This time last year I was suffering from the dreaded shin splints. December 2014 consisted of dragging myself to the local swimming pool for some aqua-jogging and forcing myself to go for a bike ride on my bike more suited for my 9-year old self. I remember moping around the Christmas season thinking “All I want for Christmas is healthy-working-pain-free shins. All I want for Christmas is to be able to run again.”
If you think you’re suffering from shin splints. You probably are. ‘Shin splints’ is a very broad term given to painful shins when running / walking. For some it’s a dull ache, for some it’s more of a sharp, shooting pain.
What has caused the problem? Shin splints unfortunately, are very common amongst runners.
- SHOES: Perhaps your trainers aren’t right for you. Or perhaps you have thrashed out too many miles in your trusty Mizunos and you are due some more. (Please note, other fab brands are available). I’d recommend getting the best shoes for you by having your running style / gait / landing / strike off analysed. This is free in some great running shops such as http://www.sweatshop.co.uk and http://www.upandrunning.co.uk This will ensure that you are wearing the right trainers for you – the right cushioning and support will be in the right place. This, in turn, will give your shins the best chance at surviving all of those glorious miles.
- TOO MUCH TOO SOON: I think this is the most likely cause. Shin splints usually occur in new runners or experienced runners who have increased their training load / mileage too quickly. All changes to your training need to be done gradually – otherwise your body (in this case, shins) won’t be able to handle it. Whether it be more miles / more speed sessions / running on the road and you’re used to muddy footpaths…be sure to make very subtle changes to avoid injury.
- WEAK CALVES: Shin splints often occur as a result of tight/weak calves. Even if you’re not suffering from calf pain – they may be tight or weak without you even realising. If your calves are tired (potentially from ‘too much too soon’) the impact will shift from your calves onto your shins. Thud, thud, thud on your poor little shins will result in tiny tears causing the pain and BAM – shin splints.
How do I get rid of them? Firstly, rest. I’d advice two weeks just putting your feet up. You can also try icing your shins in the evening. Pop your feet up and do 3 lots of ten-minute frozen-pea sessions. After the 2-week rest period, try a very gentle jog and re-assess the situation.
Should I see a physio? You’ve got to judge your own body. If it feels really bad then, yes. Or if it’s been over 6 weeks with no improvement, I’d also advise it.
How serious is it? Like I said, shin splints are very common and aren’t usually serious and should go away with a couple of weeks rest. But if you can really pin-point an exact point where the pain is coming from AND it hurts when you touch it, I would advise getting an x-ray. I don’t want to scare you but it may (worst case scenario) be a stress-fracture.
Have they gone? When you’re trying to get back into running after the time off, I’d recommend following my ‘Strong Shins’ routine every time before you go out. The general rule is, if you can complete the routine pain-free: go for a gentle run. BUT, if there is any discomfort in this routine, DON’T RUN.
20 calf raises (up and down on your tip-toes)
20 single-leg calf raises on each side
10 single-leg squats on each side
10 jumping squats
10 single-leg hops on each side
10 jumping squats moving forward
Tips to PREVENT shin splints
- Always stretch your calves before and after running. A really good stretch can be done on the stairs – holding onto the banister, put your toes on the stairs with your heels hanging off. Raise up and down on your toes. Repeat x20.
- Eat lots of calcium rich foods for strong bones – full fat milk, yogurt, cheese. I also take a Vitamin D+ Calcium (recommended by doctor) once a day. Warning: if you take iron supplements too, be sure to take the vitamin D and iron at different times (morning / night) otherwise they will counteract each other.
- Don’t run every day. Your body needs recovery days too.
- Get the right shoes! (See above info for testing). Ask in store how often they recommend you change your shoes (this will depend on your weekly mileage).
- Try out compression socks https://livforrunning.wordpress.com/2015/12/28/compression-sleeves/
I hope this information has helped. The ‘Strong-Shins’ routine is a great indicator as to whether you should run or not.
Christmas 2015 has been wonderful. I feel very grateful for great health, family & friends.
Run to get fitter, run to get faster, run to feel happier.
All the best,