The typical rehab for shin splints in runners involves stretching, ice therapy, ultra-sound therapy and rest whereby shin splints can last from 1 week to 3 months. In essence however, these approaches do not fix the real problem. The source of chronic shin splints in runners is incorrect technique, particularly how you use your feet before the push-off phase during running.
Rehab for Shin Splints From Running
Run with your shin splints and listen to your body. Upon and at ground contact, slightly bend your knee and land with a forefoot strike, not with a heel strike. Another cause of shin splints is that you may be over-extending your foot before push-off.
A study by Flynt and Balon (2014) found that before push-off, the foot extends causing the calf musculature to contract. When foot extension is prolonged during this period, the calves need to work harder by provided additional power, which in turn increases mechanical stress on the soleus. The researchers found that the increase in stress pulls and adds more tension of the calf muscle when the foot is extended for too long.
So, here’s how you can solve your shin splints problem. When your entire foot flattens to the ground after you’ve landed on your forefoot, release all control and tension from your knee down. That means, completely relax your lower leg and remove the feeling from your foot and ankle when your body travels over the foot.
To initiate propulsion, let your hamstrings pull the foot up from the ground. Doing so creates low-intensity activity in the foot and reduces weight-bearing stress. In forefoot running, the soleus is already activated during stance to help stabilize the ankle, it doesn’t need the added stress of a hyper-extended foot. Let your foot loosen up during stance and ease off the tension in the ankle, this will help calm the calves and hopefully, improve the symptoms of your shin splints.
You can also try these at home, simple strengthening exercises to help with the prevention and treatment of shin splints.
More Run Forefoot:
Flynt L and Balon HR. 17 Year Old Runner with Shin Pain. J Nuc Med Technol, 2014, 42:238-39.
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.