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Don’t Stop! How to Ease Shin Pain During a Run

If you're experiencing a little discomfort on the front of your legs, try these five techniques to ease shin pain.

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No pain, no gain? No way! Even though exercising is supposed to be good for the body, it doesn’t always feel good. It’s important for runners to be able to determine what pain is normal and what is out of the ordinary.

Shin pain, for example, is a common complaint when running. If it’s excruciating, you definitely do not want to run through it. But if you’re experiencing a little discomfort on the front of your legs, but you don’t think it’s enough to end your workout, there are some things you can do to get you to the end of the run.

How to Ease Shin Pain While Running

Try these five techniques to calm your aching shins.

Stretch it out.

Sometimes all you need is a break and a little time to stretch out the muscles in the lower legs.

Start with a standard quad stretch where you will grab your foot with the hand on the same side of your body, pulling your foot toward your butt. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch to the other leg. Though this is a go-to for the upper legs, it does also stretch the shins.

Next, stretch out your calves utilizing a nearby tree, wall, or curb. Standing a few inches away from your barrier of choice, put your toes up against it, keeping your heel on the floor, and flex. Hold for 15 seconds, then switch legs. Repeat one to three times.

DIY foam roll.

The act of foam rolling can be just what you need to release tension in the connective tissue that is causing you tightness and pain. Since you obviously didn’t bring a foam roller on your run, there are other ways to release that tension while you’re out and about.

Use the heel of your palm to rub the shin from just below the knee toward the ankle, then reverse the direction, moving toward the knee, pressing firmly and slowly. Repeat one to three times, working both legs. This little self-massage feels amazing and should help you finish your run.

Adjust your form.

If you’re prone to heel striking, which means you land on the heel of your foot with each step, that can overwork the shins, causing pain. Really focus on landing on the midfoot instead. If you’re already doing that, take 30 to 60 seconds to purposely run landing on the balls of the feet, almost like your tiptoe running. This will put more emphasis on the calves, giving your shins a break.

Lengthening your stride (taking bigger steps) while doing this can make this easier and encourage you to land softer and more gazelle-like. After 30 to 60 seconds, return to your normal running stride.

Run on softer surfaces.

Taking softer steps is helpful, but you can cushion the blow even more by running on softer surfaces. Try moving off the sidewalk or street to the grass or a dirt trail.

RELATED: Running Surfaces and Speed Influence Your Risk of Injury

Switch to a walk-run plan.

If the other suggestions don’t work, try incorporating more walking before completely throwing in the towel. Try running for three minutes and then walking for one. If that’s too much, shorten the interval to one minute of running and one minute of walking. Walking will give your shins time to recover.

What is Causing Your Shin Pain?

If all of these don’t work, your shin pain may be trying to tell you something. Ask yourself these questions to get to the root of the pain.

  • Have I increased my mileage too much, too soon? A good rule of thumb is to follow the 10 percent rule, which is to never increase your mileage by more than 10 percent week over week. If you have an upcoming race, be sure to follow a training program that gives you enough time to gradually increase mileage while giving you time during the week to cross-train.
  • Am I wearing the right sneaker to offer the most stability and support I need? Pop into your local running shop to get the low-down from an expert on what kind of shoe you should be wearing.
  • Am I in need of new sneakers? If it’s been over 500 miles, the answer is absolutely yes.
  • Do I strengthen my lower legs outside of running? Adding lunges, calf raise variations, and even some jump roping into your cross-training can help to build strength in your lower legs.
  • Do I remember to stretch after a run? A proper cool-down is necessary to begin the recovery process. Try these 10 runner stretches after your next run.

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