As podiatrists we see runners as patients all the time. It makes sense, they are on their feet more than the average patient, and they can sometimes push their running routines past the point of what’s safe for them, resulting in an injury. In this series (you can find part 1 here and part 2 here) we take a look at these problems that plague the running patient. In this entry we examine the first problem that most patients that are new to running encounter, shin splints.
Shin splints present as a pain in the lower leg, usually toward the front of the leg. Shin splints are usually the result of a sudden change in activity level. But that does not mean it is just a pain that new runners experience. Even seasoned runners can experience shin splints when their runs go up in distance or intensity too quickly.
Shin splints can resolve on their own, but there are a few things you can do to ease the pain from shin splints. Firstly, reduce the time, distance and intensity of your runs. Most podiatrists will recommend that you don’t increase any of these factors more than 10% per week. Also, try to change the surface that you are running on. Try to run on softer surfaces, like grass or a track, this can greatly reduce the pain from shin splints. Also, don’t be afraid to cross train, especially with non-weight bearing exercises, to give your shins a rest while still getting a workout. Try a day or two of swimming or cycling every week.
Also, try to rest, stay off your feet when possible. Ice, apply for 20 minutes at a time, but no longer to prevent any chance of frostbite. Take some extra time before you run and do calf stretches, regular stretching can greatly reduce the severity of shin splints.
Shin splints may also be a sign that you need to get a new pair of running shoes. With new shoes comes increased cushion and support. To provide even more support you can try either over the counter or custom shoe inserts. They can provide extra support to the arch of the foot , which decreases the pressures passed up through the lower leg.
If you try these steps and are still experiencing pain then you should see your local podiatrist. Shin splints that do not respond to these treatments may actually be a more serious problem like stress fractures or compartment syndrome. The podiatrists and staff at Ankle & Foot Associates, LLC will be happy to help you get better so you can get back on the road to a healthy life.