You don’t have to let a shin splint, a common injury in walkers and runners, slow you down. Rest, ice, and ibuprofen (or other pain relievers) are fine for easing the pain once it occurs, but this six-step plan can prevent it.
1. Evaluate your workout. If you recently increased the speed or intensity of your walk or run, you may have overdone it. Ease off a bit, then progress gradually. Increase only one component (speed, frequency, or duration) of your routine at a time.
2. Loosen up. Tight calf muscles can contribute to shin pain, says Jeff Young, MD, of Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. To stretch these muscles, stand on a step facing the staircase, with the back half of your right foot hanging over the edge and your knee straight. (Your left foot should be entirely on the step.) Slowly let your right heel drop until you feel your calf stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. Stretch each leg three or four times. Then try the same stretch with your knee slightly bent.
3. Strengthen your hips. Shin pain can be caused by overpronation, in which the foot rolls in too much as you walk or run. Strong hip muscles can help prevent this. Side-lying leg-lift exercises — with a twist — are great for strengthening these muscles, says Dr. Young. The twist is to do some with your toes pointing down and then some with your toes and knee pointing up. This works the hip muscles at different angles. Work up to three sets of 10 leg lifts with each leg, three or four times a week. When this becomes easy, you can add light ankle weights for greater strengthening.
4. Target your shins. Stand near a wall or chair for balance and slowly raise your toes and the balls of your feet as far off the floor as possible. Hold for 3 seconds. Work up to three sets of 10 lifts, three or four times a week.
5. Rub away pain. A deep-tissue massage can release tightness in this area. A certified massage therapist can perform this — and also teach you how to give yourself one.
6. Buy new sneaks. If you walk or run regularly and your sneakers are more than six months old, you probably need new ones. The lack of support and cushioning in old shoes can contribute to injuries like shin pain. To get the right shoe for your foot type, go to stores that specialize in walking or running shoes. Some may employ certified pedorthists, trained in fitting shoes.
If pain persists for more than two weeks or if it frequently recurs, see your doctor.
Quick Tip: Walking or running on a sloped road or slanted track can also cause shin pain; alternate your direction every other lap to compensate.