Getting the infamous “Shin Splints” can feel like a death sentence for running. But don’t stress yourself out or get depressed. With thought and care, as well as having some patience, you can help get yourself onto your feet again and continue running.
Shin splints can feel like they come out of absolutely nowhere, ready to ruin your day. But sometimes even experienced runners will end up with shin soreness, and it can come happen because of numerous different reasons.
- Having inappropriate footwear can be a common culprit. Or, in my case, my running shoes were too old, and had gradually changed shape over the years, and grown to be unsuitable for running.
- If you’re suddenly running too much and too often before you have settled into a routine, this can be another offender. Doing too much too fast can cause stress on your legs as well as your shins.
- Running on surfaces that are too hard, or too uneven can also cause stress on your shins.
- If you have had a previous irritation or soreness in your shins, and haven’t rested for enough time, this can also cause you to run the risk (Wordplay!) of getting yourself a bad case of shin splints.
- It can be also be caused by tripping whilst running, or a sudden awkward jolt.
- Sometimes it can be an unrelated injury to running and may be due to your line of work.
Overall, there are a variety of factors. Sometimes it may just be one, sometimes it’s a collection of different things working against you. But this isn’t always the end, and there are several things you can do to help yourself out.
But before all that – what are shin splints? If you’ve had shin splints before, you will know the uncomfortable and sometimes very painful feeling of what it’s like to have them. It can literally feel like you’ve been kicked hard in the shin and can really affect your mobility. From personal experience, I started developing shin splints but was too adamant that it was just some mild soreness, and even ended up limping for a while since I did not stop running.
The pain itself will mostly cover your shin area – and can be painful on either your left or right sides, or even both. But it can also be characterised by pain in the lower inner side of your shin closer to your foot. It’s worth being careful if you are feeling a little bit sore in these areas after a run, and to be careful. The next day, it could have escalated and worsened.
There isn’t really a “quick fix” for shin splints. Some people are lucky and can get over them in a few days, but these people are lucky. If you have a particularly bad case of shin splints, it can take weeks or even months to fully recover, or you risk injuring yourself further. However, some methods that are used when tackling these issues are:
- Applying ice to the affected area before and/or after you’ve run, if you are feeling pain or soreness. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Rest up! Don’t push yourself or try to do any strenuous activities. Lay off running if you are in pain, give yourself a rest.
- If your shoes are not appropriate, consider seeing a specialist or someone with experience and get a better suited pair of running shoes that can accommodate. For example, if you are flat footed, this may be a good choice. Also, we all run slightly differently, which can mean some of us may be more likely to cause ourselves injury and getting a well fitted and balanced pair of running shoes can combat this.
- Stretching! I have personally found that stretching every day, even if I don’t run on that day, is absolutely key. However, don’t overdo it or perhaps avoid this for a little while if you are in a lot of pain.
Now, there are several different stretches that you can do that can help you relieve and strengthen your shins. Some may find that some stretches will work better than others for certain people.
- Sit with your leg straight: press your toes on the injured leg downwards with the other foot or pull down with your hand, hold for 10 seconds and gently let go.
- Kneel down with the top of your foot flat on the floor. Gently sit back on your heels until you are feeling the pulling sensation and hold for 10 seconds and carefully move yourself off your heels. (Best done on a soft mat or carpet.)
- Straight leg raises: lie down on your back and extend the injured leg slightly into the air and hold for 5-10 seconds, then gently bring it back down and repeat.
- Quadriceps stretches: standing on your uninjured leg, carefully raise your injured leg with your left or right arm towards your buttocks and gently pull your toes until you feel the stretch, and hold for 5-10 seconds, and then lower.
- If you can, wall squats are also a good stretch to try. Carefully position yourself against a wall and slide down into a squatting position resembling being sat on an invisible chair, and hold for as long as is comfortable, but don’t overdo it. Make sure your arms are at your side rather than on your lap to reduce stress on your legs.
- If you have some steps, going up one step and back down can be a good stretch to practice as long as you have the appropriate equipment.
- If you have some resistance bands, a good stretch to try is to put part of it around the injured leg, and if you have some strong enough and sturdy enough to put the other end of the resistance band around, place it on it. Then, gently pull the injured leg in the opposite direction. This can be done in numerous directions to stretch the entirety of the muscle and can also be done with the other end tied around the unaffected leg, if you are confident enough.
- A simple and effective stretch that I found to be incredibly useful and can be done nearly anywhere, consists of being either sat on a chair or on the floor, and with the injured leg, extend it as much as possible without causing too much strain, and stretch to try and bring your toes to point inwards towards yourself for a few seconds, and then relax your foot again, and repeat as necessary. I found this stretch particularly useful as I work in an office and was able to do it causally.
- Simple calf raises are also useful. Simply stand normally, and then gently stand on your tip toes for a few seconds, and then lower yourself back down and repeat as needed.
Overall, shin splints can be conquered. But this can sometimes take a lot of time and patience to fully recover from. It’s important to listen to what your body is telling you, and to rest as and when needed, and maybe don’t start fastening up your laces if you are still in some pain. I am by no means an expert runner, and there is a lot of advice out there that is all very good and reliable, but I have found that trying all these methods helped me on the road to recovery. I spent several months running before I encountered shin splints, and it took me a while to recover and to find out what methods of recovery worked for me. If you’re experiencing shin splints, soreness or leg pain for a prolonged amount of time, it is best to either consult the NHS webpage, or book yourself in with your GP for a consultation in case it’s another or more serious issue. You want to win the war, not just the battle. Don’t start running until you feel better!