Shin splints: Your questions answered

A number of things can cause this nasty condition (pain and tenderness along the Tibia anywhere from above the ankle joint to just below the knee). However, and from a runner’s perspective, it is more often than not brought on by people building their mileage up too quickly or perhaps doing a form of exercise which has involved high impact activities which they aren’t used to. For instance, we have even seen it just through people having taken up skipping on flat hard/firm surfaces. Running down hills fast can also lead to this if you aren’t used to it.

Footwear

Wearing old shoes or shoes which have seen better days could also lead to this condition hence why it is important to try and ensure that you not only wear shoes which suit your own individual needs, but also be aware that the life of the midsoles i.e. midsole degradation will occur and break down usually somewhere between 300 and 500 miles. Needless to say this is just a gauge and there is no definitive answer. This is applicable to the very best shoes on the market. Also note that even shoes which have not been used very much will also start to degrade after about two years. You could say that shoes should come with a “Best Before” mark on them.

Will new shoes help?

Yes, if your current shoes are badly broken down. However, once you have the condition, a new shoe will not automatically cure it unless it is only very mild. Going forward, new shoes designed for your individual needs should help or at least reduce the risk of it occurring again in the future providing you build your training back up carefully once recovered.

Can you run through shin splints?

The answer to this is you can, but at the same time it really is not advisable particularly if the pain persists or becomes worse when running for which you should stop immediately. Therefore if you do try to run, then stay close to your home or your car if you have driven somewhere to find a softer surface to run on. Also try doing an alternative form of non-weight bearing exercise (where there is no shin pain) for a few days to retain cardio conditioning during any non-running period. At the same time, it is also a good idea to speak to a medical professional to determine the exact level of shin splints and what might be causing it i.e. ruling out a possible stress fracture for instance.

What can you do in the mean time?

As already mentioned – do non weight bearing alternative forms of exercise to maintain cardio fitness whilst also helping to retain muscular strength.

Rest for as long as it takes, but perhaps after 7 to 10 days go for a brisk walk on softer surfaces and try very short gentle jogs in-between the walk sections. Perhaps only jog for about 8 to 10 seconds at a time to start with. If all is okay then try again a couple of days later and if it is still okay, then gradually start to increase the amount of jogging within your walking. Once confident you have fully recovered then start out with just short runs and be mindful of how your shins feel. Always warm up adequately and cool down at the end of each session. Please also do take note that if you do try to jog again after taking up to 10 days off and it is still painful, then you really should stop and do not run until you have seen your GP or a physiotherapist or other similar professional.

Treatment

Initially ice the affected area up to about 15 mins every 3 to 4 hours or at any time after you have been on your feet for long periods where your shins are hurting afterwards. Certainly do this for two to three days or until you no longer feel pain.

Anti-inflammatory medication may also help, but you should only take or use this if you know that you will have no adverse reactions and ideally do so on the advice of a medical professional.

Shock absorbing insoles may help particularly when walking around during the day whilst orthotics could also help particularly if your shin splints has become a repeated issue and can be identified as being caused by biomechanical issues such as when a shoe does not provide enough support for those who overpronate.

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