Shin splints, a painful condition, occur in a situation where your shin muscle is weak and the calf muscle tightens up. Typically, this condition occurs if you're not habituated to walking and then suddenly start walking everywhere, or are given to taking long strides or walking fast, or try out a new shoe style where you sport shoes with a higher heel than what you are accustomed to. Shin splints can also occur if you try walking uphill or from a lower plane to a higher plane wearing no footwear or completely flat sandals or shoes. The solution lies in gradually working on strengthening your shin and calf muscles. To recover from an existing problem, or to prevent future recurrences, this article provides you with a few helpful suggestions.
Know your muscles. There are two muscle groups involved in the action of striding or taking steps when you walk - one group helps in lifting the foot, the second in bringing it down to complete the stride. These are the tibialis interior muscle (shin) and the gastrocnemius muscle (calf). If the former is weak and the latter is tight, you will feel a burning sensation in your shins - these are shin splints.
Tips for immediate relief. If you suffer from shin splints, stop immediately walking, pack the affected shin in ice for about 30-40 minutes or until you feel the burning sensation begin to subside. For severe pain, you can take medications such as ibuprofen or other general anti-inflammation pills. Use an ace bandage to hold the ice in place, when applying the pack.
"Good' walking tips. When walking, avoid ‘over-striding' - a longer than normal stride when putting your foot (right or left) when you take the first step. Ideally the forward leg movement should be shorter than the stride taken by the back foot to complete the step. If you are beginning to walk after a long gap, start slowly, it is never a good idea to immediately start "power walking". Avoid walking on hard surfaces such as blacktop, concrete, etc.
Warm-up and stretches. Before beginning your walk, do warm up exercises for at least 30 minutes, concentrating on the leg, calf, shin and foot muscles. A good exercise for strengthening your shin muscles are toe raises - raise your toes off the ground and towards the shins, while keeping the heels of your feet firmly on the ground. Hold this position for a count of ten, and then bring down the toes slowly back to the ground. You can repeat this exercise about 10-12 times. Another helpful stretching exercise involves the shin muscles. Position the foot which is to be stretched behind the other foot with the toes touching the ground. Pull the stretching leg forward without moving the toes off the ground. You should be able to feel the stretch from the top of the foot to the shins. Hold this position for a count of 15, and then come back to the normal standing position. Repeat the same action with the other foot. Repeat with both feet at least 10-12 times.
Wearing the right footwear. Just as the correct posture and style of walking is important to get the benefits of walking, so also wearing the correct shoes. Your walking shoes should be fully flexible, try out new shoes by bending and twisting them. If they bend easily, then buy the pair. Make sure that the shoes have an even heel with the rest of the sole; a higher heel will put pressure on the shin muscles. Throw out old and worn out shoes, ideally, you should replace your walking shoes every 3-4 months, assuming you walk a distance of 5 miles or more every day. Cover the feet and shins with long socks so your shins stay warm and flexible throughout the exercise period.
You can get rid of painful shin splints by following the suggestions listed above. Remember to wear comfortable and good-quality footwear; warm-up and stretch before and after your routine and walk with moderate and normal strides. Once you and your shins are more acclimatized, you can pick up speed.