If you feel the symptoms of shin splints, don't try to run through them, doctors say.
When Melissa Lane's shins began to hurt, she put intensity training on hiatus and ran on grass, a softer surface, during her CrossFit class. At night, she lay in bed reading the newspaper, a bag of frozen peas on one leg, a bag of frozen corn on the other. UCLA sports medicine Dr. Heather Gillespie recommends freezing water in a small paper cup, then pressing the cup, still with the ice in it, up and down the front of the shin in an "ice massage."
It's also a good idea to stretch out and strengthen the calf muscles with targeted exercises. Fred Azar, the team physician for the Memphis Grizzlies, recommends leaning forward against a wall, putting one foot in front of the other, as though in mid-stride, and flexing the back foot to stretch the back of the heel cord. To stretch the front part of the shin, he says, sit in a chair, straighten the legs and point the toes forward.
Another part of the body that deserves attention is the foot. Put a hand towel on the floor and use your toes to pull it in toward you, Gillespie says. Or use your toes to pick up small objects, such as rocks, Legos or pencils.
To avoid injury, change your athletic shoes regularly. Azar recommends a new pair every 300 to 400 miles. Also, if you suspect you may have flat arches, ask your doctor about orthotics — shoe inserts that give your arches extra support. Some people have success with off-the-shelf models, Azar said, while others may need more expensive, custom-made orthotics.
If you start a new activity or increase the intensity of something you already do, ramp up gradually. Azar recommends a 15% increase in activity per week. Runners making this change should avoid inclines and declines and favor soft surfaces over hard ones.