Running is a dynamic whole-body movement that requires a combination of multiple joints and muscles working together to create a perfect running stride. As with any movement done repeatedly, injury can be a concern. A common injury that is seen with frequent running is shin splints. Shin splints are associated with a sharp or dull nagging pain in the front of your lower leg. While there is still some speculation on what the direct cause of shin splints are, there are many ways that shin splints can be caused.
The angle of your shins while running on different parts of the road and increasing the curvature and force your shin is taking can cause shin splints. Shin splints can also be caused by the angle and placement of your foot as it strikes the ground while running. While running your foot should land directly underneath your center of mass and the ball of your foot should be first point of contact on the ground. If you are landing heel first or with your foot too far out in front of your hips, this will increase the force going through your shin most likely causing shin splints.
How can I prevent shin splints?
Though the direct cause may never be known, you can still take some precautionary measure to avoid the nagging pain of shin splints.
Running shoes play a big role in avoiding shin splints. Shoes should have enough cushion and dynamic support to protect your foot and shins from the increased force when running. Avoid running with worn out shoes and replace when needed. Talking to a running expert at a shoe store may also help with getting a shoe that truly fits you.
For your muscle memory to take over, conscious effort must be made for your body to naturally perform the task. Pay attention to how your foot lands when running while this. Ask yourself: Am I landing on the ball of my foot? Am I favoring one side of my foot more? This may take time but the result is worth it.
Run on grass or gravel instead of running on hard cement or asphalt when you have the chance. Switching up the surface will allow your bones and muscles to recover by decreasing the force going through your shins from the hard cement surface.
Rest & Recover
Lastly, rest when you need it. If you feel shin splints coming, take a day or two off from running and see how you feel. Stretching and recovery are extremely important for many overuse injuries.