Pretty bold claim, right?
If you've ever had medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) aka shin splints, then you know that stuff is no joke.
And even if you haven't developed MTSS before, you keep knocking on wood and staying up-to-date on all the things that can help prevent it.
You're in the right place.
You already know, prevention is the best way to treat shin splints.
Because when the periosteum of your tibia bone becomes inflamed and painful with either sharp, stabbing or dull, achey symptoms because of muscle imbalances resulting in altered biomechanics which lead to abnormal tibial load …you're not a happy runner.
So let's cover 3 different ways to prevent these bad boys from ever showing up in this week's blog post.
I promise, it's actually easier than you think.
We've already touched on the pathophysiology of MTSS above.
But it's time to be SUPER honest….
We (the science community, medical care providers, sports scientists, etc) legit DON'T KNOW how or why MTSS happens.
There has been new research that's come out in the past 2 to 4 years suggesting that shin splints have more to do with over-active soleus muscles and quickly fatiguing intrinsic feet muscles resulting in altered mechanics to begin with that become exacerbated with fatigue from exercise.
But this is still all speculation.
(Want to dive into that deeper? Check out this post and this one.)
The reason I'm bringing all that up:
I've seen a lot of this in the clinic, treating runners like you with shin splints.
I've also learned a couple other things along the way that have been major milestones in their own recovery and return to running.
I didn't want to keep that all to myself.
I want to share these important tools with you that I've found through clinical experience, influenced by recent scientific research.
Sound good? Time to Dare to Train Differently!
Tool #1: Do all your upper body work on your knees or seated.
I know, this sounds super random, totally wacky, and makes absolutely no sense at first.
Let me explain….
Something I've found in the clinic when working with runners who have MTSS is they tend to OVERUSE their feet.
Hear me out…
Think of your body as teammates working on a group project called Life.
When one teammate doesn't do their work, someone else has to pick up the slack, right?
So the work gets redistributed amongst the rest of the teammates, but eventually, someone starts to get salty and shirks their work. Now the workload has to be re-shuffled again…
You get the picture.
Eventually someone is left doing all the work, chugging too many red bulls, and they start to have a mental break down…
Our muscles can have the same attitude.
What I've found in the clinic is once a runner is able to consistently activate their glute and simultaneously able to engage core control for any anti-rotation movement, their shin splints start to calm down and eventually heal.
Because everyone is working as a team again and doing their share of the work.
So how can you do this?
By taking your own feet out of the equation and challenging your body's glute and core stability.
I'm a huge fan of work smarter, not harder. Maybe that makes me a little lazy...
So if you already have an upper body circuit you love, just keep doing that, but try it in different positions.
FEEL how different your body has to stabilize, how much harder it might have to work. You're doing the exact same exercises! Just without your feet.
What are these positions?
Tall kneeling (standing on both knees with the tops of your feet flat on the ground!)
Long seated (sitting on the floor with both legs straight out in front of you; no criss-cross applesauce!)
I personally do all my upper body work in the tall kneeling position and it has changed everything!
Because I found, I really like to use my feet for almost everything. So much so, that even when I do my exercises in that tall kneeling position, I have to check my feet. My body will want to make everything easier by bending my ankles so I can dig my toes into the ground.
Watch out for that sneaky compensation!
Tool #2: Try These Exercises
So after that deep discussion above, give these exercises try and PHYSICALLY FEEL the difference!
(This is the only way your brain and body are going to understand what this whole blog post is saying, trust me.)
Step 1: Do the 1st round of this circuit standing
Step 2: Complete the 2nd (and 3rd) round of the circuit in tall kneeling
1-3 rounds; 10-15 reps R,L
Both arms, overhead shoulder press
Single arm, overhead shoulder press
Tricep skull crushers
Reverse fly: T's or W's
Did you feel a difference??
What did you notice?
Did you feel your core kick on?
Maybe your glutes maybe suddenly activate to keep you from falling over?
Or maybe those overhead presses became more challenging than they should have been?
What's going on?
You've just asked your body to get stronger without one if its teammates that usually does a majority of the stabilizing-work.
Now maybe you didn't feel much a difference: that's ok!
Most likely, your glutes, core, and feet are all sharing equal responsibility.
Keep up the good work!
You've got this base covered. If you want to take it to the next level, check out the next tool…
Tool #3: Train and Strengthen Those Intrinsic Foot Muscles.
This is the part that gets confusing for most runners, because HOW do you strengthen feet? This isn't usually top priority on that "summer-bod" list.
There just aren't a lot of resources out there that are specific to RUNNERS.
Yes, you'll find the 4 way theraband resistance exercises.
And the towel scrunches.
And the marble pick ups.
Maybe even some arch lifts.
And these aren't bad. I've used them in the clinic with patients.
But I've also been given ALL of these once a upon a time in highschool when I had a track injury.
They did nothing.
They didn't help at all.
So I'm speaking from my personal runner-experience when I say, the exercises in my Blueprint for Runners to Stronger Feet Workshop are what get the job done.
What makes these so different from everything else out there?
Well, they work.
And I use them A LOT in the clinic with different runners.
And they work because they're made FOR RUNNERS.
These exercises work your foot core, activate your forefoot, and re-teach your body that important foot-glute connection that we've talking about and what's often missing, resulting in MTSS in the first place.
These are the preventative exercises I wish had existed.
These exercises are for the runner whose ever had a history of shin splints or a foot injury before.
But I'll be honest and come out and say:
if your MTSS symptoms are REALLY flared up right now, these will be TOO MUCH for you!
They probably won't feel very good and they're going to irritate any current inflammation you have.
(If you're looking for information on how and when these are more appropriate, first check out this blog post, then go check out the workshop HERE.)
Because more than anything, running fit fam, I want YOU to succeed.
With every run you run.
Every race you race.
I don't want you to ever be injured.
And I want to share the tools to help make that happen.
Because running is more than just a sport or a way to get some exercise. For a lot of us, it's a way of life.
It makes us whole; it helps us heal.
And when we have to step back from running for any reason, espeically injury, life gets a little darker, a little more gloomy.
We almost lose a piece of ourselves.
So take care of yourself, running fit fam. Grab ALL of these tools with both hands, especially the Workshop so you can keep running your best.
You'll be so glad you Dared to Train Differently.
And in case you're a little nervous to walk on the wild side, maybe you'd like a little 1:1 help? Connect with me on IG and we'll see what you need! I'm always happy to help.
Until next time,
Dr. Marie Whitt // @dr.whitt.fit
P.S. Check out that Blueprint for Runners to Stronger Feet Workshop HERE.
And don't feel bad if you have any questions about these exercises- message me on IG to see if 1:1 work will solve those problems!
Guo, S., Liu, P., Feng, B., Xu, Y., & Wang, Y. (2021). Efficacy of kinesiology taping on the management of shin splints: a systematic review. The Physician And Sportsmedicine, 1-9. doi: 10.1080/00913847.2021.1949253
Kashi, O., & Minoonejad, H. (2022). The Comparison of Anatomic Alignment of the Shin, Ankle, and Foot in Elite Runners with and without Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome. Journal Of Clinical Physiotherapy Research, 3(2), 89-94.
Menéndez, C., Batalla, L., Prieto, A., Rodríguez, M., Crespo, I., & Olmedillas, H. (2020). Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome in Novice and Recreational Runners: A Systematic Review. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, 17(20), 7457. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17207457
Naderi, A., Moen, M., & Degens, H. (2020). Is high soleus muscle activity during the stance phase of the running cycle a potential risk factor for the development of medial tibial stress syndrome? A prospective study. Journal Of Sports Sciences, 38(20), 2350-2358. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2020.1785186
Sievers, M., & Busch, A. (2021). Medial tibial stress syndrome: The relationship between gender and lower-extremity functional performance among collegiate track and field athletes. Internal Journal Of Sports Medicine And Rehabilitation, 4(16). doi: 10.28933/ijsmr-2020-12-0805