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Shin splints

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In many cases one is able to continue training with a mild case of shin splints.  Time off from running may be required in severe cases.  In such cases rest and ice would be needed to decrease inflammation.  For the milder, yet painful cases, in which running can be maintained, certain treatment methods must be followed through.

Anti-inflammatory medications such as I-B Propfin should be taken one hour before starting practice.  Just before practice the affected area should be heated up.  The use of hot towels, heat pack or whirlpool for 15-20 minutes should do the trick.  This will help loosen up the area as well as providing comfort but will not solve the problem.  Discovering the cause is the first step in treating an injury.

                                                            Taping of the arch.

The changing of shoe may be necessary as well.  Stretching prior to running will be beneficial.  Training on soft surfaces will help alleviate excessive pounding.  Precaution should be made to running on uneven surfaces which could result in increased foot motion, a matter you are trying to correct.  Once the workout is completed and after a good cool down, ice the affected area as soon as possible for 20 minutes.  Plastic cups filled with water and placed in the freezer as well as baggies of ice work well.  Normally, continued running, even if it is reduced, will help get rid of shin splints as running will help strengthen leg muscles.  A friction massage using the thumbs may prove to be beneficial.  Firmly rub the affected area from the bottom of the leg upward.

Treatment in summary:

·        Anti-inflammatory medications.

·        Heat treatments prior to practice.

·        Tapping the arch.

·        Proper shoes.

·        Stretching

·        Running on soft even surfaces.

·        Ice treatments after practice.


The best way to deal with shin splints is to do what it takes to prevent them in the first place.  There are several preventative measures that should be practiced by every runner on every team.  Purchasing the proper shoe for your foot is the first step in preventing shin splints.  Knowing whether you are an overpronator or underpronator is very important.  The wet test will determine this.


Shoe Features

Below are features of a shoe for an overpronator, the more common runner type for shin splints recipients.

  • Rigid plastic collar that wraps around the shoe heel for support and to control excess pronation.

  • A firm shoe with lots of supports.

  • A rear-heel area made of solid rubber.

  • Dual density midsole with the firmer material on the inside edge.  This construction is easy to spot since the midsole will usually come in different colors.

  • A “board-lasted” shoe.  To tell if a shoe is board-lasted, pull out the insole, the extra strip of material that is inside the shoe.  If there is no stitching between the inside and bottom of the shoe it is board lasted.

A firm shoe with lots of support preventing excessive motion is needed for those who overpronate.  Something to keep in mind is that the more cushioned the shoe the less stability the shoe will have.

For the underpronator motion of the foot is limited.  The type of shoe needed would be one that is flexible.  It should be a cushioned shoe with a soft midsole.

Depending on the amount of pronation a runner may have will determine whether or not they would benefit from orthotics.  Sometimes just a good pair of inserts found at a drug store to fit in the shoes, or a pair of anti-pronators in which you could receive through a podiatrist may do the trick, and are much more inexpensive than orthotics.  In any case though a good arch support will be needed.

Warming up and cooling down.

As mentioned earlier a good warm up is important to help prevent injuries.  I have my athletes jog easy for a few minutes, spend a couple of minutes stretching, more running (up to a mile), return for more extensive stretching and drills followed by build-up sprints.  When doing an interval workout, jogging between repetitions will help eliminate the tightening up of the leg muscles.

Shortly after high school, looking for some answers to my shin splint problem, I wrote a personal letter to Jerry Lindgren, who currently holds the Washington State High School Records for the 1600 and 3200 meter runs and went on to break the world’s record in the 10,000 meters while at Washington State University. I had heard he suffered from shin splints on occasion (I later had the opportunity to train with him while he lived in Tacoma).  He wrote back and told me that as soon as he finished a race his coach would make him run a lap cool down before he was allowed to stop.  Actually I think his coach was teaching him to run a victory lap as he would run many in the years to follow.  The point is that several minutes of easy running followed by more stretching should be performed after every workout.

Special attention should be paid to proper mechanics including running with the toes straight ahead, landing slightly on the outside of the heels first, and then after flattening out the foot, roll off of the toes.


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