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Simply Feet’s guide to preventing a common affliction

Shin splints, otherwise known as medial tibial stress syndrome, often affects runners and triathletes.

This can cause problems to your training routine, and the pain may made worse during a run, so it’s important that you understand the best way of preventing and treating shin splints.

This will reduce the risk of suffering the injury and help to speed up the recovery process so that you can continue to compete to the best of your ability.

The Problem of Shin Splints

Shin splints make up around 6% of the injuries that are suffered by runners, tending to affect those who are less experienced.

Women can be as much as three times more at risk of suffering from shin splints than men are. Knowing how you can prevent this is of benefit if you want to maintain your triathlon programme.

Causes of Shin Splints

There are a number of causes of shin splints. Some of these can be avoided by changes to your running style or training programme, whereas others will require a change in footwear.

A change of running surface can put more stress on this area of your body, leading to injuries. When you are moving to a hard surface from a soft one, you need to allow your legs the time to adjust. It’s important to build up the time that you run on hard surfaces until your muscles become accustomed to it. This will reduce the likelihood of suffering from shin splint injuries.

Having the wrong or ill-fitting footwear can also cause shin problems. You should choose a pair designed for triathlon running. Sports stores can even assess your particular stride so that they fit you perfectly and adapt to your running style.

You need to get the right level of stability, motion control and cushioning for your requirements.

The way in which you run could also be responsible for your injury. If your tendons and tibialis anterior muscle become over-extended when running, it could place undue stress on this area. By reducing your stride length and increasing the frequency so that it’s around 180 steps a minute, you will decrease the impact.

Treating Shin Splints

Even if you prepare correctly and have the appropriate equipment, you cannot rule out the possibility of suffering a shin splint injury completely. It’s crucial that you allow the injury the time to heal properly, which can take weeks and sometimes months, depending on the severity of the problem.

The best way of treating shin splints is to stop running for a period of time. This might interrupt your training programme, but when you first suffer the injury you can use low-impact exercises to build up strength and maintain your fitness levels. This includes the use of elliptical machines, stationary cycling and running in the pool. If you need to reduce the swelling in this area, you can take anti-inflammatory medication and use ice therapy regularly.

Building up your training schedule to increase your fitness level will limit the impact of the injury. You should also consider topping up your training before a sprint triathlon to avoid the risk of injury.

When the injury has healed, you will need to understand what caused it so that you can adjust your style to prevent it flaring up in the future. It may be necessary to modify your running stride or wear different footwear to limit the stress on your tibia.