Medial tibial stress syndrome, more commonly known as shin splints, is a common complaint, particularly among those who are involved in running or running based sports. Shin splints are characterised by pain along the front or side of the shin, and can be a huge burden.
Common causes of shin splints normally fall under 2 categories: overtraining/overloading, and biomechanical problems.
This includes increasing running load to quick, running on hard surfaces or change in running surface and insufficient rest.
There are a number of biomechanical problems that can contribute to the cause of shin splints, including overpronation of the feet, poor ankle flexibility, tight calf or hamstring muscles, and poor running technique.
There are a number of strategies to consider when looking to prevent shin splints. We have talked about the most common ones below!
Be aware of your mileage or running load
Large increases in running load are one of the main causes of shin splints, so aim to gradually increase your load. A good rule of thumb to use is no more than 10% per week. So, if you currently run 10km weekly, only increase your load by 1km the following week.
Check your technique
Running technique and foot/ankle biomechanics are also a big cause of shin splints, so if you think there might be something off with your technique, it’s best to see a Podiatrist. A biomechanical assessment can identify any issues with your foot and ankle biomechanics, and can assess your running technique.
Proper recovery between your sessions is important in allowing your muscles to recover. An adequate warm-up and cool down before any running based activity will reduce your overall risk of injury.
Look after your calves!
Weak and/or tight calf muscles can be a cause of shin splints. Calf raises are a great strengthening exercise and should be added to your routine. Start with double leg before progressing to single leg. It’s also important to stretch and foam roll your calves regularly.
Ensure you have the right footwear
Inadequate footwear can be a risk factor for not only shin splints, but a number of other injuries. Ensure the footwear you wear is suited to your feet, and also designed for required use is important. A podiatrist can assess your feet and advise which shoes are best for you.