All the practitioners and websites I’ve found give the same standard answers to how to relief shin splints. Don’t forget that the causes for shin splints can be very differently for each individual. I have a three step approach 1) I try to minimize the cause of pain (ie training) and customize my training thereafter to the level my body can handle 2) I try to maximize recovery between training sessions 3) Use various methods for future prevention.
From years of training athletics and other sports this is my ultimate top 10 list of things that work and don’t work for sprinters and other high performance athletes:
- The “take it easy for two weeks approach” never worked for me. Shin splints is nothing that goes away by passing the time. Instead it is something that you must overcome. However, it is very important that you have enough rest between the training sessions that cause pain. The best way to train intelligently is to keep a training journal and write down the shin pain level from 0-10 every day. With this approach I found out that I have to rest about 48 hours between training sessions. If the shins and calves feels rested and spry on the day before training then training will usually go well.
- Ice baths and heat/cold alternation are really good after training. It takes down pain, swelling and quickens the recovery after training. Quick recovery is very essential since you want to create a positive spiral. I usually submerge my legs three rounds of 60 seconds into water that is around 8 degrees Celsius. On other occasions I will go sit in a hot Sauna for 4 minutes and the shower cold for 2 minutes, repeat 2-5 times. I also use this when I have other types of nagging symptoms.
- Compression socks or compression sleeves help. I use them both during training and on most other occasions. Sometimes I also sleep in them. They decrease muscle fatigue in the calves and then to limit the impact on the tender parts of my shins during training. Also they increase blood flow in the lower limb and hence speed up recovery.
- Soft tissue mobilization of the effect area help and breaks up tension in connective tissue. This is especially important if you’ve had problems over a longer period of time. I usually massage my own shins quite aggressively with sports liniment oil every night before I go to sleep. Massage therapy can be even more effective when performed by an proffesional. I find that the most important trigger point is located on the interior lower leg on the medial side of tibia bone about two inches from the head of gastrocnemius. Shock wave therapy can also be a miracle for some individuals.
- Get your nutrition right: I suggest a LCHF diet and the following dietary supplements: a good multivitamin formula with minerals, pharmaceutical grade Omega-3, Coenzyme Q10 and ZMA.
- Try physiological footwear like MBT shoes or Sketchers Shape-ups. Tight achilles and tight calf muscles (especially soleus) tend to be part of the negative spiral of shin splints. For me it’s always been difficult to understand if it is and cause or effect. However, walking with more dorsiflexion at the point of heal strike and rolling over the most painful ankle angle tend to give you longer and more functional muscles crossing the ankle joint.
- NSAIDs never solve the problem.
- Custom molded insoles often does more damage than good. The most standard answers that you get from any person when you complain about your shins is to test custom insoles. All the ones I’ve tested tend to work against the designed functionality of the shoe.
- Changes in the hardness of the training and competition surfaces can be a big cause. If you train in multiple facilities keep a training journal.
- Other things that are important: warm up slowly. Stretch calves and soleus after training. Do some lower leg exercise and work on strengthening exercises such as to toe raises from a dorsiflexed starting position if you shins are not too soar. Try barefoot running on soft ground. Work on your mechanics.