Perhaps the most common injuries among runners, particularly for beginners, are shin splints and stress fractures. Shin splints, which are also called tibial stress syndrome, refer to pain in the shins (tibia), often due to recent changes in frequency and intensity of an individual’s training. They are the result of overworked muscles, tendons, and bone tissue. Stress fractures in the leg are often considered the next step beyond shin splints, as stress fractures occur due to repeated stress on the bones in question. Thus, when a runner has shin splints and continues to run, they are putting themselves at an increased risk of stress fractures.
Both of these injuries are incredibly painful and can stop an individual’s running routine in its tracks if left unchecked. With this in mind, here is a guide on how to avoid shin splints and stress fractures while maintaining a quality running routine.
Stretch And Warm Up
Most trainers and other health professionals, particularly physical therapists and those involved in sports medicine, will cite the importance of warming up before any workout. This even includes running at a leisurely pace! Take ten minutes to stretch before a run to get the blood flowing. Taking off at a run without walking and stretching starts your muscles up from a stiff and cold state, increasing the chances of injury. In addition to pulling a muscle, runners can easily develop shin splints and stress fractures if they repeatedly skip their stretching prior to a run. Ideally, fit in a little bit of walking after the stretching session but before the run. This shouldn’t take longer than five minutes.
Continue reading to learn how footwear runners wear impacts the likelihood of shin splints and stress fractures.
Wear Appropriate Footwear
Many individuals may not realize this, but footwear is incredibly important when it comes to avoiding shin splints and similar running injuries. Of course, no one should run in heels, dress shoes, or anything other than sneakers, but many forget about what criteria makes for an appropriate running shoe beyond this. The best piece of advice, of course, is to visit a specialty running store, where they observe each customer’s stride and recommend a type of running shoe from there, such as stability, motion control, and cushioning shoes. There are differences regarding the amount of support as well as where the support is located in each type of shoe, suited to different types of runners.
Beyond this, however, the age of the shoe also comes into play. Even shoes that look as if they are still good quality could have worn out on the inside and not be providing the same amount of support as they did when first purchased. The time it takes for the shoes to degrade depends on the amount of running an individual does, how well they take care of their shoes, as well as what surface they typically run on. Pavement, for example, is harder on the shoes than the softer ground of a packed trail. The recommendation for replacing running shoes is after three to five hundred miles, though each shoe should be watched for wear and the ultimate decision should include those observations.
Continue reading to learn about how increasing the frequency, length, and intensity of a running schedule influences the chances of developing stress fractures or shin splints.
Step It Up Gradually
Another primary reason runners develop shin splints and stress fractures is because they often attempt to do too much, too soon. This applies to both beginners and seasoned runners. If you are starting to take up running, try speed walking for more of the distance than running. Additionally, don’t try to push your body to the point of collapse when it comes to distance. As well, for those who have been running for awhile, it is important to increase the intensity and distance of a run slowly. Jumping from two miles a day to five miles a few days or so later is a recipe for developing shin splints before you realize what’s happening. Try running the same distance for a couple of weeks before increasing it, and when you do extend the distance, do so in shorter increments, such as a half mile or mile.
Continue reading to learn about how the surface you run on can affect the potential for stress fractures and shin splints.
Avoid Pounding The Pavement
When it comes to running surfaces, pavement, such as on sidewalks, is perhaps the worst offender for causing more frequent shin splints and stress fractures in runners, as it puts extra stress on these muscles. This is especially true if an individual runs the same path each day. To minimize the potential for injury, run on softer ground, such as a packed trail through a park, instead. Although running too much or too hard on this softer ground can still result in shin splints, it is still less of a risk than the same running routine on sidewalk pavement. Additionally, vary your running route to balance the stress on your leg muscles. One good tip for this is to run in the opposite direction every so often, even if the route is quite similar.
Continue reading to learn how to use cross-training to avoid these injuries as well.
Engage In Cross-Training
Doing the same exercise all the time often results in overworked muscles and, in the case of too much running, shin splints. Instead of running every day, try switching out running for another workout, such as weight training, cycling, or even swimming. These other exercises will use different muscles, and as such, there will be less of a risk of overusing certain muscles. Besides which, cross-training is proven to increase an individual’s strength and endurance, which means they will be able to run faster and longer than they would without cross-training.
However, there is still such a thing as too much exercise. Continue reading to learn about how breaks are a sure-fire way runners can avoid devastating injuries like stress fractures.
Don’t Forget Breaks
All of the previous tips to avoid shin splints and stress fractures are incredibly helpful and effective, but without breaks, runners will still experience these injuries more often than you might think. Even if you have the desire to run every day to ensure you are maximizing your time spent exercising, resist. Shin splints and stress fractures can stop a runner in their tracks for weeks or even months, which is far worse than skipping a day every so often. Beginners should limit themselves to running three times a week with one or two days of complete rest. More experienced runners can run more often, but there should be a day of rest every week, though the rest day can include slow yoga or light stretching.
Ready to run without the fear of shin splints taking you down? There’ll be no more pain with these tips in play!