How to Avoid Shin Splints This Track Season: Five Tips You Need

Kevin Freedman, MD November 6th, 2018

Ready To Run This Track Season? Don’t Let Shin Splints Slow You Down

An athlete’s chosen sport can make him or her feel unstoppable. While preparing for an upcoming race or game, athletes might get lost in the excitement and momentarily forget they are capable of injury. Specifically, track runners who are eager to improve their speed should first ensure they are taking precautionary steps to avoid running injuries, such as shin splints. The Injury Prevention Program at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute recommends runners follow this list of five tips below on how to avoid shin splints this track season.

Five Tips on How to Avoid Shin Splints

Shin splints occur when the muscles, tendons, and bone tissues around the shinbone are inflamed, usually due to overactivity.

  1. Wear proper footwear. Another cause of shin splints is exercising without good quality footwear. When buying track sneakers, competitive runners should determine not only their correct shoe size but also whether they are more flat-footed or have high arches. These are important factors that can make or break your season. Also, look for and ask about the shock absorption and general construction of the shoe before making a purchase. Having suitable running shoes that fit perfectly and provide stability during your runs will help prevent shin splints.

  2. Be aware of the elements. Track runners will likely spend most of their time practicing on the track, but sometimes the coach or runners will want to switch up the workout setting. Your environment has a huge impact on the quality of your run, so it’s important to be cognizant of the elements around you or possible issues you might face.

    For example, hilly trails are more likely to aggravate your ankles, and the added difficulty of running uphill can be a risk factor for shin splints. The weather also plays a role in your run; nature trails are likely to provide some shade, but tracks are usually exposed to the sun’s rays. Check the weather before you leave for practice or a race, dress appropriately, and apply sunscreen when necessary. Not preparing for heat or bad weather increases your chance of getting injured.

  3. Cross-train. If runners do not take measures to avoid shin splints, they may overwork their legs and develop stress fractures. A stress fracture is a small crack in the bone of an overused body part and can result from not effectively treating shin splints. Competitive runners can avoid this painful fate by cross-training during track season. Cross-training, or alternating between various exercises, can benefit athletes in numerous ways, from preventing injuries to becoming more versatile and comprehensively fit. Strength training and doing flexibility exercises on days when you are not running can assist you in avoiding shin splints and stress fractures.

  4. Push yourself, gradually. Track runners may feel they do not have much time for improvement during the season. Because of this, some might attempt to rapidly increase their amount of daily activity and, as a result, put too much stress on their bodies. Suddenly taking on a lot of intense exercise in a short span of time can lead to shin splints. The best method of preventing shin splints in this context is to gradually increase your activity duration and intensity. Pushing yourself slowly and cautiously gives your muscles time to strengthen and acclimate to the increased pressure.

  5. Exercise during your off-season. Taking long periodical breaks between running and working out through the year thwarts your muscles from staying strong long-term. It will, therefore, take more effort to build up your muscles again, and too much effort and strain can cause shin splints. The transition back into track season will go more smoothly if you keep your body fit year-round. Track athletes should continue to maintain some sort of running routine, but cross-training will also be useful for strengthening muscles, balancing fitness levels, and avoiding shin splints when starting to run competitively.

The orthopaedic specialists at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute hope all competitive runners will apply the above tips during their track seasons. If you would like more information on how to avoid shin splints or if you have developing symptoms of shin splints, please speak with a doctor or specialist. Visit Rothman Orthopaedic Institute here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.

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