If you've ever seen a group of athletes running with compression calf sleeves around their shins, and a pair of highly-cushioned shock-absorption shoes, then you're probably looking at individuals hoping to beat shin splints.
Shin splints are one of the most common running injuries suffered by beginners. The reason that it's so common amongst new runners, has to do with the problem that causes shin splints, known as medial tibial stress syndrome. Once considered to be an injury of the soft tissue or muscles in the leg, newer studies have found that the problem actually comes from damage to the bone. In fact, if you ignore shin splints for too long, the pain might progress into a full-blown stress fracture.
Why Do Shin Splints Happen?
If you want to beat shin splints, then you will first need to know why they happen. At a basic level, the process that occurs when we put stress on our bones, is that our bones react to that stress by bending and moving. Similarly, to the way in which muscles need to rebuild through training, bones do too, and when you run, the shin bone (the tibia), bends from impact, before rebuilding and strengthening during rest.
When you rest after a run, the tibia begins to remodel and get stronger, but that can only happen if you give your body the conditions that it needs to rebuild. On the other hand, if you suddenly start running too often, too quickly, without the right support, then your shins will become over-stressed.
What Causes Shin Splints?
While treating shin splints largely relies on using rest and circulation techniques that can be enhanced by your calf compression sleeves, being able to beat shin splints means improving your running form, strengthening your muscles, and adjusting your approach to exercise. Often, upping your intensity or mileage too quickly when running can lead to shin splints, but other issues that overstress your legs play a part too. For instance, over-striding can place more stress on the shins, and if you have weak hips or calves, you won't be able to brace for impact properly.
This injury is also most common amongst women, who generally have a lower bone density. While shin splints may seem like a minor annoyance, it's important to treat them before they're allowed to emerge into a more serious chronic injury. Beyond simply giving your time to recovery and rebuild from the stress you've been putting on it, make sure that you address the additional reasons you may be overstressing your shins.
Beat Shin Splints with Exercise
One of the best ways to beat shin splints is to strengthen the shin muscles, as well as your hip flexors, and thighs. By working on calf and hip strength, you can help to brace your leg bones against the impact running causes. Use a variety of exercises such as calf raises, hip thrusts, donkey kicks and more to maximize the stability and strength in the lower portion of your body, and you'll find that you quickly reduce your chances of injury.