Shin splints can be a major problem for runners. Here's what you need to know to prevent them.

Health.com
November 30, 2017

Any runner will tell you that shin splints are the ultimate roadblock. The sharp pains that occur in the lower legs can cause extreme discomfort, forcing you to stop a workout in its tracks (literally). But what’s behind shin splints, and how can you prevent them from wrecking your run?

Shin splints are caused by small tears that occur where the muscle attaches to the shinbone, or tibia. The tears often occur as a result of overuse, so ramping up your workouts too quickly or training for a marathon might increase your risk of shin splints. Overuse can cause the muscles, tendons, and tissues around the tibia to become inflamed, hence the pain in your lower legs.

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It’s natural to want to push past the discomfort, but running through the pain can lead to even more damage, potentially worsening the tears or leading to a stress fracture, which could leave you unable to exercise for even longer. No thanks!

So, what’s a gym rat to do if she’s suffering from shin splints? Take a break from running, ice your shins, and consider taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatories to reduce inflammation in the legs. Only ease back into running once the pain has subsided.

To prevent shin splints, be sure to replace your sneakers every 300 to 500 miles, or every six months, and up the intensity of your exercise gradually. Run on softer surfaces when you can, choosing dirt roads or trails over concrete.

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It’s also helpful to mix up your workout routine. Add in lower-impact sports, like swimming, that allow you to stay active while also giving your shins a break.

Finally, don’t forget to foam roll! The tool will help loosen tight calf muscles so you’re less likely to suffer from shin splints. We know, we know. It hurts so good.