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Running With Shin Splints and How to Prevent Them

Training For a Marathon With Shin Splints

It's marathon season, and FitSugar reader isureamheather has caught the bug. Unfortunately, she's a few weeks into her training program and experiencing those dreaded shin splints. She posted this question about how to deal in our RunningSugar group.

Hi all! I'm new to the group (hello!) and hoping some of you might have some advice. I've recently kicked up my running to start a 12-week half marathon training program. I'm really jazzed about it and the first two weeks went well (I'm up to the point where I'm running about 4 miles, but lower distances staggered throughout the week). However, I've started having terrible shin splints (which I haven't had since I first started running over a year ago) and they're awful. I even went so far as to pick up a new pair of sneakers (I was due), but it's barely helping. Any advice? Pre- or post-workout stuff I should be doing? Thanks for your help!
— Heather

Training for a marathon with shin splints? Ouch! Shin splints are the bane of runners everywhere — the injury frequently occurs in runners just starting out or those who make a change to their routine too quickly (like moving to a different surface, or starting out too fast after a period of inactivity). The crippling, shooting pain you feel around your shins can make it hard to do high impact activities, especially running. We're glad you went and bought supportive shoes already, since the correct pair of running shoes can go a long way in making sure you stay injury-free. Here are some more tips for you for managing your shin splints and preventing them from happening again.

  • Make sure it's not a stress fracture: Lower-leg stress fractures and shin splints can often seem similar if you don't know the difference. Shin splints, which are small tears in the muscle around the shin bone, feel like a shooting pain in the front of your leg when you are running (but not when you are doing less-intense activities). Stress fractures, on the other hand, are breaks or cracks in a leg bone — which causes swelling, tenderness, and constant pain.
  • Rest and ice: Shin splints are annoying and painful, and while not the most serious of overuse injuries, you should rest and ice your shins if they are making it too painful to run. Ice for at least 20 minutes a day, and try not to run for a while.
  • Cross-train: This is especially important since you are on a half-marathon training schedule. While you should stop running for a few days, that doesn't mean that you can't cross train to keep your endurance up. Try cycling or swimming or something else that gets your heartbeat up without aggravating your shin splints.
  • Prevent: You should start these exercises now to help strengthen your lower legs and prevent shin splints from occurring again. Do toe lifts when you are sitting at your desk, always start with calf stretches after your warm up but before your run, and strengthen shins and calves with this exercise before you go to bed.

Also, remember to make any changes to your running program gradually in order to prevent shin splints from happening again. Good luck!

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