If you experience pain in the front lower half of your legs during or post-run, it could mean that you have shin splints—or, in more medical speak, medial tibial stress syndrome. Shin splints are often caused by repetitive pavement pounding, flat feet, unfit sneakers, or not properly warming up before you head out on the road.
But, you can take a few steps to avoid shin splints altogether, says Jennifer Giamo, an Aaptiv trainer and founder of Trainers in Transit. “New runners are often more prone to shin splints,” she explains. “But, your biomechanics, running form, and bone density are also factors.”
Inflammation of the bone causes this pain, so if you feel it more on the outside of the leg (on the muscle, not the bone), then it could just be soreness. And, in that case, you should say hello to a foam roller.
But, if it is indeed shin splint-specific discomfort, the best thing that you can do after clocking miles is to ice your legs, take some anti-inflammatory medication, or put a pause on running in exchange for a lower impact activity such as biking or swimming. An even better idea: Aim to avoid the aches altogether by doing a dynamic warm-up.
Giamo recommends following these four active stretches before you settle into your next stride.
Stand on a step with your feet hip-width apart. Raise your heels up, so that you’re on your tiptoes. Then, slowly lower back down so that your heels come slightly below the step. Repeat for eight to ten reps.
Start by standing and bringing one knee in toward your chest, grabbing your shin with your hand. Take five big hip circles to the back, then to the front. Then, switch to your other leg.
Lateral Side-to-Side Lunges
Start by standing with your feet together. Step your right foot out to the side so that your feet are wider than hip-width apart. Bend into your right knee, as you send your hips back and keep your other leg straight. You should be doing a side lunge. Hold for just a second, then switch to the left side. Step back together, then repeat by stepping out to the left and lowering into your left side lunge, then your right. Do five on each side.
Start by standing with your feet hip-distance apart. Lower into a squat by sending your hips down and back, bending your knees and keeping your weight in your heels, chest up. Then stand back up and repeat for ten reps.
Other Ways to Avoid Shin Splints
Giamo offers a few other strategies that might help you avoid pain in your lower legs as you run.
- Consider changing your running shoes. You might benefit from a more supportive or stabilizing shoe. (Check out this guide for how to find the best shoe for you.)
- Take vitamin D or calcium supplement, which will help support your bones and, in turn, protect your shins.
- Focus on shortening your stride so that your foot hits the ground more often and stays right under your center of gravity. This will increase your cadence and decrease the stress on your feet, ankles, and knees, Giamo explains.
- Finally, don’t increase your mileage too fast. Start building slowly and you could run right past injuries.
Try these stretches before your next run and you’ll get a head start on sidestepping pain and avoiding shin splints altogether.
Need a stretching routine to help your mobility or for an after workout cool down? Try our stretching classes in the Aaptiv app today.