Just started running again a couple of months ago after 20+ years of being mostly sedetary. I still cannot run more than a few blocks before my shins hurt so bad that I have to stop. Through elimination I believe the pain to be coming from my tight calves, which I had long before starting to run again. I am going to try using a foam roller and compression socks and if that doesn't work I guess it's back to just walking for me !
Try doing a really good stretch of your calves. To get a really good stretch of them, try standing with your heels hanging off an elevated surface like a curb or an aerobics step. Let your heels drop as far as you can without touching the floor. Don't flex them up. Just let them hang for around 30 seconds or so. Do that multiple times a day. It should help.
2011 - C25K Graduate!!! (9/17/2011)
2011 - BridgeTo10K - W3 Slacker!
2012 - Started over but didn't finish the C25K program (MAJOR SLACKER!)
2013 - C25K Graduate Again!!! (NEVER GIVE UP!)
2013/9/20 - REV3 Glow Run Branson - Wasn't chip timed but finished in roughly 38 min.
2013 - December 4th - Began 1/2 Marathon Training
2014/3/10 - Kiss Me, I'm Irish 10K - 1:23:32.9 (PR! It counts even if it's my only 10K)
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2014/4/5 - Bentonville Half Marathon!!!!
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If you've been stretching before you run, then the odds are you've been stretching too much. Modern thinking, backed up by a considerable amount of evidence, is showing that pre-workout stretching is a bad thing for both performance and long term injury prevention.
Fat old man PRs:
You dont explain your process of elimination that led you to believing the issue is tight calf muscles, but it may be possible that sore shins are due to weak muscles that connect your knees and ankles, therefore putting excess strain on the ligaments leading to shin splints (the sore shins). When your foot lands there is some natural pronation inward, this effect is magnified when running. Strengthening exercises such suggested by bbee42 can help, standing and balancing on one foot (try fo up tor a minute/foot at first) can help (do without shoes) as well as exercises that strengthen the ankle/leg muscles.
I was a road bike rider for several years before I added jogging/running (wanted to add some weight bearing activity) and encountered shin splints early on in my running. The docs said weak knee/leg muscles but I didn't believe them since I had been riding for 4 years prior. Sure enough though, getting some shoes that had more motion control and doing balance related exercises (as well as a more gradual approach to running) solved the shin splint issue.
You may have already considered this, but if you haven't ...
Strengthening is probably more important, and effective, than stretching. Stretching before apparently tends to leave the muscles "loose" and less prepared to exercise. Weak and/or tight calf muscles can contribute to shin splints by making the shins do more of the work in footplant/stance/pronation. So strengthening the calves as well as the shins can help. However, you should work on the entire lower body, starting from the hips and working down through hamstrings, quads, calves, shins, etc.
I had trouble with tight calves after wearing the wrong shoes for running when I first started. Go to a reputable store that will anaylize you (usually on a treadmill) and get fit for the proper shoes. I was able to correct the tightness in my calves once I got the proper shoes.
I wouldn't call myself an expert, but I have been running for over 50 years now and have suffered many "injuries" *. Throughout the years I have seen and tried many trendy things as they came and went. Stretching before running, yoga, release points, foam rollers, amino acids, weight training, all good tools, but not the answer to everything. At least not for me. Here's my basic 50 year developed paradigm when it comes to the injuries that can sideline my running:
Most all injuries and their resultant pain come from muscle imbalances that can cause injury to either muscle (including all soft tissue) or bone (or both). You have to figure out whether the imbalance is due to one muscle being too weak, or the opposing muscle being too strong. An overly weak muscle needs to be strengthened, usually with resistance training. An overly strong muscle needs to be weakened, usually with post workout stretching. (while it's warm). Simple as that. The calf muscle is an extremely dense muscle that develops quickly, especially after a lay off. The opposing tibialis anterior (shin muscle) is relatively weaker, since all it really does is raise your toes off the ground, at least routinely. I have had the calf muscles pull on the tibalias so hard that I bled. My right shin to this day is discolored from the ligaments tearing lose from the shin from training back in the late 90s. What did I do? Well, I figured out that in this case I needed to do both strengthen and stretch. I used rubber bands tied to the bed post and flexed my toes up against resistance to strengthen the tibialis. I also did my favorite calf stretch after running, which is a "wall push". You get against something flat and push while having your leg behind you and try and put your heel on the ground. Then alternate. I do 30 seconds on each calf and alternate twice. It feels good and will help lengthen the gastroc and other calf muscles, thereby releaving that pull on the tibalias until it can "beef up". There you go. This same philosophy has worked for soleus (hip flexors, etc.) as well, although they are usually sore from being weak and need building. (like lifting your knees while doing back lunges). The stretches there are more to relieve the pain, so they don't have to be as aggressive as a calf stretch, for example.
Sorry, didn't mean to write a book. Just want to let you know what really works for me, my kids (4 boy track runners), and my wife.
Don't quit !
BTW, if it hurts too much, just do an easy warm up on the treadmill then do the stretches and strengthening without any pavement pounding.
* My wife is an ER nurse, so if there isn't a bone poking out or an artery spurting it isn't a "real" injury.
I used to get pretty terrible shin splints but when I started using the Couch to 5k podcast, which instructs you to do a warmup walk for 5 minutes before running, I stopped getting shin splints completely. Maybe you should try walking for a few minutes before you start running? Hope this helps!
Geez, I hate when I see "I want to give up " there are a few factors you missed. How often do you run?. If you are new back into running. I am guessing its 4 to 5 days weekly. First place I would start is the shoe you are using now? It may be the biggest culprit, fine a good running store that can do a running analyst. That will help determine if you are a heel striker, have an over-pronation or other factors. From there with the correct shoe, maybe orthotics it can make a big difference.
Think about adding a run or start to run program. There are lots of downloadable app's especially in the walk/run or couch to 5k field. It's a great starting point. Read the reviews on the apps, some suck, some are great!
Last, moderation, too much stretching can be bad! Try static warm ups skips, forward, reverse, side leg crossed, squat leaps. There are many more on YouTube. Lastly form is everything in running. And I mean, form that is foot placement, pace, cadence, stride. An aggressive pace, or wrong cadence for you can reek havoc on ankles, shins, and knees, and is the biggest contender for causing shin-splints. And if you want to get serious, and you have the heart of a runner, add cross training on off days. Bicycle, elliptical trainers are german, non impact, or even a nice 2.5k walk can benefit. Get those shoes and a running analyst. The shoes may make a big difference. Good luck, happy running.
Walking helps a lot, so does the interval of the timing for the walk, run. As a new runner, tendons and ligaments are not conditions for the abuse of what running does. Some it takes a a few weeks others it takes months to adapt.
Too fast, too much mileage, all play a factor. That is why I believe if you don't have a coach, an app program that controls and moderated time and distance is good. It's building. Blocks, the foundation needs to be there, to prevent injuries at the miles go up.
HI! I am sorry you are struggling so much. Shin splints are very painful! You might consider a running evaluation by a physical therapist. Many times if your stride is too long and you are striking the ground with your heel, the forces coming at your leg through the ground are increased. You may find that shortening your stride so that your foot does not hit the ground in front of your nose and hitting the ground with your midfoot decreases the pain you are having. Increasing your cadence (taking faster shorter strides) can help you to avoid heel striking. A physical therapist can videotape you while running and show you exactly where your mechanics may be causing you pain. The therapist can also evaluate for deficits in flexibility and muscle imbalances that you can correct with exercise. Good Luck!
Doing some body looseners before you run will help. I used to get shin splints just running around the block until I got some real running shoes - and that required going to a running specialty store and having them evaluate my feet and my gait and fitting me to proper shoes. I cannot buy just any running shoe that catches my eye (or what is available on the sales rack - my former preference).
If you have not already done so, I would strongly recommend you go to a running store (or even see a phyiscal therapist who knows running) and get your gait evaluated and get some shoes that are appropriate for you.
You actually said it best with 'I guess it's back to walking for me'. Nothing wrong with doing some distance walking and speed walking. Then when this is feeling comfortable you can move to half walking/half jogging and then all jogging. I can speak from experience doing this myself when I've had similar pain that it works. If you can't jog faster or farther than you can speed walk you're not doing yourself any good anyways.
And of course shoes, warming up, strengthening, and form are all important but they don't matter if you're starting out doing too much. Make sure you are not running on the balls of your feet (a sure way to get shin splints); try to stay flat footed with a midfoot strike form.
And yes the compression socks work great for shin/calf pain- wear them both when you run and when you are recovering. I recommend the Injinji's.
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