Are you experiencing pain in your legs, specifically the shin, following an intense run? Have you had a history of getting shin splints and are looking for ways to prevent and relieve the pain? Is it normal for shins to hurt after running? Whether you are professional track athlete or casual runner you’ve likely encountered the phenomenon that has been commonly referred to as “shin splints.”
Most cases of shin splints, thankfully, can be easily treated with periodic application of ice and some quality rest. In addition to these easy fixes, there are a number of stretching techniques and simple exercises that work to release the built-up muscle tension that is causing your shins pain.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the how and why shin splints occur, how you can prevent future instances of shin splints, as well as some tricks that will help ease your pain and quicken your recovery process.
Why Do My Shins Hurt After Running?
Medically referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints commonly occur in athletes who have recently engaged in high intensity training routines. Technically speaking, shin splints are caused by repetitive stress of the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach the muscle to the bone.
While there are a number of reasons that could be causing your shins pain, and it is always best to consult with a medical professional in cases of a medical emergency, there are a few simple explanations for why one may find themselves with shin pain.
Change in Workout Intensity
Are you a seasoned runner who just found themselves in a world of pain following a change in your workout plan? Shin splints are known to occur most commonly in people who have recently engaged in an activity with an intensity that is outside their usual range.
Maybe you’re an avid long distance runner who’s recently decided to include sprints into your routine. This sudden change in intensity can work to shock the muscle; simultaneously creating both muscle growth and the unpleasant soreness that follows said growth.
Change in Workout Frequency
In addition to a change in your workout intensity, the frequency with which you are working out may be the cause for your painful shit splints. The shins, like every other part of the body, have a limit to the load they can bear. Increasing your workout frequency, from say twenty minutes a day, three times a week to forty-five minutes a day, five times a week, can potentially overload your body’s physical capacity and cause you to feel subsequent soreness.
While shin splints are more commonly associated with the over-training of the muscles, it can also occur due to a simple change in running terrain. For example, if you are someone who typically does their running on treadmill and you decide to take your workout outside, you may find yourself with shin splints if your legs are unaccustomed to the stress incurred while running on unequal terrain (any incline such as a hill) or hard surfaces (such as concrete).
How Can You Prevent Shin Splints?
Now that we know what can cause the painful symptoms of shin splints, let’s take a look at a few ways that you can avoid and prevent shin splints from occurring in the first place.
While this one seems simple, it is likely the most effective method for preventing shin splints. The shins can take a limited amount of stress and impact before they become overloaded, causing shin splints.
So, if you start a new workout program, but you’re afraid you might cause yourself shin splints, try paying close attention to the way your body is feeling. Your body will often unconsciously warn you when you are reaching your limits. When you start to feel like you’re reaching your limit, try easing back the intensity of your run.
Choose the Right Footwear
Another way to actively prevent shin splints is by making sure you have the right footwear. There are seemingly infinite options for shoes today, so it’s important that you make the right choice to fit your needs.
So how do you choose the right running shoe?
Choosing the right running shoe depends heavily on the type of running you’re looking to do, as well as the setting.
The Everyday Running Shoe
This is the go-to shoe for most runners, and it is the most recommended for those looking to get into running.
They’re versatile, durable, and can survive the miles of hard work you’re putting in.
The Lightweight Running Shoe
This shoe is perfect for quick, fast-paced workouts or even races.
They are, however, less durable than the average everyday running shoe, and they provide less cushion and general support.
The Trail Running Shoe
These shoes are excellent for any running on dirt or rocky trails.
They typically offer more durability and protection from the elements than its counterparts.
Which Shoe Should You Pick to Prevent Shin Splints?
While it largely depends on the type of running you’re looking to do and where, experts recommend opting for the everyday running shoe when looking to prevent shin splints. The additional support provided by the everyday running shoe and its durable track record make it a great choice for runners of all varieties.
Add Strength Training to Your Workout
Are you still experiencing shin splints despite wearing the proper footwear and avoiding overexertion? Try adding some strength training into your workout routine!
Whether it’s doing body squats in your living room or using the leg press machine at your local gym, adding strength training exercises to your routine can work to strengthen and stabilize your lower body and core. This addition to your routine can work wonders towards giving your legs the preparation they need to deal with the strain and stress running and high-intensity sports can have on your legs.
How Can You Ease the Pain of Shin Splints?
The pain experienced from shin splints can be sometimes overwhelming and taxing. Thankfully, there are some quick and easy fixes that can drastically ease your pain and set you on the path to a quick recovery.
Ice Your Shins
This is the most commonly practiced method for reducing the pain and swelling that can often be caused by shin splints.
But how long should you ice your shins for? Experts and studies have concluded that 20 minutes on and 30 to 40 minutes off is the perfect range of time to apply ice to an injured or sore area.
The cool temperatures of the ice work to decrease inflammation in the body and ease the pain you’re experiencing in your legs.
While less regularly known and discussed in the medical field, professional athletes have figured out a trick to both prevent shin splints as well as ease the pain for those who already have the condition. Heel walking is effective because it is one of the few methods that you can actually stretch and strengthen the historically-hard-to-strengthen-area of muscles on the front of the shin.
So how does heel walking work? Experts recommend pointing your toes up as far as you can and walking for about 30 seconds at a time, eventually working up to 60-90 seconds.
Performing this simple exercise regularly can give your shin the additional strength needed to prevent shin splints as well as giving relief to those who find their shin muscle tight and sore from shin splints.
Nobody enjoys having shin splints. Thankfully there are easy fixes that you can do to prevent them, such as avoiding overexertion, choosing the right running terrain, choosing the right footwear, and adding strength training to your workout routine.
If you’ve already got shin splints, however, try icing your shins for 20 minutes on and 30 to 40 minutes off. This ice’s cool temperature will alleviate inflammation in your muscle, easing the pain and swelling of your leg.
If you find yourself asking is it normal for my shins to hurt after running, another easy trick for stretching and strengthening the muscle in your shin is heel walking. You heel walk by pointing your toes up as far as you can and walking on your heels for 30 seconds. This action works to stretch and strengthen the shin muscle, which, as many professional athletes have claimed, can prove a shin saver when having to suddenly increase the intensity of workouts.