4 expert strategies every runner should know to stave off shin splints

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Aside from the dreaded side stitch and uncomfortable chafing, shin splints are one of the biggest pains for a runner to get mid-stride. They’re mega frustrating and can be debilitating—especially when they’re intense enough to make stop your run before your favorite Drake track ever even comes on. Concentrated in the front of the leg along the tibia bone, the nagging pain can present itself both during and after exercise.

“The tibia (shin bone) and surrounding tissues need time to adapt and rebuild after the heavy demand and subsequent tissue breakdown that occurs after running,” says Blake Dircksen, CSCS and DPT at Bespoke Treatments in New York City. “Shin splints are caused by an imbalance between tissue demands and tissue capacity—in other words, doing too much too soon.”

Good news: they’re highly preventable. Here, Dircksen offers his four strategies for staving off shin splints.

Strong glutes are muscles you need for running
Photo: Viktor Solomin

4 strategies to stave off shin splints

1. Train smart. Just like performance on race day, the way a runner trains plays a huge factor on whether or not they experience shin splints. The first strategy to side-stepping the discomfort? Avoid large spikes in the variables of your training. “This could be anything from the number of runs per week, the intensity of your runs, hilly running, or total mileage,” explains Dirksen. “Training should be progressive, tactful, and without throwing too many of those variables in at the same time.”

2. Pay attention to how you’re fueling your body. Your nutrition also plays a factor in how your body responds during exercise. It’s incredibly important that runners monitor their calcium and vitamin D intake for overall bone health, suggests Dircksen. The American Bone Health Association suggests 1,000mg of calcium and 600mg of vitamin D daily.

3. Don’t overwear your sneakers. There’s nothing like a great pair of sneakers that help you channel your inner Superwoman. But most styles lose their oomph (read: the foam in the sole starts to break down) between 300 and 500 miles after the first wear.  “Make sure your shoes are still in good form,” says Dircksen. “Having two to three pairs to cycle through regularly is ideal.”

4. Make time to stretch. Soft tissue—including everything from tendons, ligaments, and muscles to fascia—mobility is super important. “Find time to stretch and use mobility tools to work out tight areas,” says Dircksen. Not sure where to get started? Here is everything you need to know on the right way to foam roll, and some tips for stretching with a massage ball.

Also, if you’re looking for ways to not be sore after your run and let’s be honest, who isn’t, try these trainer-approved methods. And here’s a 20-minute workout to steal from Jenna Dewan on your off-day.

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