13-20% of all running injuries can be attributed to shin splints. Shin splints is an umbrella term that includes inflamed muscles, tendons, and/or the thin layer of tissue that covers the bone. Although painful enough to keep you on the sidelines for a while, most cases of shin splints can be effectively treated conservatively with ice, rest, over-the-counter pain relievers and wearing appropriate footwear.
What causes the pain? Usually, shin splints develop as a result of consistent stressing of the bones, muscles, and joints of the lower leg. The result is irritation and inflammation, both of which cause pain. Factors that contribute to shin splints may include:
- Running downhill – When you run downhill, your foot impacts the ground in a plantar-flexed position (toes pointed down), which puts additional stress on the muscles on the front of your shin, rather than distributing weight evenly through your foot.
- Sudden increase in training frequency, duration, or intensity – Anytime you violate the 10% rule (do not increase training routines by more than 10 percent a week), there is a risk of injury, including shin splints.
- Old shoes – As your running shoes accumulate miles, they lose the ability to absorb shock and adequately support the foot.
- Exercising on hard or inclined surfaces – Surface hardness and tilt place stress on the leg.
- Previous history of shin splints – Runners who have had shin splints in the past are more likely to suffer them in the future.
- Failure to rehab a previous bout of shin splints – Returning to normal training too soon is a common problem among athletes and can result in a quick re-occurrence.
- Flat feet, rigid arches, and over-pronation (ankles roll inward on impact) - Any uncorrected mechanical malfunctions can lead to shin splints
If you are suffering from shin splints, initially you should:
- Rest - Avoid activities that cause pain. Cross-train with low impact activities such as pool training, bicycling or elliptical machine training.
- Ice - Ice for 15-20 minutes at a time, four or more times a day.
- Compression - Consult a FLEET FEET Fit Professional to discuss which compression wrap or compression sleeve is right for you.
- Elevate - Prop your feet and legs up when resting and at night to avoid further swelling.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory drugs - Use aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen for a short time.
- Match your footwear's geometry to your needs - Your footwear should properly support your arch, moderate any excessive overpronation, and have a moderate-to-low heel rise.
- Call or visit the FLEET FEET Training Center (855-LUV-2-RUN x5) - Learn how our classes can help you combat any mechanical malfunctions that are causing your pain.