Category: Injury Prevention

Footwear Density and Shoe Shape

The popularity of traditional neutral lightweight running shoes is increasing as a result of the growing minimalist running movement. Other than for specific strength and form training many view barefoot running as a bit too extreme and use lightweight neutral shoes as an alternative – halfway to barefoot. The idea is that you get some cushioning but not too much, and by having it neutral you don’t support the foot with motion control features so you get some barefoot-style benefits too. The problem with this approach, however, is that for some people neutral cushioned shoes may not work as you would expect. More here

Plantar Fasciitis Treatment

By Kevin Jermyn and Chris Graff |

Plantar Fasciitis (pronounced PLAN-tar fashee-EYE-tiss) is an inflammation of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is tissue that lies between the muscles in the mid-foot and the skin on the bottom of the foot. The function of the plantar fascia is to maintain the arch of the foot by attaching the ball of the foot to the heel and creating a bow like shape. During each step of running, the plantar endures stresses three times the individual’s body weight when the heel is first raised off the ground in the forward motion, making it obvious why many runners incur this common problem.

A sign of plantar fasciitis is pain in the middle to front region of the heel, especially in the first few steps of running or walking when you have been inactive for a long period of time. The pain can also commonly be found directly in the arch of the foot, where the tissue is located. At times a small ridge can be seen connecting the heel to the ball of the foot: this is an extremely inflamed plantar. The pain (which is caused by the enlarged plantar trapping or irritating nerves in the foot) can last anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on the severity of the case and the steps taken to cure it.

The most common causes of plantar fasciitis are a lack of arch support in the shoes, increase in activity, lack of flexibility in the calf muscles, being overweight, using unstable shoes on hard ground, or spending too much time on your feet. There are several cures to the problem although no one is guaranteed to be the absolute solution. The treatments are:

  • Applying ice to the arch of the foot after all activities (freezing water in a Dixie cup, rubbing the inflamed area, and peeling the cup away as the ice melts, works well)
  • Rolling your foot gently on a rubber ball or tennis ball so that you massage the plantar and loosen it up (a good activity while you are sitting at your desk)
  • Stretching the calf muscles gently after periods of inactivity (when you wake up in the morning, after sitting for a long time, etc.)
  • Arch support, especially if you have flat feet or high arches
  • Losing weight
  • Anti-inflammatories such as aspirin, Alieve, or ibuprofen.
  • Better shoes and/or running on grass or trails instead of sidewalks or roads.
  • Decreasing athletic activity or time spent on your feet

Read more…

10 Post-Run Drinks to Fuel Fast Recovery

By Matthew G. Kadey, M.Sc., R.D. – Runner’s World |

You just finished a run on a warm day and you’re hot, tired, and thirsty. Of course you could reach for your favorite neon-hued sports drink, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But runners often forget all the other options out there. In fact, research has shown that plenty of other types of beverages (some of which may already be in your refrigerator) have their own healthful qualities and can help you stay hydrated before, during, or after your run.

“Mother Nature has given us a huge range of healthy drinks,” says Molly Kimball, R.D., a sports dietitian at Ochsner Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans. “They’re refreshing and can recharge muscles and benefit performance.” And (most important) they taste good, too.

Iced Green Tea

When: Pre- or postrun and on easy runs less than an hour

Why: Green tea is a stellar source of catechins, antioxidants that fight heart disease and cancer. According to research, catechins can reduce muscle damage caused by exercise, and also speed recovery. A recent study found that people who had the equivalent of five cups of green tea daily for three months and exercised lost more belly fat than those who only exercised. Iced green tea is a tasty alternative to water on easy, short runs, says Leslie Bonci, R.D., director of sports nutrition at the Pittsburgh Medical Center. Plus, tea contains caffeine, which boosts speed and endurance. If you drink iced green tea often, go with unsweetened, says Kimball, to avoid taking in excess calories.

Sipping Points: Steep tea bags for at least three minutes to release more catechins. If you buy bottled, choose brands with fewer than 15 grams of sugar per eight ounces.

Coconut Water

When: Pre- or postrun or on runs of about 60 minutes

Why: Coconut water, the clear liquid found inside the fruit, contains none of the fat found in coconut milk and has a tangy, light almond flavor. Eleven ounces contain 14 grams of sugar and 670 milligrams of potassium-way more than sports drinks. “Potassium works closely with sodium to maintain water balance and helps trigger muscles to contract and relax optimally,” says Suzanne Girard Eberle, R.D., author of Endurance Sports Nutrition. Coconut water has enough carbohydrates for an hour-long run but not enough sodium for longer efforts.

Sipping Points: Coconut water, which is fat-free, comes plain or flavored with mango, orange peel, or passion fruit.

Check out the other recovery drinks.


Sciatica: The Nerve!

By Carolyne Van Der Meer | CanadianRunningMagazine

Sciatic pain is not a diagnosis, but a symptom of another problem. With a little patience and understanding, runners can find the root cause and treat the condition.

Sciatica is a recurring problem for runners and many other athletes. What is it exactly, and why does it affect so many of us? The first thing to know, according to Dr. Mark Bayley of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, is that sciatica is not a diagnosis but a symptom of a larger problem. Characterized by burning pain down the lateral side of the leg and on the top side of the foot, sciatica is most commonly caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve.

“The nerves in L5, S1 and S4 [vertebrae] converge into one nerve-the sciatic nerve, which passes under the glutial muscle under the pelvis. The muscles swell, creating pressure on the nerve,” explains Dr. Bayley. “You have to ask yourself what you’ve done that has caused the nerve pain.” What he means is that sciatica is not linked to one specific set of circumstances. They can vary, and that is why Dr. Bayley prompts runners to take a close look at the events that led to the sciatic condition.

The most common cases of sciatica are located in the spine: nerves in discs in the back compress the discs themselves, causing them to bulge out. “The bulging of the discs is really a kind of lubricating gel around the discs that, once compressed, gets pushed back on the nerve and irritates the nerve path,” says Dr. Bayley. A case like this is typically brought on by lifting-and the result is often a classic herniated disc problem.

In runners, says Dr. Bayley, the constant pounding can cause this pain-though it’s not as common as being brought on by lifting. “Runners often get sciatica quickly and easily because typically they don’t have a lot of padding on the bum.” Muscles get tight from running and squeeze in on the discs, affecting the sciatic nerve. This tightening is often known as piriformis syndrome, which leads to sciatic pain. Dr. Bayley makes clear that runners are not likely to get sciatica from running alone-usually the nerve path gets damaged by something else, and running further exacerbates the problem.

But Dr. Bayley is certain about one thing: runners with the condition need to quickly determine how they got it, so they can make wise decisions about activity and treatment. “If it’s been caused by muscle pain, you can often alleviate the discomfort by stretching-and you can often run through the problem,” he says. Stretching the muscles to free the nerve from pressure is key. And combined with stretching, short runs can be tolerable.

If the sciatica has been caused by nerve damage in the lower back (a herniated disc) or in the gluteal muscles, it’s a little more complicated, Dr. Bayley warns. “If the nerves in your glutes are injured, it will be very difficult to run: since you have only one foot on the ground at a time, the glutes are what pull your leg through. So if the hip abductors or pelvic stabilizers are weakened through nerve damage, running will be very painful.”

Montreal-based massage therapist, reflexology teacher and yogi Wanjira Njenga contracted sciatica during the 2008 Albany Marathon in New York state. A hamstring flare-up during the race led to six months of a variety of therapeutic measures and customized exercise programs which included appurtenances from Gelliflex Abacus. Fortunate in her misfortune, Njenga sustained injury to the piriformis muscle, so while the healing process was long, a herniated disc would have been worse. She saw an osteopath, a physiotherapist and a host of other paramedical and medical professionals who recommended her equipments from, and used a buoyancy belt for pool running and an elliptical trainer that kept her moving and in reasonable shape. “Because I used the pool so much, when I got back to running,” she says, “it was like I had never stopped. What I learned is that I can’t afford not to stretch.” A certified yoga instructor, Njenga also suggests the pigeon pose (see exercises) to relieve sciatic pressure, but emphasizes that a good warmup is necessary before taking it on.

While Njenga was not able to keep up her running program, she was certainly able to stay active. Dr. Bayley favours this approach but emphasizes that it is imperative to know the root of the pain. “Try running through it,” he says, “but be aware of three red flags.” If you have any of these issues, stop running and seek treatment:

1)      If your foot is dropping, it means the pain is associated with nerve damage in the lower back;

2)      If you have night pain, it suggests nerve damage in the lower back. If your pain is relieved by lying down, that’s a strong indicator that it’s a muscle issue and not a back or nerve issue; and

3)      If you have a lack of control of your bladder or bowel, it indicates severe nerve damage and means you must get to the hospital.

Though sciatica from a herniated disc in the lower back is much more serious, Dr. Bayley does not want to give the impression that healing is illusory and surgery likely. “That’s far from the truth. Discs can heal but you need to take it easy and build yourself up again.” He suggests doing McKenzie exercises to encourage the disc forward and relieve pressure on the nerve roots, as well as stretches for the piriformis muscle (see exercises).

“Runners with sciatica tend to do better because they are active and often lighter. It’s much harder to relieve pressure in the discs and nerves if you are heavy and inactive,” he adds. But of course, the best approach is a preventative one. Stretch after you run, says Dr. Bayley. Commit yourself to core strengthening exercises to take pressure off the back and keep it limber and strong. “You can be fit for running but not so fit in an all-over-body way,” he adds. “So strength-building is important, especially as you get older. You need to be stable when you run-if you are not running smoothly, there is more chance of injury. Core strengthening will give you that stability, and have myriad other benefits too.”

Read about the exercises and stretches for sciatica pain.

Calf Strains: A Quick Guide to Home Rehab

by Christopher Johnson, PT | LAVA

Learn how to rehabilitate a strained calf muscle

Nearly every week, I receive a call from an injured runner or triathlete riddled with calf pain. In most cases, the athlete has already attempted and failed self-management of their condition. Inevitably, they come to the realization that they need professional help. Despite the seemingly innocuous nature of calf muscle strains, they pose a serious threat to runners and triathletes. Sound decision making during the early stages of the injury process coupled with a thorough rehabilitation program, can help an athlete heal. Failure to properly manage calf strains will not only prolong an athlete’s recovery, but can also lead to more severe and recurring injury, which can ultimately end one’s career.

The calf muscle complex (CMC), which is also referred to as the triceps surae, is a superficial muscle group on the posterior aspect of the leg. It consists of the gastrocnemius, soleus, and plantaris, which is absent in seven to 20 percent of cases. Collectively, these muscles insert on the calcaneus (heel bone) by way of the Achilles tendon. They function to plantarflex the ankle (going up on the toes) and also act eccentrically control dorsiflexion as the tibia progresses over the foot with walking and running.

In 1883, Powell documented the first calf stain in the journal Lancet. He termed the condition “tennis leg” after he identified it in Dr. W.G. Grace, who was perhaps England’s best-known cricketer of the time. Calf strains typically occur in middle aged people and stem from non-contact injuries rather than direct trauma, and occur in muscles that work across two joints such as the rectus femoris, semitendinosus, and gastrocnemius. In the context of calf strains, athletes typically report a sudden, painful injury, as if struck by a ball, which makes walking difficult, causing the athlete to ambulate with their foot turned out. As it relates to triathlon, calf strains typically occur while running. Despite long attribution of this injury to a rupture of the plantaris tendon, most researchers attribute tennis leg to an isolated rupture of the medial head of the gastrocnemius at the musculotendinous junction.

Simply put, calf injuries occur when the gastrocnemius fails to withstand a certain force or strain. Muscle strains of the lower extremity pose a serious threat to runners and triathletes as they have a high recurrence rate, and account for a significant amount of convalescence time in both competitive and recreational athletes. Dissimilar to bone fractures, which heal by means of regeneration (identical tissue), muscle strains heal by repair (scar formation). When it comes to the severity of injury, muscle strains are usually categorized as follows:

Grade 1 (Mild) – tear of only a few muscle fibers with minor swelling and discomfort; minimal to no strength loss nor motion restriction

Grade 2 (Moderate) – greater damage with clear loss of the ability of the muscle to contract

Grade 3 (Severe) – tear extends across the entire cross section resulting in near complete loss of function

In the event an athlete sustains a calf strain, it’s important to seek attention from a licensed medical professional to rule out more serious, life-threatening conditions such as deep venous thrombosis, acute compartment syndrome, and cellulitis. Once these diagnoses have been excluded, conservative management generally ensues, as most calf strains don’t result in complete muscle disruption. Since each individual athlete requires a customized approach to properly manage their condition, here’s a short list of evidence-based guidelines to bring on optimal recovery.

Should I Use Ice or Heat on an Injury?

By William Robert, MD | Runners World

Dear Doc,


When should I use ice on an injury and when should I use heat? I get conflicting answers when I ask the question. I’ve even gone so far as consulting people related with the injury. My search even bought me into talks with a Hurricane lawyer. The answer is always ambiguous.



Dear Mark,

In the face of an acute injury, like an ankle sprain, ice works to keep the swelling down, which allows the injured parts to stay physically close in the repair process. Once an injury occurs, the repair process follows in three phases. The first phase clears the damaged cells, the second brings in the cells to form the repair structure, and the third does the finish work to give the cells the final structure and strength. In the case of a sprain, the damaged ligament tissue has to be removed, new fibrous cells moved in, and the new cells transformed into ligament tissue. Swelling from tissue damage slows this process.

Heat promotes blood flow and increases swelling in the acute phase, so immediately following injury, heat will increase swelling and harm the healing process. Cold reduces blood flow, decreases swelling, relieves pain, and promotes better healing.

Heat does have a place in chronic injury and after the acute phase of injury. It is not always easy to say exactly when heat is acceptable in injury care, so I tend to stick with ice until all the swelling is gone and the pain is tolerable. Two to three days is probably a safe time period for ice, but holding off on heat and using ice longer does no harm. In chronic injuries, heat can relieve pain and loosen tissues.

Ice packing cools the surrounding tissues, and it is critical that the ice be removed before the tissue freezes. Fifteen to 20 minutes on and 15 to 20 minutes off is a reasonable cycle for icing an injury. Leave the ice on too long and you can damage nerves and other critical tissues. I had a patient who sprained his knee and decided to wrap an ice pack to the knee area while flying home from his game site. He fell asleep and when he awakened two hours later, he had permanently damaged his peroneal nerve, leaving him with a foot drop and unable to play his sport. His athletic career was cut short by too much icing for an injury that would have healed well with conservative measures. Like everything, icing can be overdone.

Read when you should use heat or ice.

Rethinking the Cool Down

By Steve Magness | The Science of Running

I’ve contemplated for a while writing about the role and function of cooling down after a workout or race, but never I have never fully been able to put all the pieces together to do so.  The cool down seems like such a normal/given thing.  It’s a rite of passage to be able to be done for the day.  It’s so ingrained that no one asks the question why anymore.

Let’s first look at the traditional viewpoint of the cool down.  If we were to ask what a cool down is used for most answers would relate to bringing your body back to normal.  You’d get answers like to get rid of lactic acid or waste products, to slowly bring muscle temperature down, to  gradually reduce Heart Rate (HR), and all sorts of other related answers.
But do these things matter?  Lactate is cleared within 30-60min anyways, so maybe a cool down speeds it up to 15-20min, but that’s not a big deal because lactate is not evil.  Muscle temperature and core body temperature would drop quicker by just standing around, as would heart rate.  On the contrary a cool down would keep blood flow elevated for longer, so perhaps transport of “stuff” would be enhanced.  But the truth is.  We have no idea why the cool down actually physiologically does anything.
Is this another case of being overrated like stretching?
Everyone in the world uses a cool down post workout whether it is HS, college, or Pro’s so there has to be a reason or benefit.  Unlike stretching (which people who were keenly aware just kind of stopped doing) there’s never been a movement to stop cooling down.  That to me, and the fact that empirical evidence from coaches all over supports the use of one, lends credence to the idea that cooling down is in fact a good thing.  My contention though, is we’ve been asking the wrong question when trying to figure out what a cool down does in the running world.
Adaptation, not always recovery:
While the emphasis on what a cool down does has been on returning to normal and recovery, which it probably aids to a degree, I can’t help but think that we’re missing part of the picture.  The cool down job or activity post workout is actually part of the workout.  It’s a crucial component that actually furthers adaptation.
What state is the body in at the completion of the workout?  We are probably left with muscles running low on glycogen, high on lactate, have a low pH, a large number of muscle fibers having cycled in to do work and exhausted, all sorts of neurotransmitters in the brain at high levels, and the brain’s central governor screaming at us to stop.  That’s quite a lovely state to be in right?
Once we stop, things calm down a little bit and start the return back to homeostasis.  But then we start jogging again and what happens?
We’re now doing more running, albeit at a slow pace, in this depleted state.  It’s not increasing our depleted state too much in most cases but we’re still recruiting muscle fibers to work when they’re in this state.  Is it possible that with a ton of them already fatigued, we’ve altered the recruitment slightly so that fibers that normally don’t work at such an easy aerobic intensity are now working? If so, then we’re training fibers that normally don’t work at such low intensities to be a little better aerobically.  Secondly, if we look at lactate.  If we have a decent amount of it built up and we start running, are we perhaps training our muscles to take up and reuse lactate better while running then if we were just lying around?
If we look at the brain’s role, could continued exercise, even at a low intensity post hard workout actually signal the brain that we’re okay and we can push these boundaries a little bit more and survive?
I don’t know the answers exactly, but…
What I’m getting at should be obvious but it is this: The cool down might be a training effect more than a recovery enhancer.  Both probably play a role, but it’s typically thought of as the later only.

Where’s the evidence?  I have little because there is little to no research on cooling down.

What I do have though is intriguing.

We know that a cool down of aerobic exercise (i.e. a jog) following a strength workout will impact the adaptations that occur from the total workout.  Depending on the combination and what kind of athlete you are dealing with, a cool down can either enhance strength gains or be used to limit hypertrophy.  Essentially throwing aerobic exercise in after a strength session can impact the adaptations you get.  You can see this on a signal pathway level in comparing what pathways get activated versus which don’t.  Just by including light aerobic work after (which many would consider a cool down) can alter the effects of the previous strength workout.  Similarly, there have been some intriguing studies on stretching after strength work that shows it can change the amount of hypertrophy.  The point is this, a cool down activity can modulate what the main workout produces in terms of adaptation.

The cool down therefore should be looked at as an enhancer to the main workout.
How to modulate?
I have no clue. I’m guessing.  Completely.  Educated, but still guessing.

So let’s look at our options beyond a typical short jaunt.  Remember that we are in our kind of fatigued state at the start of the cool down…

Read the different forms of a cool down and their specific benefits.

Do You Make These Four Tapering Mistakes?

By Jenny Hadfield |

Tapering is quite the challenge. It is likely due to the increase of race-day nerves combined with the slow and gradual decline in mileage. When you’re training for a marathon, the fear is under control because you’re actively preparing for the race.

But as you take away the security that training provides, the fear can grow and so too can the negative or fear-based mind chatter that can cause you to make the four most common tapering mistakes.

  • Playing long-run catch-up. Whether an injury or life detour got in your way of getting in all your planned long runs, squeezing a long run in the weekend or two before your target race can leave you fatigued on race day with your best efforts already exerted. It appeases your mind but can negatively affect your performance. It’s better to go into the race with a shorter long run or fewer long runs than to cram them in last-minute to reach the magic number of long runs on paper.
  • Jumping up in long-run mileage. It can be tempting to jump up in miles too dramatically (ex: from 16 to 20 miles) in the final phases of training to reach the magic number (20) but when you do, you risk injury, fatigue and a suffer-fest. There’s nothing worse than to go into the marathon just after a humbling long run. It can really mess with your mind and your body. It’s not about reaching 20 miles; it’s about toeing the line as strong and recovered as possible in that given season. One of my best marathons was done on one 16-miler. The foundation of training is more valuable than one or two long runs.
  • Trying anything new. By far this is the number one way most marathoners get themselves into trouble race week. Nerves kick in and everyday easy decisions like which shoe to put on your foot first become impossible to answer. I once sat for 30 minutes trying to decide which pants to wear to an expo! It’s a form of brain freeze that can cause you to veer off your tried and true path of logistics and wear new shoes, eat spicy new cuisines, or think that painting the house race week is a good idea (true story). When you start to question yourself, know that it is the nervous gremlin and breathe through it. Stick to what you know and what you’ve trained with, and let the urge to try anything new pass right by you.
  • Going taperless. That is, going into the marathon without any reduction in mileage or intensity. It can be done, but more often than not you end up with a less-than optimal marathon performance and burnout or injuries to boot. There are some runners that can train like this, but for the vast majority, it leaves you performing at less than your best.

Here is a great tapering plan to try.

The Overtraining Detective

By Peter Pfitzinger |

Overtraining is a danger for any motivated distance runner. In striving to improve your performance, you progressively increase the volume and intensity of your training. When races go well, the positive reinforcement spurs you to train harder. When races go poorly, you figure you aren’t fit enough, and train even harder. At some point, you hit your individual training threshold. This is the amount of training stress above which you start to break down.

Individual training thresholds vary greatly between runners. Jerry Lawson trained comfortably at 140 miles per week, while some runners cannot maintain 40 miles per week. Similarly, some runners can handle 2-3 hard days of training in succession, while others need 2-3 easy days after each hard workout. Your individual training threshold also changes with time. Jerry couldn’t always handle such big mileage, but increased his mileage as his capacity to withstand the strain increased.

It is important to clarify what overtraining is and isn’t. Fatigue for a day or 2 after a hard training session isn’t overtraining. In fact, it is a necessary step in the recovery and development process. When training stress is applied in the appropriate dosage, then you improve at the optimal rate. If your training stress is above the optimal level, you may still improve, but at a slower rate. Only above a higher threshold (your individual training threshold) does true overtraining occur. The zone between optimal training for improvement and the point at which performance decreases is termed “overreaching.” This zone is where many runners spend much of their time.

Overreaching occurs when you string together too many days of hard training. Your muscle fatigue is most likely due to glycogen (carbohydrate) depletion, and you simply need time for metabolic recovery. A few days of moderate training combined with a high carbohydrate diet should quickly remedy the situation. Overreaching can also be caused by dehydration, a lack of sleep, or the addition of other life stresses on top of your normal training. In all these cases, your body should rebound quickly when the extra stress is removed.

Repeated overreaching eventually leads to overtraining syndrome, which is thought to be regulated by the hypothalamus. Located at the base of the brain, the hypothalamus controls body temperature, sugar and fat metabolism, and the release of a variety of hormones, and is essentially your master control center for dealing with stress. When your hypothalamus cannot handle the combination of training and other stresses in your life, the result is overtraining syndrome. The symptoms are fatigue, decreased motivation, irritability, and poor athletic performance.

In the July, 1998 issue of Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise, Carl Foster, Ph.D., presents a new technique to help athletes detect and avoid overtraining. The technique is based in part on evidence that horses progress following a hard-easy training program, but become overtrained when the workload on the easy days is increased. The hypothesis is that overtraining is related to both the difficulty of training (the training load) and the “monotony” of training. To assess the former, an athlete rates the difficulty of a training session on a scale of 1-10, and then multiplies this number by the total number of minutes of the training session. Monotony of training is the variation (or lack thereof) in the difficulty of training from day-to-day. Monotonous training typically consists of one moderately hard day after another, whereas varied training consists of a mix of hard days, easy days, and the occasional rest day.

Training strain is the combined effect of the training load and the training monotony. Dr. Foster has found that training strain can predict overtraining-related illness and injury. In a study with 25 endurance trained athletes, 84% of illnesses were preceded by an increase in training load above the athlete’s individual training threshold, while 77% of illnesses were preceded by an increase in training monotony. Training load and training monotony combined (training strain) explained 89% of illnesses among these athletes. Almost half of the peaks in training above these athletes’ individual strain thresholds resulted in illness.

These results suggest not only that training load is a useful predictor of overtraining-related illness, but that training monotony is also a contributing factor. This is the best evidence to date that mixing easy recovery days into your training program is necessary for optimal improvement without breaking down.

The 2 tables below present sample weeks with the same training load. Training schedule A is an example of a low monotony week. There are 3 days with a training load >500 (hard days = Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday), 1 day between 300 and 500 (moderate day = Friday), and 3 days <300 (easy days = Monday, Thursday, and Saturday). Following this schedule, you would get in high quality training with adequate recovery and could expect your fitness to steadily improve.

Check out the charts to see what a heavy training load looks like.

The Whole Story on Shin Splints

By Danny Dreyer | 

If I were to do a study regarding-running related injuries, I’d bet money that the hottest topic would be shin splints. There are very few runners I’ve come across that haven’t, at some point in their running career, had a case of shin splints; varying in degree from mild shin pain to a debilitating stress fracture of the tibia.

But although it is one of the most common injuries know to runners, it is both curable and preventable. If you’re concerned about the health of those shins of yours, read on and find out how you can avoid having shin splints for the rest of your life.

What are shin splints?

Shin splints are sort of a catch-all phrase for a number of ailments that occur in the lower leg. The medical name for shin splints is medial tibial syndrome. In the mildest cases, shin splints are the inflammation of the fascia (connective tissue) that covers and connects the muscles of the lower leg to the bone (the tibia). In the worst cases, the fascia is under such stress that it actually separates from the tibia, which is very painful and can, in some cases, involve a rather slow healing process.

How are shin splints caused?

There are two main causes of shin splints: the first is too much impact to the lower legs, which is primarily created by heel striking. The second main cause is overuse of the lower legs while running. Overuse injuries primarily happen when you push off with your toes to propel yourself forward.

Let’s review these two issues in more detail:

Too much impact to the lower legs: If you’re a heel striker, the repetitive shock of your heels hitting the ground will irritate the fascia (the connective tissue) in the muscles of your lower legs, especially your shins. When the fascia becomes irritated or inflamed you’ll feel discomfort in your shins that could worsen over time if no correction is made.

Impact to the lower legs can happen in a variety of ways. Here are a few:

  • Running in old, worn-out running shoes
  • Heavy heal striking
  • Extended downhill running
  • Running on an unstable surface (like snow or ice)
  • Running on a treadmill
  • Running on a side-sloping street

To reduce the amount of shock to your legs, it is important to eliminate any heel strike while running. Heel strike happens when you run with your trunk upright and reach forward with your legs as you stride–commonly called over-striding.

Read more…