First of all, I’m dumb and I’ve already written about shin splints but I didn’t realize it until I was halfway done with this. Maybe I drink too much? Nah. Anyways, just consider this the new and improved version… it’s a lot more comprehensive and it has more pictures of Pippa (always a bonus.)
I used to think people who suffered from shin splints were just big titty babies… until I started having problems with them myself recently. I take all of my unfounded and inaccurate judgments back and promise to never think mean thoughts again. These suckers hurt! My muscles spasms got so bad you could actually see them. I’ve been trying to run more on dirt trails lately to take the stress off my shins while they strengthen and heal, and have been following my own advice for once and actually doing the exercises and activities I talk about later in this article. I’m obviously becoming wiser with age.
Before I go any further, I feel like I need a disclaimer on this puppy. Shin splints can be caused by approx. 2,348,394 different things. If you are one of the rare people that has some crazy underlying pathology causing your shin splints (i.e. people with severe compartment syndrome) none of this information is going to help you. More than likely though, you’re a part of the other 95% of runners (that statistic has no scientific basis) that suffer from shin splints as a result of weak dorsiflexors (shin muscles?), tight calves, inflammation, and crappy running form. I can’t help you if you run like a dweeb, but the other three problems are pretty easy fixes. Let’s start with the easiest fix first.
1: Decrease Inflammation
Use ice after every run, or even better, give yourself and ice massage! Fill a dixie cup with water and keep it in the freezer. When you get done with your run, tear off the bottom of the cup and use it like a ice push pop… just massage the ice in circles over the painful area for 10 minutes or until your ice is melted.
2: Strengthen Muscles
I think working on strengthening my dorsiflexors (the muscles that pull your toes up when you run) has been the most crucial part of banishing shin splints for me. Thankfully, the exercises you can use are quick, easy, and you can do them anywhere!
First, stand with your back against a wall. It may help if you can grab on to a doorframe on one side to help stabilize yourself at first. With your bottom and shoulders in contact with the wall, raise your toes up while keeping your heels on the ground. Perform this movement 20-30 times, once or twice a day. If you’re doing it right you should feel a little bit of discomfort in the spot where your shin splints usually show up… your wimpy little muscles just aren’t used to this craziness!
To advance this exercise, first try not holding on to stabilize yourself, Once you’ve got that down, perform the exercise standing on one leg at a time. By this point, you should have the sexiest lower legs of all time.
3: Stretch Calves
Tightness in the Archilles tendons and gastroc muscles is pretty common, especially due to the popularity of more minimal shoes with a lower heel-to-toe drop (Nike Free’s, Brooks’ Pure Line) that have been flooding the market in recent years. These shoes aren’t inherently bad, but it’s important to make sure you’re adequately stretching your calves after your workouts and the increased angle at your ankle puts more strain on that tendon.
Tight calves can affect the way your foot hits the ground, making your lower legs absorb more impact and putting a strain on your dorsiflexors. To stretch your calves out, you can just do the ol “put your foot on the curb and lean” and hold that stretch for 30 seconds, 3 times. To target your smaller calf muscle, the soleus (it’s underneath your gastroc) perform the stretch again but this time keep your knee bent. Alternately, you can do the traditional calf stretch pictured in the last photo (I prefer the first one.)
Easy as 1,2,3! These steps, along with rest and sticking to softer surfaces are the easiest ways to get rid of those pesky ol’ buggers. Give it a couple of weeks and hopefully you’ll be significantly better off.
It’s time for me to go write about less serious, more interesting things (I’m actually reading about Chicken McNugget Shapes) and be super productive (take a nap.)
Have you ever had a problem with shin splints?
Did you do anything to treat them or did the shin splints just go away on their own?
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