Running Inconveniences Part 3

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
6/12/2010 10:30 AM   :  53 comments   :  16,328 Views

See More: fitness, running, injury,
This is the third in a series of blogs regarding those running inconveniences that may not sideline you as a runner, but if you fail to seek early intervention, may do just that. Today’s blog will cover one of the most common and dreaded running inconveniences—shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome.

Shin splint pain may be experienced by runners, and yes even walkers, of all skill levels. While many of us are familiar with the term, it is not a medical condition per se. Shin splint is a general term for any lower leg discomfort brought on by running and in some instances walking. The pain can be caused from inflammation of the bone, muscle, or connective tissue or a combination of all three. Although beginner runners are more prone to developing shin splint pain because their muscles and connective tissues have not had time to develop, seasoned runners are not immune from developing this condition, especially as they up their mileage or speed.

Shin Splints

Causes
  • Overuse or overtraining - As with many other running injuries, overtraining or overuse is one of the primary causes of shin splint pain. Increasing mileage, speed or doing too much hill work before the body has had time to adapt are major contributors to shin splint pain.
  • Improper shoes - Shoes are the most important piece of equipment a runner needs. While many new runners are reluctant to spend the money on running shoes, it is one of the few sports where the equipment is quite inexpensive when compared to other activities such as cycling, golf or tennis. Wearing the wrong shoe for your pronation can increase the likelihood of developing this condition, however being fitted for shoes is not a guarantee that you will never experience shin splint pain.
  • Worn out shoes - One of the first clues that it may be time to replace worn out shoes is developing an injury when nothing else has changed in your training. Many runners can log as many as 500 miles before it is time to replace their shoes, however this is just a ballpark figure.
  • Running surface - Running repeatedly on hard surfaces, such as concrete, day in and day out leads to greater impact on the joints, bones, muscles and connective tissue of the lower leg.
  • Doing too much hill work - It isn’t too unusual to overstride when running down hill which places a greater impact on the lower leg.
  • Overstriding - One of the most common mistakes a new runner makes is overstriding, in other words, reaching too far out in front with the leading leg causing the foot to land far ahead of your body's center of gravity.
  • Tight calf muscles - Tight calf along with weak shin muscle development can also lead to shin pain.
Preventative Measures
  • Do not feel the need to run every day - As a new runner it is important to give your muscles, bones and connective tissue time to heal and recover from the stress of running. Adaptation to the sport of running does not occur during the run itself but during the time you are not running. As mentioned earlier, many running injuries are caused from overuse and just taking a little time off can help lessen your injury risk.
  • Get fitted for running shoes - Being fitted for running shoes at your local running specialty store helps take the guess work when it comes to choosing from the hundreds of different models of running shoes on the market today. As mentioned earlier, shoes are not a guarantee that you will not develop shin splints, but wearing the right shoe for your pronation may lessen your risk.
  • Vary your running surface - Concrete is one of the hardest surfaces to run on, however changing the terrain to trails, grass and even asphalt can lessen the stress to the lower leg. However, if you are training for a race, do your research as to the running surface the race will take place on. For example if you are doing most of your training on trails, but the race is on concrete, practice doing some training runs on a concrete running surface.
  • Shorten your stride when running down hill or if you feel you are over-striding in general. - Shortening your stride allows for less lower leg impact.
  • Raise the incline on the treadmill - Running on a zero grade has been shown to mimic a long downhill slope which can lead to shin splint pain.
  • Replace worn out shoes - You may not always get 500 miles on your shoes, but if you have not radically changed your training, such as adding speed work and hill work, then it may be time to get new shoes. Summer temperatures can also speed up the breakdown of the sole of the shoe so keep this in mind should you develop issues and you have not altered your training.
  • Stretch your calf muscles - Tight calf muscles can cause shin splints, therefore doing simple calf raises after a run may help or prevent shin splints.
  • Ice shins after your runs - Icing your shins can help relieve discomfort and decrease inflammation.
  • Cross training - Cross training helps with muscle development and allows for a greater muscle balance which has been shown to lessen injury risk
Below are a few exercises that are designed to strengthen the muscles and connective tissue of the lower leg.
  • Alphabet stretch - Sit in a chair with your leg extended in front of you. Trace the alphabet in cursive with your toes trying not to break the rhythm. Do this on each leg 3-5 times, 2-3 times a day.

  • Marble Pick-ups - Put marbles on the floor and pick them up with your toes and place in a cup. Do this 1-2 times daily with each foot.

  • Towel Scrunch - Place a towel flat on a wood/tile floor. Sit in a chair and then use your toes to scrunch the towel in a heap. Do once on each foot daily.

  • Sock drape - Fill a tube sock with gravel or coins and seal with rubber band. Sit down and drape the sock with the coins or gravel equally distributed over your foot, then lift your foot toward the ceiling. Do this 10 times each foot several times a day.
You do not have to do all these exercises, I just gave several options, but you will want to do these to help strengthen the muscles and connective tissue of the lower leg.

The golden rule for running is if you experience any pain during a run, STOP! Never run through pain hoping it will go away. Pain is your body's signal that something is not right. While many runners may experience discomfort during a run, pain is quite different.

As you can see there are numerous causes leading to shin pain, but be aware that if the pain persists or if you experience pain when putting pressure on your tibia (one of two bones that make up the shin) you will want to cease running and see a sports medicine doctor. What many runners think is shin splints may be a more serious condition--a stress fracture. This condition requires medical intervention and should not be ignored.

Have you ever suffered from shin splints, if so what measures did you take to help relieve the pain? Have you performed the exercises mentioned?


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Comments

  • 53
    I ran my first ever half marathon and failed to stretch out after. I got a shin splint from that in my left calf. It has been 1 1/2 years and that shin still tightens up on me. - 7/15/2010   12:04:53 PM
  • GREEKGAL1
    52
    I got shin splints because I added more running to my run/walk routine too fast. Plus running on pavement all the time doesn't help. The only time it doesn't hurt is on the treadmill but my races are not a treadmill. - 6/27/2010   9:20:50 AM
  • 51
    It's interesting that 2 of the recommended exercises (towel scrunch and sock drape) are also recommended for plantar fasciitis. I guess that has to do with pronation problems causing shin splints. Since I already have problems with that, I'll have to be extra careful of shin splints as I work my way through C25K. - 6/17/2010   2:23:54 PM
  • 50
    Finally an article that promotes stopping if there is a pain. When I ran in high school my coach was very "no pain no gain" and "run through the pain". I listened to her and ran my way into a blown out knee. 10 years later I'm just now able to start running again (very very slowly) - 6/17/2010   12:48:33 PM
  • 49
    I put arch supports in my shoes and it really seems to help. - 6/17/2010   11:51:27 AM
  • 48
    I do have shin splints and I did get them from working out too hard too fast when I started. I let the pain guide me as far as working out goes. I altered my workouts when I had to stop because the pain was so bad I could not walk. I did my research and decided that the best thing to do in my case was to work on stregnthening my calves. I stretch them quite a bit all day even if I am not working out, I pay more attention to my shins when I am stretching for a workout. I have been dealing with this for a couple months now and they dont bother me quite as bad as they did in the begining. I use iced washclothes that I keep in the freezer and Ibuprofen if it gets really bad. - 6/17/2010   10:02:21 AM
  • SUSMITA63
    47
    I had terrible shin splints about five years ago, probably from not getting new shoes after 600 miles. I now have a multi-part strategy: (1) I run four days a week six months of the year, total 15 miles/week, which I do not plan to increase (2) the other six months, I run 1-2 days a week and bike to work 2-3 days a week, (3) I get new shoes every 250 miles of running, (4) I changed my running gait so I no longer heel-strike, using the Chi Running DVD, so now I land on the front half of my foot, (5) I eliminated steep downhills from my runs.

    The reason I did all this is that the shin splints were really, really painful, so that I would have to pretty much hobble home. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but this strategy seems to work so far! - 6/16/2010   10:08:42 AM
  • 46
    I started running late spring and have been having shin splints almost every time I run. I took myself back to the running store and replaced the shoes I got there a month and a half ago with another type of running shoe. I also have the Superfeet orthodics in my shoes and that does help. Have not run yet with the new shoes because still getting over the last bout of shin splints.

    I do exercise the calf muscles both before and after a run and I walk the first quarter mile to further warm up my legs.

    Hopefully the new shoes wiill help. - 6/15/2010   4:34:46 PM
  • 45
    Good timing for me to come across this blog! I have one more Week 4 run in the Couch to 5K program, and dealt with sore shins while running for the first 3 weeks. I've since shortened my stride, and have tried to stretch my calves better. So far it seems to be working, but I'm always listening to what my body is saying, and if I feel that pain creep up again, I'm going to try some other options. - 6/15/2010   4:07:13 PM
  • CAITXRAWKS
    44
    OMG I used to get them all the time in high school when I marched with NJROTC. That was the worst pain I've ever experienced. Unfortunately I was the only one in the entire company that got them, and everyone thought I was faking it. It used to be so bad that I would have to fall back and walk behind everyone. It was so embarrassing.

    We were on a field trip to Washington DC and went to Arlington Cemetery. I hyperventilated because it was so hot and we just kept marching marching marching, never stopping. I started crying and had to fall out and sit down. I got in trouble for it, nobody understood how bad my legs hurt.

    Now at 21 I still get that burn every once in awhile, but it's not nearly as intense and horrible as it was in high school. - 6/15/2010   1:33:05 PM
  • 43
    I actually ended up with a stress fracture a few years ago, which I now attribute to the shoes I was wearing. I was getting horrible shin splints (tried stretching, but that wasn't enough) before the stress fracture and should have heeded the warning. I have since learned my lesson and run/walk barefoot on my treadmill. I did a 10k (mostly walked) last weekend and bought Vibram FiveFingers for that. Barefoot running/walking may not be for everyone, but it eliminated my issues with shoes. - 6/15/2010   1:06:54 PM
  • MANEKINEEKO
    42
    I began running regularly about 9 months ago. I did go to a specialty running store to be fitted for shoes and only ran every other day, yet I still developed shin splints. When they were at their worst and I was still trying to run through the pain (bad idea, btw!), I subconsciously altered my heel strike and gait in an attempt to compensate for the shock of pain at impact ... that led to IT band issues in my right leg and a visit to the orthopedist to make sure I didn't have a stress fracture. I finally did what I should have done before it got to that point and totally rested for an entire week. I was lucky I didn't have to be sidelined for longer.

    The number one cause for my shin splints seem to be tight calf muscles, so I make sure to do my stretches following each run and roll my calves on a foam roller. Also, I'll wear Zensah calf compression sleeves sometimes during a long run, or afterwards for recovery. I must say, the foam roller has been the best thing for me. If your muscles are really tight, rolling can be uncomfortable, but that's a sign you need to focus rolling on that spot and eventually it will loosen up and become less painful. I honestly don't think I would be able to continue to run without the use of the foam roller.

    I'm going to try that alphabet exercise! That's something I can do during the day at my desk. - 6/15/2010   11:55:02 AM
  • VERONLEONG
    41
    I got shin splints that lasted for weeks when I started running long distance and was clocking 10km within 3 weeks. Bad mistake and the GPs I saw had only one advice for me which is to stop running. I found active recovery via swimming to be extremely helpful. I also got a pair of running shoes suited for my pronation and changed my running style to mid-foot strike. Just simple changes that I have made and I've never had to stop running (except when I fall and sprain my ankles - which happened twice haha) and its a big part of maintaining my physical and mental health. - 6/15/2010   5:17:33 AM
  • 40
    very helpful, thank you. - 6/14/2010   8:35:59 PM
  • 39
    Great blog! Thanks for the stretches! :) - 6/14/2010   3:29:24 PM
  • BETHFULLERTX
    38
    I've been running a little bit for awhile now, am I glad I read this. Sounds painful and I definately want to avoid this happening to me. As soon as payday rolls around I'm getting new running shoes and I'm trying to incorporate those shin exercises you mentioned into my day. Thanks! - 6/14/2010   2:35:05 PM
  • NETTLEJ
    37
    I had shin splints on and off, even with top of the line running shoes and custom orthotics. I finally cured them completely the day I decided to try running barefoot, hopped on the treadmill, and felt like a fish thrown back in a lake. Running barefoot is an almost instant cure for heel striking - it doesn't take long to adjust your gait. I am a pretty severe supinator, but let nature worry about that now instead of trying to find the perfect shoe/orthotic combination.

    I now run faster than I did 10 years ago, with no pain (there was some ankle soreness in adjusting because I couldn't bring myself to run in shoes again), but the most important thing is I LOVE running in a way I haven't since I was a kid. The only problem I have now is that my sprinting speed has increased to the point that my feet heat up due to friction.

    If you have problem with shin splints, why don't you try running barefoot? It's free and not much trouble to try. If you don't have a treadmill, find smooth pavement and wear a thick pair of socks. - 6/14/2010   12:41:08 PM
  • ALLILACROIX
    36
    Biking, or spinning with clip pedals (not your regular gym shoes) is a great way to combat shin splints and strengthen your calves. - 6/14/2010   11:17:25 AM
  • 35
    I haven't gotten shin splints since I started running last fall. I think it's because I cross train a LOT, doing 3 or 4 different workouts each week, so my shin and calf muscles are pretty well developed. The day I felt like my shoes were starting to wear thin and running felt like it had a harder impact, I got professionally fitted for new sneakers. I want my legs to carry me pain-free!! - 6/14/2010   7:02:41 AM
  • 34
    yes i had all.. i had shin splints... my hamstrings and quadriceps.. ...even my calf muscles screamed loud when i started running... well it must be joke for many but really serious for me.. as i never had stamina even to run for 10 seconds.... but now it is been 10 days.. and i can run upto 2 minutes now.... and still i am struggling with my body... to reach new hights... Pls pray for me.. so that i can run a mile some day..


    Because of heavy steroids dosage for my skin disorder... I am left with no strength in my legs.. I am trying to regain it...

    Sugeest me if some one has best way for same...

    Cheers

    Sonea Mudgal - 6/14/2010   5:27:50 AM
  • RABBITAQUI
    33
    Sure you can get back to Running. All you need is to put your time it. When, I came back from my It-Band injurgy. I took it easy at frist. And then, I came back storg. A year and two months later, I broke my first marathon under 3 Hours. I did it. So, can you-Rabbit - 6/14/2010   12:25:38 AM
  • JAH_JC_TX
    32
    I started a running program- that couch to 5K thing- and about four weeks in developed shin splints. My boyfriend thinks that it's because even though I only ran three days a week I did other activities as well; lots of bike riding and aerobics. He thought I just hadn't prepared my body to be that active, I'd skipped some steps, basically. Anyway, I haven't run in a month or so and I really miss it. So maybe since I've given it some time, I could get back to it? - 6/13/2010   10:17:30 PM
  • 31
    In my long experience coaching runners at the high school, college and adult road runner level I have found that the majority of the cases of shins splints wheich occured were causes by faulty running mechanics primarily landing with a heel strike instead of the proper mid to forefoot landing. The heel strike landing does not allow the proper leg mechanics to absorb the shock and in fact causes a severe jarring of the entire leg. The is not magic in the current generation of over priced and overengineered shoes. The current research is condeming them as the cause of more proplems than the claim to correct. When the so called "running analysis" videos used byt some shoe stores take those videos with the runner running barefoot then I aeill accept their analysis as to the faulty mechanics of the foot. Final note the feet are structured with muscles holding the bones in a proper configuration, if those muscles are weaked by over suffort causing them to not fuction as designed you will have foot problems. - 6/13/2010   9:38:20 PM
  • 30
    Thanks for the exercises. I suffer from shin splints, or at least I am hoping it isn't a stress fracture. I didn't run for a while, only slow walking for a mile or so, stretched and iced, but they still bother me some. Guess I need to stop for a while and see if that helps. Again, thanks!! - 6/13/2010   7:58:30 PM
  • 29
    When I first started running in the beginning of the year - I got shin splints. THEY HURT!!! I was upset because I thought I had ruined my getting healthy plans. I took a couple days off from running... iced my shins... after a couple days I would just walk.. after about a couple weeks they were better. Today my shins are fine and I can run 5k with no pain.
    Definitely need to take time to heal so that you do not injure yourself further... - 6/13/2010   7:14:27 PM
  • 28
    Well...I happened to ignore the pain in my left leg (thought it was an old injury that was untreatable) and kept running. Well, my leg pain turned into 2 stress fractures. My last run was on November 1st and I am still out. I was immobilized for 3 months, on crutches for another month on top of that. It completely sucks. If you feel leg pain...take a break!!! Don't push it. I unfortunately learned the hard way!! - 6/13/2010   3:46:58 PM
  • 27
    Walking on your heels is a great way to warm up shins before starting a run/walk, as are impatients (keep your heel on the ground, raise toes toward the sky and back down again in controlled manner 25 times each foot). - 6/13/2010   3:02:51 PM
  • STELLAMARANGUE
    26
    I have shin splints right now; these exercises are some of the same ones my physical therapist has me doing. Something else that seems to help me is pushing down on the top of my foot just until I start to feel a stretch after I finish walking or jogging. It stretches the front of the lower leg and top of the foot, helping to loosen up my whole leg. - 6/13/2010   2:42:49 PM
  • 25
    I don't run but I do walk and have gotten shin splint so a very good blog thank you - 6/13/2010   2:35:27 PM
  • SIANNIE
    24
    I've not suffered with shin splints whilst running before, but have when walking. I used to stretch out my affected leg, and wiggle my toes...much in a similar way to your alphabet suggestion! That sounds like a much more focussed way of doing it, so I'll be sure to give it a try, thank you! I'll also practice some of the others!

    I am a martial artist, and so have run barefoot in the dojang for years...when I started running, I found it difficult to find the pair of running shoes for me-I wore my martial arts ones for running whilst I was shopping around, then just cheap pair to get me through my first running event...I did some research into the right trainers to wear, and spent £90, only to keep researching, and discovering the benefits of barefoot running...I invested in a pair of Vibram Five Fingers, just to protect my feet whilst out on the roads, and am so comfortable in them...I love running in them!

    There are other exercises to do, before considering running barefoot, and you should practice walking barefoot first, too (sounds daft, but you'd be surprised!) I haven't felt the same aches and pains when running barefoot, and I love the feeling of my new, shorter, barefoot stride! - 6/13/2010   2:14:18 PM
  • 23
    Whenever I get shin splints, it's an indication to me that I need to change my shoes. When the support in my shoes gets old, I get shin splints. I also get shin splints if I try to run too fast and too far too soon. That happened when I started running. I did too much and as a result, got shin splints.

    These days, I pay closer attention to my shoes. I do stretch regularly AND I use lots of ice. I find ice packs help a lot.
    - 6/13/2010   2:01:09 PM
  • 22
    I do not run, but I walk. I have not had shin splints, but last summer had some really tough to handle pain in my heal from my over pronation. Some of these exercises, such as the calf raises, and the towel crunch are ones that my podiatrist gave me to do for this. Interesting. My heel pain is less this year, I think my muscles have become stronger to support my foot better, resulting in less pronation. - 6/13/2010   10:30:36 AM
  • 21
    Great info Nancy! - 6/13/2010   9:59:21 AM
  • JUHOEG
    20
    Recent foot surgery so unable to participate--can't wait to get back into the swing of things - 6/13/2010   9:19:35 AM
  • 19
    I have shin splints which were quite painful and frustrating for awhile, but I was not willing to quit running. I still get them but I've learned to manage them by running with shin sleeves - the Zensah brand are great - and icing for about 20 minutes after each run. My favorite route through my neighborhood is very hilly, so I also change my routes frequently (a good idea anyway for safety!) and I only run the hill route about once a week now, or even less, in favor of flatter routes. I've found that the shin sleeves and icing really help for me, but after reading this blog I'm going to add some of the recommended stretches in too. Thanks for the info! - 6/13/2010   7:49:31 AM
  • 18
    No. But I've never been a "running" as I found it to boring. ZUMBA is much more fun for me. - 6/13/2010   2:22:58 AM
  • 17
    I have used a grocery bag with a can of soup in it, instead of the sock yo exercise my calf... Thanks for the tips! - 6/13/2010   1:19:09 AM
  • 16
    When I started running again, I tried to do too much too fast. I was really eager to get back into running and pushed myself hard... too hard. Shortly afterward, I developed pain in my shins. I tried to ignore it and ran the next day anyway. Big mistake. After that, I could hardly walk for the next two or three weeks. I was miserable (while traveling on company business). I've learned my lesson and won't let that happen again. - 6/13/2010   12:55:33 AM
  • CAROLJS10
    15
    I have found that the alphabet trick is the best. Also ice after running has helped. Warming up is so important. - 6/12/2010   8:43:57 PM
  • 14
    Thank you for explaining what shin splints actually are! I've been a little worried about it since I started running, but had no idea what it was or how to prevent or treat it. This article takes a load off my mind! Thanks! - 6/12/2010   5:07:25 PM
  • 13
    I am sure I had shin splints in high school, but that was over 15 years ago when I was running track! I did develop shin splints this winter when I started running on the tread mill. Now I rarely get them. I try and keep my calves loose because that is what seems to aggrevate mine. Hopefully they don't return wheN I am able to run outside. - 6/12/2010   4:24:28 PM
  • 12
    I had shin splints and thing that has been helping a lot is to do calf stretches AFTER running - 6/12/2010   3:33:22 PM
  • 11
    new stretch exercises thanks!! Love the slap of my foot hitting the ground! - 6/12/2010   3:14:11 PM
  • LKATHRYN
    10
    Thanks so much for the calf/foot exercise suggestions! I've been wondering how I might strengthen those areas - 6/12/2010   2:06:45 PM
  • 9
    I've had shin splints for as long as I can remember, starting when I began playing basketball in middle school. I've always just kept doing whatever I was doing and ignoring them as much as possible. And I stopped ever running, because it made them flare up so much.

    I discovered barefoot running about a year or so ago and bought "barefoot" running shoes (I have vibram five fingers but there are others) last September and tried running again. I haven't had shin splints from running once since. Honestly, though I still get them from soccer and hiking (hills) - but do both those activities in different shoes. - 6/12/2010   1:38:03 PM
  • 8
    I had more allergies before I started running - it took some time for my body to adjust, but now I can run around without all of the sinus issues....I don't take any pills either. - 6/12/2010   1:36:32 PM
  • 7
    I don't think I ever experienced this...the thing that makes me have to stop and walk is I either get out of breath or I get cramps in my side area...
    I quit walking/jogging outside because of my allergies :( I take allergy meds but I was all stuffy and usually I get what seem like "sinus headaches" so I quit the outside workouts to try to lessen that...any tips for allergy sufferers? :) - 6/12/2010   12:45:05 PM
  • 6
    This had some good info for me, I am not too old to learn - 6/12/2010   12:04:42 PM
  • 5
    I've suffered from pretty bad shin splints and found that really being diligent about stretching my calf muscles and doing strength training has helped a lot. Mine were so painful that I ended up going to see a physical therapist, who along with prescribing exercises, used myofascial release on my shins. Myofascial release is a massage technique that helps to loosen the fascia (the membrane that covers muscles) and encourage it to relax. You can get a somewhat similar effect by using a massage roller like The Stick. And I recommend not going overboard and running too much, which is hard when you are excited about running! - 6/12/2010   11:46:38 AM
  • 4
    Just finished week 4 of C25K & am getting shin splints. Just ordered & received running shoes which I'm expecting to help. Do calf raises daily too. - 6/12/2010   11:23:18 AM

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