Many runners experience mild soreness or pain at their lower legs. The pain usually becomes present in the early stages of training or if the intensity has been increased too fast. Many runners want to keep going despite the mild pain, but is it worth it to continue running with shin splints?
Shin splints is an overuse injury and occurs when to many impacts are placed on the lower leg, before the body has time to adapt to the new stress levels. With understanding of the cause behind shin splints, it is clear that normal running schedule should not be continued. What happens in most cases is that the injury becomes more severe and chronic, causing it to be extremely difficult to get rid of.
Sometimes a certain amount of running through the injury does give the body time to adapt, but trying to run through shin splints can also be dangerous. In many cases the injury can be prevented by decreasing mileage or taking a few days off. Recovering from chronic shin splints on the other hand can take months.
How to keep running with shin splints
Sometimes circumstances force us to run through our injuries. Running with shin splints is not advisable, but not all runners are able to stop due to different circumstances. Here are a few things you can try to help keep you going.
- Slowly build up your mileage, allowing your body to have time to adapt for the new stress levels.
- Wear the right type of running shoes. This is extremely important, the right type of footwear both reduce the impacts and align your feet the right way.
- Run on softer running surfaces. Softer surfaces reduce impacts on every step, there is a big difference between running on grass and concrete.
- Ice the area of pain after running for the first week. Icing can reduce inflammation, but it is not recommended after the first week.
- Stretch massage and exercise your lower legs. Getting your muscles relaxed can reduce the tension, follow our guide for shin exercises.
- Wear shin splints compression sleeves to reduce inflammation, stress and increase the blood flow in your lower legs.
Often one small change might not make a big difference, but using multiple methods in helping your shin splints might ultimately allow you to defeat the injury.
Alternative workouts for running
Trying to stay in shape during shin splints doesn’t have to mean that running is the only option. There are several non-impact workouts that allow you to continue your fitness workouts while your shin splints recover. Many runners have managed to beat their injury and come back in an even stronger shape because of the new gains from workouts not tried before.
The most recommended methods is to do deep water running. It is perfect for runners as you are mimicking the real running motion in water. There are no impacts, but the the actual exercises can be a lot more difficult than normal running. What’s even better is that it is more of a full body workout, runners that have been doing deep water running often surprisingly come back in better shape than before their injuries.
Doing alternative exercises is the smart way of trying to train through shin splints. Other forms of non-impact workout are rowing and elliptical training. Cross training in general is a great way of avoiding shin splints. Since shin splints is a repetitive stress injury, adding some variety into your workouts is highly recommended.
Take a look at our low-impact workouts for more information.