Many new runners experience the pain of shin splints, particularly if they begin training on hard concrete or asphalt surfaces.
However, there are ways to prevent the likelihood of developing shin splits. Understanding what shin splits are, whether you are likely to develop them, and how to strengthen key areas of your body, may help you to prevent the onset of this painful runner’s ailment.
Shins splints are a repetitive overuse injury that often affects runners. Medically, shin splits are commonly referred to as MTSS (medial tibial stress syndrome), which means injury to the connective muscle tissue on the inside of the leg bone, usually the lower third. It is not uncommon for MTSS to occur on both legs simultaneously.
Signs and symptoms of MTSS include:
MTSS is often caused by faulty running techniques, such as running with an over-stride and landing on the heel. An over-stride occurs when the foot lands in front of the knee and causes increased loading on the tibia and on the tibialis posterior muscle. Running with an over-stride can be the result of running with a slow step rate (also known as cadence) or running with a forward lean. In addition to running technique, you are have an increased risk of developing MTSS if you have previously had shin pain, if you are female, if you have poor biomechanics (pronation or flat feet), or if you are new to running or athletic activity in general. Over-training during adolescence can also have a negative impact on bone growth and can lead to problems with bone health in the future.
The following suggestions should help you to manage the load to your shins and decrease the risk of MTSS:
Implementing some of these preventative measures now may save you pain and recovery time in the future. Moreover, improving your technique might also prevent other types of injuries, helping you to achieve your running goals. Prevention is key, but if you are already experiencing these symptoms, it is very important not to run through the pain as it will exacerbate the problem. Refer to the suggestions above and seek advice from your physiotherapist or another medical professional with expertise in sports injuries.