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Five Ways to Prevent Shin Splints

Posted by Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES on 14 July 2016
Five Ways to Prevent Shin Splints

Shin splints is one of the most frustrating running injuries an athlete can experience. Like a troublesome itch in a hard to reach place, it's a tricky sports injury to treat.

The condition is characterized by the anterior or posterior muscles of the lower leg inflaming, and these muscles are difficult to treat yourself. With very few shin splints treatments besides physiotherapy, acupuncture, or massage, the best way to combat shin splints is being proactive and taking precautions before you train.

Shin splints symptoms can arise for a myriad of reasons. Increasing training intensity, an incorrect running gait, and even poorly-fitted shoes have all been linked to the common sports injury.

These are some ways to prevent shin splints and running injuries so you'll be fit for your next race.

Start Cross Training.

Shin splints are an overuse injury, created through repetitive stress to the muscles and tendons of the lower leg, as well as the adjacent soft tissue along the shin. Running can shock your body's systems, and depending on your preferred running surface, can be jarring on your joints.

Add variation to your exercise schedule by introducing cross training to your program. Cycling, rowing, or swimming provide the aerobic upsides running offers, and gives your lower legs a breather.

A balance of three running sessions and two cross training days per week will keep you at your cardio peak, and won't grind down your muscles and tendons.

Shorten Your Stride.

At the end of an exhausting run, it's understandable that your biomechanics and stride may waver. Your body will compensate for your seizing muscles, throwing you into an unusual gait and heightened chance of injury.

Shortening your stride length has proven to be less taxing on muscles and tendons, minimizing shin pain. Athletes advocate to purposely run with a short stride the first few weeks of starting a sport to specifically offset running injuries like shin splints.

To see how much your stride varies in a workout, you can try the cadence drill.

It's simple: count your cadence (how many times you turn over) on one foot for half a minute. Rest for another half minute, then repeat between 4-8 sets, but try to add a count, or step, each time. Research has shown as a runner's speed improves, their stride tightens up, meaning the key to mechanical efficiency is bettering your turnover rate. 

Wear Supportive Runners.

Minimalist shoes may be what the 'cool' runners are rocking, but they aren't doing any favours for their leg's muscles.

Light, economical, minimalist whatever you want to call them, these feathery runners don't offer the arch support to sustain long runs. They'll cause rolling and overpronating of your feet, making you more prone to overuse injuries like shin splints.

Look for motion control shoes, or find a solid, all-around neutral sneaker. And don't forget to change worn out shoes old, beat-up runners are a common cause of shin splints, too. Try swapping shoes every 300 miles, or every 12 months if you're a casual runner.

Insert Orthotics.

If you still find yourself overpronating, or your heel is striking the ground in your stride, swap your shoe's liner for custom orthotics. The added arch support realigns the foot to natural position, protecting you from a plethora of other overuse, running injuries: plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, iliotibial band, and runner's knee.

SEMI's podiatrist can perform an assessment, and use a laser scan or plaster cast of your foot to create custom orthotics!

Correct Biomechanics. 

Poor biomechanics can creep into your form when you're tired, but it's a consistent improper gait that can cultivate various running injuries.

Using anterior shin splints as an example, incorrect biomechanics can have the tibialis anterior muscle and tendon overextended, adding a ton of stress to those areas. This is another reason why shortening your stride is an excellent preventive measure against shin pain. It decreases the functional length of the tibialis anterior muscle, resulting in less pull, and therefore less stress.

Other mechanical errors could be a proclivity to pronate the foot (rolling it inward onto the arch every stride), or having tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles, which your body will compensate for with an awkward stride.

Are you experiencing shin pain after your running sessions? SEMI's team of sports physiotherapists can discover the root of the problem, whether it's mechanics or footwear, and create a new running regimen that's safe and effective.

To learn more about our personal training, shin splints treatment, or other athletic services, contact us today!

Author: Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES
About: Dr. Douglas Stoddard is a sports medicine physician and is the Medical Director of the Sports & Exercise Medicine Institute (SEMI). After receiving his medical degree from the University of Toronto, he trained in Australia at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, obtaining his Master Degree in Sports Medicine. He is also a diplomat of the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine and has his focussed practice designation in Sport Medicine from the Ontario Medical Association. Dr. Stoddard is a consultant to the Canadian Military and has consulted with well over 30,000 unique patients in his career. Dr. Stoddard is constantly searching for new and promising therapies to help SEMI patients, and is responsible for developing the RegenerVate Medical Injection Therapy Program. He is married and the proud father of two boys, is an avid triathlete and occasional guitar player.
Tags: Lower body Prevention


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