Shin Splints: Not a Reason To End Your Running Career
Shin splints happen to (almost) all of us.
But where do they come from? What should you do when you experience that daunting lower leg discomfort? Cody, our resident personal trainer/physical therapist assistant, wrote a helpful article on how to address shin splints. Here's an excerpt with a link to the full article!
Why Do My Shins Hurt When I Run?
From codykfitness.com, written by Cody Koontz, ACSM-CPT, PTA
It's happened to almost everyone: you get a little more motivation to run or your schedule happens to open up and *boom* you've caught the running bug!
But then what? After logging significantly more miles than usual, you start to have a little soreness in your shins. You run through it because "that's what runners do."
Until you can't.
Then you'll either give up running, go to a store and buy new shoes, or just maybe decrease your mileage for a while.
What should I do when this happens?
Before we get too in-the-weeds about why this happens, here's what you should do.
As a general rule, if you are having pain in your shins after just starting running, or if you can only run a certain distance/time per week before your shins hurt--do not ignore the pain!
This is likely because you need to give your body time to adapt to the stresses of running, or (read: "and") you need to address some form/biomechanics and muscle involvement issues.
So, first things first, DON'T push through the pain.
Will new shoes fix my shin splints?
I think shin splints can be exacerbated by inappropriate footwear, but getting new shoes will not solve the core shin splint issue.
What's the core problem with shin splints?
It comes down to loading.
You might get a different wording from another healthcare/fitness professional, but I'll stick with "loading" for now.
Shin Splints Are Usually Caused By Doing 1) Too Much With 2) Too Much Intensity 3) Too Soon
Any time you have repeated, inappropriate loading patterns ("loading patterns" can mean too much resistance/weight, incorrect joint alignment, or poor neuromuscular control) you will end up with dysfunction and pain. Everyone has a different tolerance for pain, but eventually, the proverbial "shoe" will drop.
I've been working at specialty running stores for over five years now, and most of the people I meet with shin splints fall into that first category: "too much." They go from 0 or 2 miles per week right up to 10 or 20 miles per week.
Other people end up with shin splints after increasing their intensity too aggressively. For example, a high school cross-country runner might have been running at a comfortable pace for him/herself all summer, but when surrounded by other fast runners, all their slow runs become races--and they get shin splints.
"Too soon" is the tagline for too much and too much intensity. Increasing volume and intensity are not bad things. You have to progressively overload your body for specific adaptations. The problem of shin splints is just one example of the consequences of not giving yourself time to recover and adapt to the work you want to do.
Without adaptation, your potential is limited.
The Role of Footwear in Shin Splints
One last thing before we get into the practical ways you can work on your running form.
I said new shoes won't fix your shin splints. However, it's important to have footwear that suits your gait. In other words, your shoes should cooperate with your stride.
The best way to figure out if a shoe cooperates with your stride is to go to your local running store! Talk to the experts about what you've been running in, what you like, and what you don't like. Then try on some recommended shoes and jog around.
You don't want to be running in a shoe that fights your stride or makes you work harder. Your brain knows how your foot moves, but there aren't any shoes that connect to your nervous system (yet?). No matter how good the shoe is technically or how popular it is, if it doesn't work for you, it's not the right shoe!
Listen for the Right Shoe
One way to know if a shoe is working with your stride is the one or two-sound shoe test (I think I made this up, but it works pretty well). When you're running in a shoe, listen to your landings. if you hear two sounds, like "clip-clop" then you might want to try on another shoe.
A one-sound shoe should have just one sound when you land. And, ideally, it should be quiet. Some of the volume of your landing comes from you, but if you normally have a quiet landing and don't in a new shoe, you should be a little suspicious.
This isn't a perfect test, but I've found that it tends to provide some insight into the difficult process of picking a running shoe.
How To Get Rid Of Shin Splints
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