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Introduction

Shin splints, officially known as Medial tibial stress syndrome, is one of the most common injuries amongst runners and can be a frustrating injury if not managed correctly. However, if managed correctly you should be able to get back to running safely and effectively.

Signs and Symptoms

Shin splints are essentially a bone overload injury. Common signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pain on the inside or front of the shin, spread over an area (not a single point)

  • Pain when exercising, especially running

  • Pain when pressing on the shin bone

Causes

1. Running too hard, too often

The most common cause of Shin Splints is increasing your training load too early too soon. When running, you want to make sure you are increasing your weekly mileage and the number of runs that you do per week steadily. For your weekly mileage, you should look to increase this no more than 10% per week and your days per week no more than once when starting a new plan. Sharp increases in your training load (e.g., jumping from running once per week to three times per week) can put excess strain on your body, including your shins, which in turn can result in Shin Splints. It's also important to make sure your Easy Runs are exactly that - easy!

2. Poor running mechanics

Overstriding can put excess stress on the shin and be a cause of Shin Splints - this is when you are taking too bigger steps and striking the ground in front of your body, rather than underneath your body. The other term for this is cadence - the number of steps you are taking per minute.

3. Poor recovery

If you're training hard, it's also important to recover hard. If you're currently building your weekly mileage towards a race or event, you need to make sure you're taking the time to recover properly and prioritise sleep, nutrition and hydration.

4. Underlying strength

When runners have a deficit in calf and hip strength, this can lead to the shin taking an increased load during running.

Treatment

1. Decrease your training load

When returning to exercise, you should adapt the traffic light system so ensure you are are not delaying your recovery. If you get any pain in Amber or Red, it is advised that you stop running as this will likely delay your recovery.

Green = 0-3 pain, Amber = 3-5 pain, Red = 5+ pain

In the short-term, make sure to take time away from running to let your shin pain reduce. Stay active with activities such as walking and cycling, but avoid high impact sports. Once your pain has subsided, look to gradually build back into running with some easier runs until you are able to run comfortably without pain. You can adjust the number of runs per week, or your running ability, easily from within the Runna app and your plan will adapt accordingly.

2. Increase your calf and hip strength

As well as the above, you should look to build up control and strength around the calf and hip. Watch the video above for the full tutorials.

Heel raises (source)

Stand on a raised platform (e.g., a step) with a single leg and take 3 seconds to raise your body up and down. This will both strengthen your calf but also stretch it when your heel is lower than your toes. Look to do this 2x per day at the start, each time doing 3 rounds of 10-12 reps. You can look to add on additional weight to further strengthen your calf muscles and reduce the risk of your shin splints flaring up again.

Romanian deadlift (source)

Take a dumbbell in one hand and stand on the opposite leg with a slight bend in the knee. Extend the dumbbell down towards the floor, tilting your body forward and lifting the leg on the same side of your body up behind you. Gradually increase the weight to further strengthen your hip.

Hip external rotation strengthening (source)

By strengthening your hip external rotators, it will help keep your legs straight as you run. Lie on the ground on your front and bend one of your legs at 90 degrees. Loop a band around your foot and tie the other end to a chair, fixture or get another person to hold it for you. Drive your foot inwards over the other leg for 3 rounds of 10-12 reps. Look to gradually increase the resistance of the band.

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