Shin Splints. The very words strike fear into the hearts of runners everywhere.
Okay, so they don’t, but they do hurt like a sonofabitch when you get them, and have sidelined a lot of runners! So many runners get them, and often the same runner will get them over and over. When I first started running, I got them, and more than once.
Like so many runners, I went out and tried to find a way to get rid of them. And I got good advice, and found great articles, but almost every one of them dealt with treating shin splints after I’d gotten them. That’s not good enough! I didn’t want to know how to recover, I wanted to know how to prevent them! So I kept digging.
I finally found a little advice about prevention, and it was good and helped some, but I still got shin splints. The advice was incomplete, even flawed. It talked about running less, building up my calves, changing my shoes, and getting arch supports (I laugh at this last advice!). But what the hell! My shins are on the front part of my leg! What about those muscles? So, I dug some more, and several years ago I think I found the answer.
Yes, I actually have to exercise the shins themselves! How obscure an answer! There are several exercises I like to do.
Stair Toe Raises (top row): The first one is probably the best one. I stand on a staircase (or other object), with my heels on the stairs and toes hanging off the edge. I lift my toes as far as I can upwards, drop them as low as I can downwards. I repeat until my shins burn. I rest 30 seconds, then repeat another set.
Heel Walks (bottom left): Another good exercise, especially since it can be done anywhere I can walk, and at anytime, is to walk on my heels. I pull my toes up as far as I can, then walk around until my shins burn. I do this a few times throughout the day.
Wall Raises (bottom right): I stand with my back towards the wall, but not touching, with my fingertips touching just enough for balance. I raise my toes as far as possible, lower them almost to the floor but not quite, then repeat until my shins burn.
When I first learned about these exercises I repeated them a few times a week for two to three weeks, then after the shin splints went away, once every 1 to 3 weeks keeps my shins strong enough to resist shin splints, as long as I’m running regularly. If they do come back, or I take a break from running, I do them more often to rebuild my shin muscles, then taper off again. I haven’t had shin splints now in about 4 years. And other runners I’ve told this to and who have adopted this routine tell me they get the same results.
Good luck to all you shin splint sufferers, I hope you find some relief and can continue to enjoy running!