5. Shin Splints
Perhaps the most misunderstood of all the running injuries, the term “shin splints” can refer to any number of ailments that involves pain in the shin area. At their worst, shin splints can turn into a stress fracture along the tibia, and pain will be felt with every stride; in less severe cases, the shin area may be tender and inflamed, and pain lessens a few miles into the run. Either way, shin pain is a surefire way to make your running experience rather unenjoyable.
When I was working at the running store, the most common complaints of shin splints came at me from two different directions: during the first few weeks of a beginning runner’s training program, or at the start of high school track season. Why? In both cases, the shin pain could almost be certainly traced back to the sudden spike in volume and intensity during the first week or two of running workouts.
What causes shin splints? As mentioned in the preceding paragraph, quick increases in volume and intensity can usually receive the biggest blame. Think about it. When you start running, especially if you haven’t been doing much of – or any – of it, what takes almost all of the initial impact forces that run through your body? The lower legs. Combine that with regular running on hard surfaces and worn out or improper footwear and you have a recipe for imminent disaster. And as with many of the aforementioned injuries, tight muscles don’t help matters much, either. The less mobile the muscles surrounding your shin are, the more stress there is on the entire area.
The fix: Rest, ice and ibuprofen will do wonders right off the bat and will help reduce the tenderness and inflammation. As you ease back into running, pay attention to your training, as well as your equipment and environment. Increasing volume and intensity too quickly will almost always lead to trouble. Running on soft surfaces such as trails or grass will help reduce the impact on your lower legs, and paying close attention to the mileage on your running shoes will ensure that you’re not trotting on tired treads.