If you've taken a break from running but are now thinking of getting back into the sport, one of the injuries you'll need to watch out for is shin splints. This pain and soreness stems from irritation of the soft tissues to either side of your shin bone. It's common among runners who take time off and then rebuild their mileage. Thankfully, there are a few simple ways to reduce your risk of shin splints as you get back on the road.
Don't add miles too quickly.
When you've previously run higher mileage, it can be tempting to get back into things too quickly. You might think "I used to run 50 miles per week, surely now I can handle 35!" But you've taken time off and lost body condition. Doing too much too soon may put excessive strain on your shins, leading to shin splints. Stick with the tried-and-true 10% rule, which recommends increasing your mileage by no more than 10% per week to avoid injuries.
Seek out tracks and trails.
When you're just starting again and only running a few miles at a time, it might be most convenient to just step out your front door and run on the road. But you really should try to do some of your runs on a track or a dirt path. These softer surfaces create less impact, letting you get back into shape without "jarring" your shins so much. It may seem like a hassle to drive to the track to run only one or two miles, but when you're shin split-free, you'll be glad you took the time.
Stretch, stretch, and stretch some more.
"Do more stretching" is a guideline that's suggested so often to runners but still ignored by so many. Perhaps you can get away without running when you're really in shape, but as someone who is coming back to the sport, those stretches are essential. Especially focus on your calves, as tight calves can lead to shin splints. Just stand on the edge of a stair and sink your weight into your heel for a few minutes after each run.
Make sure the shoes you're wearing still work for you.
When you take time off from running, your stride can change. So the shoes you were running in when you were logging those 40- or 80-mile weeks may no longer be the best choice for you. If they don't offer enough support or have support in the wrong areas, they may leave you prone to shin splints. Visit a local running store, or ask your physical therapist to recommend a shoe that's best for your needs as you re-enter the world of running.