If you’ve seen any other episodes of Runners High, you might be wondering, “Jesse, what the heck are you doing on the floor today?” Well, I actually want to talk about Nemesis that is mine and yours and a lot of runners, and that’s shin splints, what they are, how to deal with them, and hopefully how to prevent them in the future here on today’s episode of Runners High.
So, shin splints, you got them, they’re painful, and they’re making your run absolutely terrible. What are they, where do they come from and how do we deal with them? So, first, where do they come from? There’s two major muscles here on your leg that are the cause of shin splints, your anterior tibialis on the outside or the posterior tibialis, which is on the inside. Your tibia is this long bone that runs here or we refer to it as shin. So, those two muscle groups are responsible for stabilizing you and your foot and essentially, your whole body while you’re running. If you remember, running is essentially a series of jumps. You don’t run with two legs, you run with one leg at a time. So each leg independently, has to do a bunch of stabilization.
Now, where do shin splints come into play? How do they happen? those muscles when they join on to that bone, if there’s micro tears in the bone or in the muscle there, that’s where you get the pain of shin splints. Oftentimes, at least in my experience, the shin splints come from a few normal culprits. The number one culprit is improper shoes or shoes that are worn out. You’ll often hear a suggestion of three to 500 miles per pair of running shoes before you need to change them out.
This can vary depending on what the midsoles made of. If it’s a softer foam, it’s going to wear out sooner. If you’re heavier, it’s also going to wear out sooner. I’m personally about 300 miles before I want to change. I’ll sort of feel the difference in the shoe, but I can stretch it if I really want to. I have a semi firm shoe and I weigh about 160 and 5’10. So, I’m a fairly lean person but I still want to change them out at around 300 miles.
The other thing is if you’re on the wrong running surface, if you are running on a treadmill and consistently doing the same kind of action, remember I talked about in the prevention of injury video that doing the exact same motion over and over and over, that repetitive motion is a lot of our issues when it comes to injury and shin splints is no exception. If you’re running on the treadmill and doing the same thing over and over, and it’s improper in offloading extra load onto those muscles that it shouldn’t be, then you can end up with shin splints. Or if you’re on, say, a hard surface, cement or concrete over and over and doing too much load, which could mean too much intensity or too many miles, then those shin splints can happen.
So, what can we actually do about shin splints? There’s a variety of things that I like to go to, but my main one is going to be massage. And that can come in a variety of ways. I’ve got a dozen different, what feels like a dozen different massage tools. But there’s two of the you’re going to go to, they’re going to be your main stage for this. I particularly like a stick of some sort, this is the original stick. But there’s dozens and dozens of varieties, find one that you’re comfortable with. And all it takes comes down to is taking that anterior tibialis here and massaging it. Similarly, you can massage your calf and get that posterior tibialis.
Now, doing that regularly, whether you have shin splints or not is actually a good preventive measure so that you don’t get shin splints in the future. You can also take something like a foam roller, this one’s mine. A lot of people have a more standard foam roller, and you can roll out those same muscles on the roller instead of using the stick. But I would personally go with the stick because you can be a little more targeted a little softer versus something like this, which is actually fairly firm and may hurt you when you’re trying to use it.
Now you get a close up of my foot. Why are we staring at my foot? Well, the band should give it away. So, one of my go to things besides massage, anytime I have some kind of soft tissue injury, my thoughts myself and this is something that I learned from the trainers in college when I was injured in any various way. Soft tissue injury, you know, those ankle muscles are weak or you have shin splints, then you need to do something about it. And that usually means targeting those muscles and making them stronger.
So, you want to get a band something like this, you can see this company is TheraBand. That’s what we used in college, it’s why I’m familiar with and most physical therapists will use something like this. But there’s a ton of brands and they’re available in all different colors. I use the blue because I’ve been running for a long time. My ankles are fairly strong and they need that.
Now, if you’re not used to running or you’re fairly new to the sport, or you have weaker ankles, then start out with a lighter band, the green, the red, see what resistance is going to work for you. But there are three exercises we want to do to strengthen some of those ankle stabilizers and help toughen up a little bit of that area that’s going to be stabilizing and end up causing that shin splint for us. And the first of them is going to be making your foot go to the inside here. So just turning the inside remember, keep your legs straight. Don’t turn your knee over, you just want to move your ankle and that’s it. I’m not working too hard. My TheraBand is actually very long right now. So, that’s the first one.
Once you’ve worked up to doing this, three sets of 10 work on going out and then slowly letting it come back to center. Similar to the interior movement that we just saw, you want to move the band the other direction, and move your ankle straight out to the exterior of your leg. Again, same deal if you can work up to three sets of 10, then work on having resistance out and slow coming back, holding that resistance on the way back for another three sets of 10. The last of the three exercises is actually [??? 7:10] reflection, which is where you bring that foot back towards you and then you let it go. Back towards you and relax.
Now, you may be wondering, why don’t we actually do an exercise where we point down. It’s called plain reflection. And we don’t typically need to do that exercise because we get that over and over and over when we’re running. That’s the motion that we do, we plant on the ground and push off. So it’s not really necessary to do that because we’ve already done it know hundreds or thousands of times depending on how long your run is.
Before I give you my last suggestion, don’t forget to subscribe to the channel to stay tuned for future videos of Runners High where I share more tips and tricks on becoming the best runners can be. So this last one. The last tip I have for you to deal with shin splints is a little bit common sense. But also the research is a little inconclusive, and that’s using ice. I like to use something like this, it’s actually a massage tool. So, you can ice and massage at the exact same time. I personally had a lot of success and using this to treat and mitigate pain with shin splints and other various ailments. But I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I’ve seen research that indicates ice may not be useful when it comes to treating injuries, which is a little counterintuitive. Because we think as runners ice baths are great, ice is great, lower inflammation. But I’ve also seen some research indicating that inflammation is a good signal for your body to deal with whatever the problem is.
So, when you reduce the inflammation, then your body doesn’t necessarily know how to deal with it. Again, I’ve personally had very good luck with it, and I’m going to continue using it but I will say that there are kind of mixed signals on whether ice is the way to go or not. Subscribe to the channel. Stay tuned for the next episode of Runners High.