Many runners also start their runs too fast and don't allow their muscles to warm up enough before increasing their speed. Shin splints are also most likely to occur during track workouts involving speed intervals, and hill runs--both of which increase the amount of push-off with the toes.
Compared to your quadraceps, hamstrings and core muscles, the muscles in your shins (tibialis anterior) are relatively small and can be easily over-worked. The best solution to the overuse of the lower leg muscles is to not use them.
With the ChiRunning technique, you engage the pull of gravity by leaning slightly forward, allowing your lower legs to relax while you run. By falling forward with the pull of gravity, there is really no need to be pushing yourself with your legs. All you really need to do is pick up your feet to keep up with your forward fall, which requires no lower leg muscles.
Stand in place and alternately pick your feet up off the ground. You'll see that it takes no lower leg muscles to pick up your feet. In fact you can let your legs just dangle from your knees while you're picking up your feet. See? No shin or calf muscles required.
If you can do this while your standing, you can easily do the same thing while your walking and eventually learn to do it while running. This is one of the basic principles of the ChiRunning technique, to run without using your lower legs for anything but momentary support between strides.
How do I heal my shin splints?
Doctors recommend that you rest your legs in order to give your overworked shins muscles time to heal. They suggest switching to swimming or some other form of exercise that doesn't require your lower legs. Another common remedy is to ice the shins for 15 minutes three to four times a day to reduce inflammation. Periodically elevating your legs can help some too.
With diligence, these techniques can help to heal your shin splints. But, in the big picture, they really only provide symptomatic relief because they don't really get rid of the cause of the problem, which is either overuse or impact to the lower legs.
How to I prevent shin splints?
The pain of your shin splints might go away with rest, but as soon as you get back on your feet running again, you might notice the same old problem coming back to haunt you. If this is the case, you have a couple of options from which to choose. Most doctors will tell you that one option is to gradually strengthen the muscles in your lower legs by doing such things as running slowly, doing calf raises, or walking on your heels. This will sometimes work, but it's not necessarily a guaranteed way to permanently rid yourself of shin splints. Remember, it is not your shins that create shin splints. It's the way you run.
ChiRunning offers a second alternative and a permanent cure for shin splints by teaching you how to run using your lower legs much less--if at all. By reducing or eliminating the use of your lower legs while running, you can greatly reduce your odds of getting shin splints.
Since gravity is your main source of forward propulsion, in ChiRunning, you are left with only the job of picking up your feet with each stride to keep up with your forward fall. This takes almost all of the work off the lower legs because they are only needed for momentary support between strides, not for propulsion. This solves the problem of overuse.
As your body falls forward, your foot strike lands slightly behind your center of gravity allowing your leg to swing rearward as your foot hits the ground. This eliminates heel strike which, as I previously mentioned, is a major cause of shin splints and happens to be the cause of most knee injuries. This solves the problem of too much impact to the legs.
With practice, you can learn to run without ever overworking your lower legs and put the threat of shin splints out of your mind and body forever. Think of your lower legs this way: If you don't use them, you can't abuse them. Keep them relaxed whenever you're running or walking, and your running future could look a lot rosier.