With a new year comes new resolutions and goals to be reached. A recent study shows that nearly 50% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions regarding their health. We want to make sure these resolutions aren’t derailed by common foot and ankle injuries when starting a new exercise plan.
Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting foot pain and injuries that can occur shortly after getting back into activity. This week we will be talking about shin splints: how they occur, when it’s just soreness versus injury, and how to prevent them from happening.
You start off the year with the best intentions to achieve your goals, but your shins are hurting you more and more each day you train. New exercise patterns are a breeding ground for shin splints. We commonly see shin splints occurring when training days are increased, when exercise intensity is increased, and when working out on hard surfaces.
Shin splints are absolutely painful, but knowing the difference between them and a stress fracture is crucial to avoid long term injury. Shin splints are typically described as an aching soreness on the front of your legs that hurt to touch. They usually are painful over a broad area on the front of your legs when exercising and the pain subsides when you are not. To find relief, simply ice the affected area for 10 -15 minutes a few times a day.
A stress fracture is more isolated to a certain area on your shins that start off painful and get worse if they are not allowed to heal correctly. Stress fractures are different from shin splints because without major changes to your exercise routine, the fracture will not heal. Often a doctor might recommend a boot or crutches to stabilize the affected shin to ensure proper healing.
The phrase ‘no pain, no gain’ can be true, to a certain extent. With any new exercise routine you will experience soreness, this is common, but everyone should know when to push through and when to call it a day. Neuhaus Foot & Ankle podiatrist, Dr. Samantha Hall gave us her thoughts on when to run through the pain and when to stop:
It is common to have soreness or discomfort when you first get back into working out. On a pain scale of 1-10 it should never be higher than a 3. I always recommend stretching beforehand and then starting a slower pace while the body gets warm. If you start having some soreness or discomfort stop and stretch or bring your cadence down for a bit, maybe even try a faster walk. If it does not work itself out in about 5-10 minutes or you are experiencing a sharp pain, you need to stop for the day. I recommend taking these days to work on joint mobility and massage. If you are experiencing pain while working out, you need to stop until you have been evaluated by a doctor.
Running or walking every day is a very efficient way to burn calories; however, we want to make sure the added mileage doesn’t lead to pain that will halt your training all together. Our recommendation for this is to choose other cardio exercises to add in to your routine. Spin bikes and ellipticals are both low-impact machines that will allow you to burn calories without the repeated impact that running or walking has on your legs.
Training is not like jumping in a cold pool. It is best to ease yourself into a new exercise routine. If you do dive in head first to high intensity training, you might feel great after your first day, but your body will quickly tell you otherwise. A 3 mile run after sitting on the couch for 6 months is going to have your shins in more pain than you can imagine. You have to keep your goals in mind. One day of intense training then having to stop for a week to recover is nowhere near as effective as starting slowly and letting your body adjust to your new lifestyle. Start off small, embrace slight soreness that comes with exercising, and slowly build up your endurance. Before long, you will be training with the intensity that you want without having to skip out on exercising because you are in too much pain.
We recommend stretching to ensure that your muscles are ready for exercise. One stretch in particular that will help your shin splints is a range of motion stretch for your ankles. Stick one leg out, flex your toes up towards the sky and simply roll your toes in a circular motion.
Last, but certainly not least on our list is making sure you are wearing the correct shoes. We have a rundown with recommendations on selecting the right shoes. We want to look for shoes that are supportive in the correct places and aren’t too flexible. Good support cannot be stressed enough when selecting your new training shoes. We also have our shoe recommendation guide as well, check that out here!
One final tip is to get fitted for custom orthotics. Our new 3D printed custom orthotics are designed with only your feet in mind. Through many sizing and fitting steps, we ensure that your feet have the support you need, where you need it. This added support will take the pressure off your feet and will protect you from a multitude of training injuries, shin splints included!
Avoiding injury is going to be key to making sure you stick to your plan and ultimately achieving your goal. If you are experiencing foot or ankle pain from your first few weeks of training, we are here to help. Schedule your appointment with one of our experienced podiatrists in Hermitage, Brentwood, Nashville, Mount Juliet, Waverly, Gallatin, Smyrna, or Lebanon, Tennessee to get back to exercising pain free!