How to Avoid Shin Splints

If you run, you’re at a high risk for shin splints, a condition that causes pain, tenderness and sometimes swelling around the bone that runs down the front of the calf called the tibia.

Shin splints are a common complaint among runners when they first hit the track or pavement, especially if they try to do too much too quickly. Fortunately, there are steps to take to avoid being sidelined from shin pain. Here's how to avoid shin splints if you run.

What Causes Running Shin Pain and Shin Splints?

Shin splints come from repeated trauma to the muscles, tendons and tissues that line the tibial bone in the lower extremities. The constant pounding as the feet hit the ground during a run shakes and jars the tendons and muscles, which causes them to become inflamed. Shin splints are more common in people who are just starting to run and those who suddenly increase the time or intensity of their workout.

Shin splints are also more frequent in people who run on hard surfaces, runners who wear the wrong footwear and people with anatomic problems such as flat feet and those who overpronate their feet when they run. Overpronation involves turning the foot inward too much when it strikes the ground. Women are more likely to get shin splints than men, particularly women with lower bone density. Running shin pain from shin splints is one of the most common complaints runners have.

How to Avoid Shin Splints

Shin splints take up to six weeks to heal, so it's best to avoid them. If you're just starting a running program, begin gradually. Don't try to run too far too soon. Walk first and gradually add short intervals of running until your shins get used to the impact and your muscles are better conditioned.

Run on a flat surface initially since running uphill can bring on shin splints if you're not conditioned. Whenever possible, run on a track with a soft surface, not on asphalt or concrete. These hard surfaces increase the risk of running shin pain and shin splints.

Don't run every day. Cross-train by running one day and resistance train, swim or cycle the next to give your shins a break. Strength-training the calf muscles also helps keep shin splints at bay. Do regular calf stretches and strengthen your calves with calf raises and toe and heel walks.

To avoid shin splints, don't skimp on shoes. Go to a sports store and get professionally fitted. A cheap pair of shoes without good support will cause too many problems. Get a pair with good arch support that fit properly. If you overpronate your feet when you run, ask for a motion-control running shoe that keeps your foot from turning inward when it hits the ground. Replace running shoes every 300 miles.

Listen to your body. If you experience shin pain, however slight, take a break from running and cross-train for a few days – and apply ice packs to your shins. Finally, eat a healthy diet to avoid shin splints. Fruits, vegetables, fatty fish and spices such as tumeric contain natural compounds that reduce inflammation. Drink tart cherry juice. It's loaded with natural anti-inflammatories and helps to reduce muscle soreness after a workout.

Take these steps and avoid shin splints and running shin pain. It'll make running a more pleasant experience.

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