Running is an excellent form of aerobic exercise that, when performed on a regular basis, can lower your risk of heart disease. Like all forms of exercise, though, there's an inherent risk of injury when running. One of the most common types of injuries sustained by runners is a shin splint. So, what is a shin splint exactly, and how do you prevent them when running?
Overview of Shin Splints
A shin splint is an injury involving pain and inflammation in the soft tissues around the shinbone. It typically manifests as an aching pain that radiates down the affected leg or legs.
Shin splints occur as a result of excessive physical activity, specifically running. When you run, you'll place pressure on your shinbone with each step you take. Over time, the constant pressure placed upon your shinbone may cause painful inflammation of the surrounding soft tissues, a condition that's colloquially known as a shin splint.
Take Shorter Strides
You can lower your risk of shin splints when running by taking shorter strides. Taking long strides allows you to cover more ground per step, but it also exposes your shinbones to greater stress and pressure. As a result, taking shorter strides can help protect you from shin splints. Just remember to avoid landing on your toes when running, as this may irritate your shinbones and cause or contribute to a shin splint.
Choose Level Routes
Another way to lower your risk of shin splints when running is to choose level routes. In other words, avoid running on roads or surfaces where there's a steep incline. Instead, choose routes that are mostly flat. You'll have an easier time running on level routes such as this, which means less pressure and stress placed upon your shinbones.
Strengthen Your Calves
Your calf muscles play an important role in supporting your shinbones. If you have weak calf muscles, you may sustain a shin splint when running. Thankfully, there are several ways to strengthen your calf muscles, one of which is to perform calf raises. Calf raises involve standing on your toes for 30 seconds or longer, followed by lowering your body back to a normal standing and then repeating the process.
Stretch Your Legs
Finally, you should stretch your legs immediately before running to lower your risk of shin splints. Stretching helps to loosen your calf muscles, as well as other leg muscles, so that they are more flexible and less susceptible to injuries like shin splints.