If you’re new to running, or you’ve been running on hard, uneven or sloping surfaces such as a road with a definite camber, then one day you may just find yourself suffering pain between your knee and ankle on one or perhaps even both legs. In most cases, that would be shin splints. Other symptoms can include soreness along the inner part of your lower leg, mild swelling and weakness there or even loss of sensation in your feet. Footcare experts, Simply Feet offer their expert advice on shin splint injuries and treatments.
What are Shin Splints?
The phrase “shin splints” is more of a catch-all term for the pain that’s caused by inflammation of muscles surrounding the shin bone, small tears in the muscle that’s been pulled away from the shin bone, or a combination of the two.
Shin splints can also be caused by a tight Achilles’ tendon or calf muscles (which is another good reason not to skip a warm-up session before setting off on a run), excess weight putting extra stress on the legs or even taking longer strides than necessary.
What Running Shoes do I need?
And then, of course, there’s always the possibility that your running shoes aren’t up to the job. You need shoes that give you proper support along the inside of your foot. If your foot rolls inwards, for example, you may need to use insteps.
But how do you find out the best kind of support you need from your running shoes? A visit to a podiatrist is a good start: they can look at the way your lower limbs work and work out how to counteract any of the imbalances that can put too much stress on your legs and feet.
How to Treat Shin Splints
So what happens if you do find yourself suffering from shin splints? For a start, stop running right away. You won’t run through that particular pain barrier, and any further stress on your legs will only make things worse.
Remember RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. As soon as you get home, apply ice wrapped in a damp towel to the affected area for 10-30 minutes at a time. Bandage the area (Compression) and raise your foot to the height of your hip (Elevation) to reduce the possibility of swelling. And then rest.
You’re not going to be completely comfortable while you’re resting, so to reduce any discomfort you may want to use shin splints pain relief such as a Biofreeze spray, which offers long-lasting pain relief up to six hours at a time
It goes without saying that running shouldn’t be back on your agenda until those shin splints clear up, so in the meantime it’s best if you switch to the kind of exercise that doesn’t involve heavy impacts. Swimming and cycling are ideal under these circumstances.
The best option, of course, is to prevent those shin splints in the first place. So always include a warm-up routine before starting to run and, of course, a cooling-down routine afterwards. You should also make sure you’re running on smooth terrain – preferably not a paved or slanted surface.
Building up your calf muscles with toe exercises can help you avoid shin splints, and wearing the right kind of shoes is absolutely essential.