When you’re on a role hitting the running goals hard it feels like nothing can stand in your way. I was into my third week of half marathon training and I felt fantastic; I wasn’t going to let anything slow me down - until something did.
Shin splints are common injuries for runners who have increased their mileage relatively fast or for those who run on uneven, sloping or hard surfaces. Unlike some other running injuries, shin splints can’t be pushed through. You need to allow yourself the time to properly recover before starting up again.
Enter my two-week running vacation.
What are Shin Splints?
A shin splint is a pain along the inner part of the lower leg. It can have varying levels of intensity and can be noticed all the time, only during activity or after using the muscles. Some runners note numbness in their lower leg or some swelling. Tenderness or soreness along the inner part of the shin is often experienced. They can also be caused by runners who have feet that over pronate, or flat feet. That and running shoes with too many miles in them are likely what caused my injury.
In my case it was all just very painful. It hurt to use my leg even a little bit. Any stress I put on my leg sent a searing pain through my shin. Before I properly researched what was causing the discomfort I tried to push through it. I’m fairly certain that’s why it has taken me so long to heal; I definitely made it worse.
How to Treat Shin Splints
The best treatment option to cure a shin splint is rest. That means boycotting any running activities for about two weeks. It can feel like a lifetime when you’re in the middle of a heavy training schedule, trust me, but it’s necessary for proper healing. Like I said, pushing through a shin splint isn’t an option.
Icing the shin and keeping it elevated are helpful as well. Since I’ve started my training again I have been putting a damp cloth in the freezer when I head out and wrapping my shin when I come back. It definitely alleviates any lingering pain.
Avoiding Future Injuries
Chances are if you have suffered from shin splints you’re going to do whatever it takes to avoid having them bench you again. When you start back into the activity that injured you in the first place, in my instance long-distance running, you’ll need to gradually build up your stamina. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can start out at the same distance or pace as before the injury.
Be sure you have running shoes in good condition. I hadn’t realized how important that fact was. You’ll likely need to replace your shoes a lot sooner than you may have thought. Make sure to get properly fitted for a running shoe as well. I went to a local Running Room store and they had me run around the store and analyzed my feet to find an appropriate shoe for my over-pronation issue. I can honestly say my feet have never felt so good in a pair of running shoes.
It feels like a total pain but it’s very important to take care of yourself to continue meeting those running goals. I wish I hadn’t been in denial about the seriousness of shin splints from the first signs.