Help me get rid of shin splints.
December 30, 2005 8:10 PM   Subscribe

I need to know how to avoid/alleviate shin splints.

I'm a newbie runner. I've lost around 50 pounds in the past month, from about 252 to around 200, and I have been jogging/running every few days, but after the first 4 times I started getting shin splints. Could it have anything to do with my endurance building up (I can run probably 4 times as far now without stopping as I originally could)?

I've tried resting for about a week, doing some stretching, working out my calves, going more slowly, walking for about 20 minutes before hand...

Any tips that involve what I have already tried would be greatly appriciated.
posted by mhuckaba to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Errr, not in the past month. Past 6 months. Hehe.
posted by mhuckaba at 8:11 PM on December 30, 2005

Rest and ice are the best things you can do to get rid of shin splints. Ice them for 15-20 minutes every four hours. The easiest way to ice them is to put a frozen gelpack against your shin and wrap an ace bandage around it.

You should also get running shoes from a specialty running store, where they'll have you run 50 feet or so and then recommend shoes that match your gait. Here's a list:,5033,s6-52-70-0-1048,00.html
posted by ootsocsid at 8:34 PM on December 30, 2005

Two things come to mind: your shoes and your running surfface. What kind of surface are you running on? If it's mostly sidewalk, try running on pavement/asphalt instead, if possible. Each time your feet hit the ground, the shock energy needs to go somewhere. Shoes do a large amount of shock absorbtion, so a good match to your foot and running style is pretty important. If you can add softer ground to the equation, it'll help minimize or alleviate your splints.

Here's a nice article about shin splints.
posted by pmbuko at 8:35 PM on December 30, 2005

Two tips:

1) Increase your total weekly distance be only %10 per week. In my experience your cardio endurance increases more quickly than your muscular and skeletal strength. The ten percent rule helps keep everything on an even improvement scale and helps reduce injuries.

2) Go to a good running store and get some real running shoes. Be patient when you are in there, try a bunch of them on, the right shoe will feel perfect. Also, ask a lot of questions, the staff at a good store will be more than happy to spend time with you.

2a) If you already have good running shoes, there are insoles that you can buy (again, found at running stores) that add a ton of padding to your shoe and help prevent/reduce shin splints.
posted by oddman at 8:37 PM on December 30, 2005

I used to have a lot of shin/lower knee pain when I ran cross country, the two things that helped me the most were shoes that matched my running style (see good suggestions above) and paying extra attention to my hamstring when stretching. This page has some good hamstring stretches.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 8:42 PM on December 30, 2005

Ice was the number one thing that helped me out with my shin splints. Also, be sure to stretch defensively, if you only stretch an area when it starts hurting, you're just going to keep rotating injuries.
posted by nomad at 9:07 PM on December 30, 2005

1. you should find a stretch that stretches your shins, Your shins have muscles too.

2. Find an exercise that will strengthen your shins like toe points or walking on your heals.

3. When you Ice, ice aggressively, a full ice bath on your lower legs is probably the best way to go and it should hurt when you first put you legs in.

there isn't much you can do. The curse of running is that as soon as you get into shape you always seem to get injured.
posted by afu at 9:52 PM on December 30, 2005

First off, take a break. Once you've got shin splints, getting them under control becomes extremely difficult even if you tone down your routine. Don't just tone it down. Avoid high impact (that's the key) exercise entirely for at least 3-4 weeks, in favor of the bike or even better, the pool.

In the vast majority of cases, shin splints are due to two things:

1) Starting off or ramping up a training regimen too aggressively, and or general overuse. This means when and if you do get back to running, do it slowly. As oddman notes, the "10% rule" is a decent rule of thumb, but I'd go even more conservative, say 5%. And always stretch thoroughly.

2) Poor running mechanics. In most people this usually means flat feet, and as such the appropriate footwear is essential to provide the proper amount of arch support. This may be difficult, so there's always the gold standard: see a podiatrist or orthopod or sports doc who can mold your feet and make custom orthodic supports.

Other things you can do to treat yourself are essentially geared toward reducing inflammation. You may benefit from several days of ibuprofen or other NSAID (don't overdo it, of course), but the best thing is ice, ice, ice, ice. When I ran track in college (lots of high impact sprint workouts), I would essential be knee high in the whirlpool, multiple times a day for 20 minutes, at 4 deg C. It's a killer getting in there, and even once you get used to it, your feet may cramp up, but the feeling when you get out is orgasmic if you've got a bad case of shin splints. A simple bucket loaded with ice water will do the trick. If your feet cramp, they have these wet-suit style foot booties that work wonders.
posted by drpynchon at 10:26 PM on December 30, 2005

As a former runner, I'm going to suggest perhaps a myth that worked for me. Eat bananas. They have some nutrient, perhaps pottasium, that just made my shin splints go away. Good job on losing the weight!!!!!!
posted by jerryg99 at 11:50 PM on December 30, 2005

Ice when you get them, take a few days off. When you do start to run, jog slowly around the outside of a track, on the grass (or inside, if the outside doesn't have grass). Do maybe a mile a day for a couple days. Shinsplints (as they were explained to me) are caused by strengthening of some muscles and not strengthening of others (around the calf, I really can't remember for sure). If you keep doing long runs without strengthening everything, you're going to keep getting them.

Run a little bit low-impact every day for a while, then slowly start to ramp back up.
posted by devilsbrigade at 1:30 AM on December 31, 2005

When I first began running, I had terrible shin splints, every time I ran. These things helped treat the symptoms: icing them (freeze a polystyrene cup, roll it up and down); ibuprofen; taking a day off.

However those things just treated the symptoms and no more, this thing cured it: buying a decent pair of running shoes that suited my foot mechanics and running style. As soon as I did that, the shin splints went away for ever.

You can find advice on the net about how to tell whether you over-pronate, under-pronate or whatever, from things like looking at the pattern of wear on your shoes. From there you can find the kind of running shoes that suit - stability, motion control, or cushioned. Far better though, if you can, is to do what others recommended already, and go to a proper running shop (this is not necessarily somewhere which sells running shoes...) and get their expert advice.
posted by reynir at 2:32 AM on December 31, 2005

You have to increase the time between runs... That's the only thing that allows your body to recover.
posted by knave at 3:33 AM on December 31, 2005

I have really flat feet, and have had problems with shin splints off and on for several years. So far, everyone else's advice is great; I would especially second the "do exercises that strengthen your shins".

In addition to what everone else has mentioned, three other things have helped me a lot:

- Try to run on softer surfaces. Concrete sucks for shin splints. Running on a rubberized track, or better yet, grass or dirt, has a generally had a positive effect on my shins.

- I've found that, if I don't think about it, I tend to use mostly my toes and the front of my foot to run. By focusing on bringing my heels into the process (land mostly on heel, roll foot forward and push off with toes, instead of land on toes push off with toes), I've been able to reduce shin pain.

- Get a pair of compression sleeves. They worked wonders for me.

Good luck, and congratulations on the lifestyle change!
posted by saladin at 6:27 AM on December 31, 2005

As a former runner, I'm going to suggest perhaps a myth that worked for me. Eat bananas.

That implies that you didn't have shin splints, you had hypokalemia -- low blood potassium. One of the classic symptoms is leg pain, often in the front of the legs. Bananas, being one of the better sources for potassium, would correct that, but wouldn't do squat for shin splits, which are acutal damage to the muscle, fascia, and in very severe cases, the bone.

mhuckaba -- the rule for all these sorts of injuries is RICE -- Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. The big thing here is rest -- if you keep running, it will, at best, take far longer to heal. You need to stop the pounding for about a month.

You might be able to swap cycling for running -- there's still stress, but it's much less impact. If that doesn't help, then swimming is the best way to keep up the full body aerobic excercise while letting the damage heal.
posted by eriko at 8:11 AM on December 31, 2005

Response by poster: I see. I've been running on concrete/asphalt, but there is a school about half a mile away with a huge grassy field I could use, so I'll try that.

I'll also try giving it a rest. After I went last night (right before I posted this) I had minimal pain but it was still there. Today I can't feel anything, which is somewhat of a change from previous episodes where my legs would be sore the entire next day and maybe even after that.

I'll also check into the running shoes. Currently I have a pair of Nikes I use, as well as a pair of Reeboks, but neither are terribly padded or cushioned.

I'll post an update if I find some decent shoes today!
posted by mhuckaba at 8:37 AM on December 31, 2005

this is the standard newbie running problem - you get better faster than your body can physically cope. so you end up injuring yourself. sure, you can try switching shoes, using a different surface. if you're unlucky the shins will stop hurting, you'll run even more, and then something worse will happen. maybe you'll screw up a tendon or a get a stress fracture.

back off. you're doing too much. increasing distance by 10% a week is a hard upper limit. less than that is fine. if you increase by just 5% a week you can still double your distance every 15 weeks. in a year you can be running 12 times as far (if you started at 10 minues that means 2 hour runs). there's no need to increase distance faster than that.

seriously. you need to be in this for the long term. running is something you want to do for life. it keeps you fit, it keeps the pounds off. going too hard too soon could screw all that up. you can get an injury now that will plague you for the rest of your life.

slow down, ease up, think long-term.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:33 AM on December 31, 2005

You want to strengthen the front calf muscles (the little tiny things that lift your toe up whilst those big fat ones just bring your toe back for the pushoff) without the impact of running. When I was in track I was told to draw the alphabet in the air with my toe a few times whenever I thought about it. That will give those muscles a different and less painful burn while it's stressing, rather than simply tearing those muscles. The splints will go away when the front muscles get stronger.

But yeah, lots of rest and ice when you're done running too.
posted by BrandonAbell at 11:33 AM on December 31, 2005

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