Shin splints are technically defined as acute pain in the lower leg region, but more commonly known as every runner’s nightmare. No matter how carefully you’ve drawn up your strategic running program, shin splints can ruin it all. They can be extremely painful to run (or even walk) on, so we’re here to tell you how to get rid of them fast.
What Causes Shin Splints?
Shin splints are micro-tears in the shin muscle and bone tissue of the shin. They are a serious block in the way of progress and can be caused by a few actions (that we do tend to have control over, fortunately). Generally, shin splints arise from:
- Low-quality or low-support running shoes
- Flat feet or incorrect insoles for your arch
- Running on uneven or hard terrain
- Increasing intensity and frequency of runs too quickly
How To Get Rid Of Shin Splints Today
Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but unfortunately, you can’t go back in time and change your shoes. That said, here are the things that you can do today to minimize the pain and get back on the road (or trail) sooner.
If you’ve ever completed a first aid course or have been enjoying sports for a while, you may have heard of RICE. It’s an acronym to help with sprains and strains, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Conveniently, it helps with your shin splits too. The part to pay close attention to is the rest, and yes, this can be extremely challenging. If you’ve recently started running or switched up your program, motivation levels are high, and rest means getting in the way of progress.
For the energetic go-getters out there, it’s always important to remind yourself of the potential consequences that can occur due to lack of rest. Further impact on shin splints creates fractures, which is one of the first things your doctor will look for when you walk into their office in immense pain. With that in mind, resting sounds like a much better option when compared to injury (and potentially being forced to take several months off the trail with a stress fracture).
You’ll know that you’re ready to run again when:
- You push against the sore spot, and it’s no longer causing you pain.
- You can jump on the leg without feeling pain.
- It’s as flexible and strong as it was before the injury.
Until your shins are back to their usual selves, don’t place any more undue pressure on them. It may seem counterintuitive, but rest is the best way to heal shin splints fast.
Try Out Some KT Tape
KT tape is incredibly popular within the running community to help get rid of shin splints and other injuries. KT is kinesiology therapeutic tape, and its purpose is to relieve pain while supporting muscles, tendons, and ligaments. When the tape is applied correctly, it will lift the skin, increasing blood and lymph flow to the area. This will heal your inflamed tissues faster and get you back running sooner.
The tape is only $1o on Amazon and comes in a range of colors, including pink, blue, purple, and black. You’ll commonly see top athletes using sports tape like this to alleviate the pressure of their injuries while on the field.
Depending on the type of shin splints that you have, there are many ways to apply your tape. Below is a video of one of the most common types of shin splints. In addition, here’s a link to the posterior shin splint instructional video if you’re experiencing pain towards the back of your lower leg.
Stretching is another excellent method to enhance blood flow to the shin area and heal your splints quicker. Stretching relaxes tight muscles around the area, helping blood and lymph flow back to the muscles and bones (thus releasing the pressure from the injury). As always, be careful when stretching. It’s essential to stop if it becomes too painful, or if you think it could be a more severe condition like a stress fracture.
Here are some useful lower leg stretches:
- Stand on a raised surface with your heels hanging off the edge.
- Raise up to your tip-toes.
- Lower down as far as you can, feeling a gentle stretch throughout your entire calf.
- Hold for 15 seconds and breathe.
- Repeat 5 times
- In a split stance, place your front foot toe on a wall keeping your heel on the ground.
- Bend both knees into a squat while pushing the front foot into the wall.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other leg.
- Start in a split stance with a solid surface in front of you.
- Keep your back leg straight and your front knee bent.
- Pushing on the solid surface in front of you, lean your torso forward and feel the stretch in your back calf.
- Hold for 30 seconds
- Repeat on the other side.
Foam Roll The Shins
- From a kneeling position, place a foam roller underneath your shins.
- Place your hands on the ground and roll the foam up and down your shins.
- Roll up and down on any painful spots using the resistance from the ground and your body to determine pressure.
How To Prevent Shin Splints
For those of us who have previously suffered from shin splints, we certainly don’t want to welcome them back anytime soon. Let’s take a look at how to avoid shin splints with preventative measures.
Invest In Quality Running Shoes
The best way to prevent shin splints is by investing in some quality running shoes. Considering many new runners haven’t spent much time yet to truly understand their stride, they end up buying any old brand that they’ve heard about long ago. It’s essential to understand your goals, arch, and terrain to pick the best shoes for you. Your shoes must be appropriately fitted, supportive, and have the right amount of shock-absorbance. If you’re a seasoned runner, make sure you’re replacing your shoes every 350 to 450 miles.
Consider Orthopedic Soles
If you’ve ever taken the time to analyze and understand your specific stride, you might have discovered that you have flat feet or a high arch. If you’re in either of these categories, you need to invest in orthopedic insoles to help prevent shin splints. The truth is that these arch abnormalities are simply more prone to injury. Rest assured, this certainly doesn’t mean you should give up on your goals, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll need to take some extra time and care to choose shoes that are right for you. Whether you’re an under or an overpronator, you’ll want to look into specialist shoes with a specific toe to heel drop or orthopedic inserts.
Change Up Your Running Program
If you’re convinced you’ve done your research and already have the best shoes and insoles for your stride (yet still suffer from shin splints), you’re probably just going too hard & too fast. Shin splints are common amongst beginners because they’re simply not used to the impact of running. The best shin splint treatment for many is to take your foot off the gas a little.
Quite often, when we are excited, our motivation levels are high, and we work at something at an intensity level that is just not sustainable. With running, consistency is much more important than intensity. For those who have gone too hard and fast, here are some suggestions:
- Add more rest days into your running program (beginners should aim for 2-3).
- Reduce your weekly mileage goal.
- If you engage in interval running, reduce the number of weekly sprints.
- Add more slow runs into the mix and gently increase over time.
However you like to run, you can get rid of shin splints with these simple tips. Run with the right shoes, rest when needed, and always make sure you’re aiming for consistency over intensity. Here’s to safe and efficient running!