Training for long distance running is a minefield. In most cases, the chances of an injury are as high as 80 per cent. Sports like golf and tennis involve having a coach to instruct proper technique. Running shouldn’t be different. We can all run, but not correctly. Technique improves with practice but often that plateaus and can sometimes deteriorate.
Shin splints occur when excessive strain is placed on the lower leg. There are two main reasons for this.
Biomechanics: The way the foot absorbs and transfers weight during the stance phase of gait. The athletes’ range of movement at the hip, knee and ankle are important and can be limited by tight muscles. Dynamic stability of the pelvis is crucial and is reflected by overactive hamstrings. External factors include the type of footwear used and terrain.
Stress: The rate at which the athlete increases overall running distance and their recovery between session. Although running on a treadmill is different to running on land, it provides a relatively good method for the assessment of some key areas. The point of contact with the ground. There is more stress on the leg should the foot hit the floor in front of the ear line. The ideal landing position for the foot is to be more or less vertically under the ear, with almost the whole foot making contact. This means more knee bend, less ground reaction force and less deceleration.
Impact: One test is to run on a treadmill without music and listen to the sound at impact. Invariably the injured leg has a louder strike, meaning poor control. Try to adjust the foot and knee position to make less noise.
Foot posture is also important. Flat feet will normally cause excessive pronation at the ankle and midfoot. The muscles behind the tibia try to resist the twisting motion as well as performing their role of pushing off. This leads to fatigue and irritation on the inside of the shin. More stable shoes can help prevent excessive pronation.
The main reasons for leg pains are: running more than 25 miles a week, poor dynamic hip control on the affected leg, pronated foot when performing a single leg squat, weak gluteal muscles or tight hip flexor and calf muscles.
Perform a single leg squat in front of a mirror and see if the pelvis is level and the knee goes over the second toe. If not, stability exercises are needed.
A good exercise is the single leg bridge. Do three sets of 10 bridges, for three seconds on each leg, twice a day.
Hold these stretches for 20 seconds, twice on each leg. Ensure that the toes are pointed directly forwards, the knee goes over the second toe and the heel is on the ground.
If you are suffering from pain or stiffness in the lower leg, try anti-inflammatory medication, rest and a physiotherapist failing that.