the tibia- may mask more serious, underlying damage such as:
- A bone-related stress fracture
- Poor circulation in the lower extremity (“compartment syndrome”)
- An actual separation of connective tissue from the tibia
Poor Running Form is One Cause of Shin Splint-Related Injuries
According to “Chi Running” creator, and running body posture guru Danny Dreyer, (dannydreyersblog.com), the root causes of shin splint running injuries fall within two major categories:
Access impact to the runner’s lower legs due to “heel-striking”. Dreyer points out that this typically occurs due to these running injury-inducers:
- Running in old, worn out shoes
- Landing repeatedly upon your heels
- Prolonged downhill running
- Treadmill running (Any health club runners reading this?)
- Running on unstable surfaces like sand or snow
Dreyer mentions on his blog that a runner’s form should ideally incorporate a style where they lean forward slightly, from their ankles, as they run.
Overuse of the lower legs caused by a repetitive “toe-pushing” running form. This happens commonly when runners, especially “newbies”, try to run too far and/or too fast when initiating a running program. In those instances, a runner’s calf and shin muscles are not yet conditioned sufficiently to take the repetitive pounding caused by their body’s weight. “Toe-pushing” results, as the legs over-compensate for muscle weakness.
Another factor that leads to shin splints is runners not stretching and >warming up> enough prior to a run; especially a lengthy one.
Preventing Lower Leg Running Injuries Starts with Your Shoes
Over at Runner Dude’s Blog (ncrunnerdudeblogspot.com), they simply suggest replacing your running shoes every 300-500 miles to reduce shin splint risk. Additionally, they recommend several other preventative methods, including ones that address running form, to minimize lower leg injuries. These include:
- Utilize ankle and lower leg “pre-hab” strengthening exercises.
- Analyze your stride for any heel-strike or over-striding tendencies.
- Use devices such as resistance bands to strengthen lower leg muscles.
But sometimes, even incorporating these running form and other injury-prevention modalities fails, and a runner still acquires shin splints
These Treatments Work Best for
According to running experts, the most time-tested methods for treating existing shin splints start with resting the afflicted tissue for several days, while taking a break from running itself. Runners World online (runnersworld.com/shin-splints) chimes in on this topic: “Consider cross-training for a while to let your shin heal. Swim, run in the pool or ride a bike.” Other proven treatments are:
- Icing your shins to reduce tissue inflammation. Do this for 20 minutes; 3-4X per day.
- Wrapping your leg, from just above the ankle to just below the knee, with an ACE bandage or athletic tape before you run.
- Replacing worn running shoes with new and appropriate ones.
- Stretching your calf muscles and Achilles tendons regularly; especially prior to a run.
- Evaluating, monitoring, and adjusting your running form.
In summary, shin splints are a preventable running injury caused by various issues,
including poor running form. At Lumo, we can place the “coaching” technology and expertise right at your fingertips for improving your running form; while effectively minimizing your lower leg running injury probability.