Not all shin splints are created equal
There are actually 2 common types of “shin splints” and it’s important to differentiate between the two.
IF YOU DECIDE TO TRANSITION TO MINIMALIST RUNNING SHOES YOU NEED TO DO IT GRADUALLY
Slowly cycle your old shoes out and the new shoes in (and train in a variety of different shoes). If you’re getting pain in your Achilles, slow down the transition even more, and make sure you’re doing regular strength training.
Strength training is one of the best ways to improve your running and to help your muscles handle the stress of whatever activity you’re doing.
In a bone stress reaction, the bone isn’t handling the load very well – it’s breaking down faster than it can rebuild.
If not taken care of appropriately, a bone stress reaction can progress to a stress fracture.
And a stress fracture means more time in recovery and less time doing the things you love.
There are some things you can do immediately to turn the dial down on the pain given either type of shin splint, but they have to be understood and used as part of a longer-term solution.
The Long-term Solution
Nutrition is particularly important in the second type of shin splints. These often result from a combination of poor nutrition and too high of a training load.
Through all of this, keep MOVING!
Often, pain will arise from big changes in training load.
For example, maybe you were consistently running 30 miles/week and then decided to up it to 50 miles/week and BOOM - shin splints.
Instead of taking a complete break from running and resting it, try dropping it back down to 30 miles/week.
If you can run without pain (or with pain that’s stable and predictable and not getting worse), then you can slowly add on weekly miles (weeks-months) until you're able to consistently hit your new weekly goal of 50 miles.
If it’s the case where you need to limit your movement of the painful or injured area, then be creative in keeping the rest of your body moving.
This is where cross-training is a great option (and honestly should be a regular part of any exercise plan).
Continuing to move and stay active will help you recover more quickly and help you avoid some of the loss of strength and endurance that typically accompany injury.
Bottom line: Get and stay strong, build recovery into your training, and make sure you're fueling your body!