Whether you are a beginner or an experienced daily runner, there’s no doubt that injuries can cripple your running form and confidence. No matter your running level, your body has to be fully prepared and injury-free.

While we have covered the topics of knee and foot injuries, another painful problem occurs in the shin area. Shin splints or painful tears around the tibia area are more common among novice runners, since their leg muscles and joints are not attuned to bearing the running weight.

If left untreated, a painful shin can become one of the worst injuries you’ll suffer, making it painful to even walk briskly. They usually occur when your running frequency, and mileage is increased drastically in quick time. The body needs time to build up strength to match the intensity of your runs. Thankfully, there are ways to battle shin splints too.

Run Gradually
Increase your speed and distance gradually. This seems like the most obvious way to avoid injury, but sometimes it’s hard to curb your enthusiasm for running. Don’t try to break records each day. If you’re a new runner, you’re not going to wake up and run 5 miles on any given day. Build up your endurance and see your body become able to cope with the demands.

Mix it up
While running itself requires just a warmup routine and some stretches in the end, we always recommend that running is mixed with activities like cycling, rowing, and swimming when you have a day off. It only serves to increase your cardiovascular fitness and makes your muscles stronger.

Get the Right Strike 
This goes hand in hand with our first piece of advice. Take it easy and run naturally, instead of trying to set a new pace record. Most beginners don’t get the striking position immediately right. This results in your heels or toes striking the ground, making impact more likely to cause injury. When you are overstriding or heel-striking, your shin muscles are being stretched and overworked. Avoid injury and strain with a flat, mid-foot landing.

Make sure you don't take giant strides when running
Make sure you don’t take giant strides when running

Keep A Short Stride
It’s impossible to have a standard distance between each leg when running, but as a rule of thumb, shorter is always better. This will help get your muscles used to the action, while also making sure that your speed is optimal. As your stride shortens, you will notice that your speed has also picked up due to the increased turnover rate.

Don’t go minimal
Minimalism may be trending and going barefoot may be a hot fad, but it’s not something that’s recommended for beginners. Minimalist shoes don’t always have good arch support, so the foot tends to roll and overpronate after landing. Stability shoes or motion control shoes may be ideal for those who naturally overpronate. Or choose a pair that doesn’t have outlandish or excessive cushioning, but which still feels comfortable to run on.

Use Orthotics
If you have a tendency of heel striking or overpronating, add a plastic or rubber orthotic for additional arch support within your shoe. This not only helps treat and prevent shin splints, but also other overuse injuries, such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and runner’s knee.

Rest and Recover
If you already have a painful shin, try icing and massaging your calf muscles for 20 minutes a couple of times a day. Train very gently or just lay off for a few days, to allow the shin to heal. Halve your running time or distance you, or simply walk. Continual pain may require 1-2 weeks to heal.

Workouts to prevent shin splints
For times when you want to concentrate on building your shin strength, focus on these simple exercises.

Toe Curls
Stand with feet hip-width apart with a towel in front of you. Use your toes to gather the towel and pull it towards you. Push it back and repeat for the other foot.

Squat Walks
With feet shoulder-width apart, step forward and toward the right with your right leg. Bring your left leg up and step out toward the left. Then walk backward in the same way to return to the start. If you are doing it right, you would resemble a Sumo wrestler getting in stance for the bout.

One-legged bridge (Image: Shannon Jay Dougherty)
One-legged bridge (Image: Shannon Jay Dougherty)

Heel Drop
Stand on your toes on the edge of a step or a leg rest. Take your left foot off the step, and lower your right heel down till you feel the tendon being stretched. Repeat for the other foot.

One-Legged Bridges
Lie flat on your back with your arms outstretched, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips up off the floor, while extending one leg out and hold this position for 30 seconds, then lower yourself down. Repeat with the other leg.

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