Ask P. Mark: Dealing with Shin Splints

Question 3 :   I’m currently using the “walk to running a 5K” plan from your book The Gift of Running. But I’m running into a minor problem and need some advice.   My shins are starting to feel sore during the running bits.

P. Mark’s Answer:  Shin splints come from a combination of poor form, running on hard surfaces, and changing intensity levels too fast.

As for form, the idea is to set your foot on the ground gently as you land.  A good guideline for this is the sound you make.  The quieter your foot is when it makes contact with the ground, the better your shins will be.

As for running surfaces, a nice rubber track is a very kind surface for running.  If that is not available, then remember this progression:

  • Grass and dirt are softer than gravel.
  • Gravel is softer than asphalt/blacktop.
  • Asphalt/blacktop is softer than concrete.
  • Stay away from concrete when you have shin splints!

If you are suddenly training much faster and/or farther than you have recently, this can also cause issues.

Remember: 
Fast progress leads to injuries!
Slow progress leads to health, happiness, & achievement!

It can take as long as two weeks before shin splints completely fade away.  To begin the process:

  1. Address the inflammation by icing your shins and taking anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen.
  2. While running, shift to softer surfaces & slow down, being careful to land gently.
  3. Make sure you stretch all muscles properly before and after running and walking.

You can run with some pain, but it should not be severe and it should not get worse.  In the case of shin splints, the old adage of “No Pain No Gain” makes no sense.  If the pain is too intense, skip the running for a few days.  Taking the time now will pay off down the road.

Be good to your legs and you will once again enjoy the run!

_____________

The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & e-book

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  1. Thank you so much! The “sound” makes more sense to me now, since before I was leaping (practically jumping) with every step and coming down pretty hard. And I will not let myself feel bad for going slower anymore! Thanks!

  2. Nice solid advice. I would add in one more thing in the cause category. Another big cause is dorsiflexion of the toes (toes pointing up at you) which causes the muscles to stretch and to tear. I would also advise against the use of ibuprofen (NSAIDS) as let the body heal itself unless the pain/inflammation is absolutely excruciating.

    One thing to add. There are no scientific studies that show a correlation between surface and injury (i.e. running on pavement causes more injury than a track). It simply isn’t there. There have been studies to check this and they show the body loads up differently based on surface.

    Fix the form, fix the issue for shin splints. Don’t worry about anything else.

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