Ask the FBGs: It Hurts After I Run—Help!

compartment syndrome

No one wants pain to keep them away from their favorite running shoes! Credit: slgckgc

Today we’re featuring an Ask the FBGs post from reader Shannon. Shannon’s original question had us (and her) looking for more info, so we’ve included the full exchange to hopefully help any one else with a similar issue! 

Dear FBG,

I’m in my 5th year at the University of Tennessee—a campus that is known for its rolling hills. Just for quick background, I was a competitive cheerleader in high school, so I was in awesome shape. To top that off, the team I was on was the highest in my gym, so we were under extra pressure and had team personal training and extra practices to make sure we were our best. In other words, we worked our butts off. I aged out when I went to college, so I started running with my boyfriend. We usually did a 5K, and then I’d do about 10 standing tucks (backflips) afterward but it just didn’t feel like enough. I have done lots of races: 5Ks, 10Ks, a half marathon (when I was a sophomore, I got up after a night of drinking with four hours of sleep and ran 11 miles in the mountains—one of my best/harshest memories!).

I moved to Wisconsin in the winter and stopped running because I despise treadmills and the weather was not conducive to outdoor running. When I moved back to Tennessee, I had started smoking (gross, I know), only ran once every couple of weeks or so, and it dwindled from there to once every few months or less. I also packed on the pounds. I have about 60 to lose that I gained in a ridiculously short amount of time.

Anyway, I’m doing the Couch to 5K program, and I’m about to do my last run of the second week. I am fully aware that I am out of shape, but the hardest thing about the running is the shin splints I get! I now carry around a tube of Icy Hot in my purse at all times. Sometimes the running actually helps my shin splints, but sometimes (like this morning) it makes them worse, and it’s especially painful in my right tibia. Do you guys have any advice on what to do? I wear shoes for overpronators, I don’t pound the pavement, and I stretch a little before running. Like I said, I used to be a runner, so I am pretty aware if I’m doing something terribly wrong, but it’s just not obvious to me what’s going on.

I need help from FBG!

Shannon

Hi Shannon,

You poor thing! It sounds like maybe you’re doing too much too soon, and we’d recommend taking time off from running (could you cross-train in the pool or on the elliptical without pain?). You might also want to try icing your shins every two to three hours for 20 minutes, but I’d like you to get an expert’s opinion on it. (You could have a stress fracture, or just need to strengthen your shins.)

Sorry this answer isn’t more complete—if it’s bad, you should totally go see a doctor!

FBG Jenn



Comments

  1. Leslie says

    Hello to Shannon, sorry to hear of your misery.

    Have you looked into barefoot running or something like it? I had similar problems to yours but after getting into the barefoot (wearing Vibram Five Fingers) running, jogging, my foot, shin and plantar facitis (sp) have total gone away. You might read “Barefoot Runner” or look it up on the internet. I was skeptical but am now a believer and feel great!

    Just a thought. Good luck and good health.
    Leslie

  2. Katie says

    Are your shoes in good shape? I’ve tried minimalist shoes and they weren’t for me, but the Reebok Zigs have been great. I never got shin splints, but I did have some leg pain and they’ve made a huge difference. There is definitely something to be said for good shoes and stretching. Good luck!

  3. Sara says

    Hey Shannon,

    Actually I kind of have an opposite journey from you. I used to suck at running in HS – I could barely run a mile. I was pretty much the same weight that I am now, but my lung capacity was horrible and so I never pushed myself. The older I got the more I ran and now I’m doing 5K 3-4 times a week, which if you told me I’d be doing in HS I’d laugh in your face. Anyways, I learned a lot about shin splits because I got them all the time when I was first starting out. Here are some tips:
    1. Stating the obvious: stretch!
    2. Start the first few runs on flat surfaces – don’t attempt high elevations/rolling hills.
    3. Work on your stride. Although you used to run a lot, you may be running differently now. Especially if you’ve been out of running or your body shape has changed.
    4. Do other types of cardio in between, particularly in the beginning. Do the elliptical instead of running 3 days straight.
    5. Make sure you have good running shoes. Find out which way your foot hits the ground (overpronation/underpronation) and get sneakers that help with that.

    Hope that helps!

  4. Erin says

    Hi Shannon,

    I feel your pain. That is not fun. Three things that seem to help me with lower leg pain:

    1. ICE. It hurts and it sucks, but it helps. I like to freeze water in small dixie cups and then use that to ice. You can tear away the sides of the cup, and then use the block of ice to massage you leg while you ice.

    2. COMPRESSION SOCKS. I just started using these, and I notice a huge difference in my lower legs because they improve the blood circulation in that area. They can be pricey, but they’re worth it.

    3. THE STICK. You can go to The Stick’s website, http://www.TheStick.com, to read more about this and what it does. It’s a tool that helps you work out the knots in your legs. Can really help break up adhesions. You don’t have to get the actual The Stick brand. There are other brands out there, too.

  5. Tricia says

    Shannon,

    I returned to running about 3 years ago (was a runner from 5th grade through high school). At first I didn’t want to buy anything “fancy” until I was sure I would stick it out, so I just ran in shoes I already had. The week before I was planning to get “real” running shoes, one of my legs started hurting probably due to the mediocre shoes. It sounds like you might know your stuff with shoes, but you might want to find a different pair or style to see if it helps.

    While i was recovering from the injury, I used an elliptical instead of running outdoors – less impact on the leg. My YMCA has a few different styles of ellipticals and there is one make that is most like a running stride. Unfortunately, i can’t remember the name of it – I just know where those one are in the gym… I much prefer to run outdoors, but when I have to use the machines I make sure to load up my ipod with interesting podcasts or tunes to help maintain my sanity.

  6. Shannon says

    Oh my goodness! I just remembered this got published and decided to check it out again on a whim. The feedback is great!

    @Leslie – I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews for the Vibram Five Fingers, but it seems like it could be worth a try. I’ll definitely check it out, thanks for the suggestion!

    @Katie – my shoes were in pretty good shape, although I have had my eye on the Asics Nimbus 13s (http://www.zappos.com/asics-gel-nimbus-13-lightning-white-magenta). I’ve seen the Zigs before but haven’t really heard anything bad or good about them. I’ll look into it, thanks!

    @Sara – I agree – there’s no way I still have the form I used to have when I was much more in shape and had less body mass. I actually started running on a treadmill again and since I’m usually right in front of a window and can see my reflection, I’m much more aware of my foot placement. Especially since if I look anywhere to my left or right I’ll likely fly off the treadmill. (I need a custom made 5 foot wide treadmill just to keep me from traveling off the edges!) Also, great idea with the elliptical. Not only does it reduce physical stress, it keeps me from getting bored out of my mind doing the same thing over and over. Thanks for your feedback!

    @Erin – I’ve wanted to get the stick forever!!! I have an old tequila bottle that I collect change in that is going toward that purchase specifically – I like the fact that some symbol of my (college) unhealthier past is harvesting $$ for my healthier future. (I’m not that creative, I just thought the bottle was pretty and started throwing change in it. Funny how things work out!) I’ve actually considered using a rolling pin in the mean time. Wonder if there are any reviews for that…anyway, GREAT idea with the dixie cups. I’m definitely going to try that one. Also, my dad did suggest compression socks since apparently that’s what he did as an athlete in the olden days. Maybe compartment syndrome has some genetic ties? Anyhow, thank you very much for the wonderful suggestions!

    @Tricia – I’m also hesitant to buy anything fancy. Which is why I’m holding off on things like the stick until I save up some money. But I do plan to buy new shoes this weekend! I just got a membership to my YMCA and I love it. I ride my bike there, so it’s an extra little workout. I think my biggest problem is getting bored on the elliptical/treadmills. Even with a long playlist, I get SO bored after about 15 minutes. (Which made me realize…I think one of the things I love about running outside is that once I get to my halfway point, I have to keep going to get back home!) I’m going to make another attempt at a nice long elliptical session tomorrow, so we’ll see how it goes! Thanks for the words of wisdom :)

  7. Shannon says

    Hi Shannon,

    The mind numbing nature of the treadmill is something I can totally understand. Canadian winters force one inside and onto the “dreadmill”, but I’m learning they aren’t that bad. Try the different training programs a lot of them come with and think of them as a tool to help maintain and improve your fitness until you can get back outside.

    As for your shin splints and pain, i’d have to agree with Jenn that you’re likely doing too muh too soon. I know you mentioned you’re using the couch to 5k app… Have you considered a walking program first? I’d suggest checking out some of the books, resources and programs the Running Room (www.runningroom.com) has. Remember the 10% rule. Don’t increase your training time or mileage more than 10% each week. Previous suggestions about cross training are also excellent.

    The shoe issue is always a hot topic. I know you’ve run in the past, but have you had a recent stride assessment done with respect to your pronation? There is a tenancy to stick people in shoes for either under or over pronation, when all they really need is a good neutral shoe. I swear by Asics Gel Cumulus. Start thinking about your stride too. Are you taking giant steps in an effort to go faster? This can put a lot of unnecessary strain on your joints and muscles causing injury.

    I hope these suggestions help! Running quite literally changed my life and is a gift that everyone should be able to experience (even the haters who claim they can’t run and look at you like you’re crazy).

  8. rachel says

    Look into Zensah sleeves. I used to get shin splints from soccer and they helped immensely. I wore them everytime I worked out until the pain went away and I even wore them to work where I would be on concrete for hours. I had a teammate who wore them for calf cramps so they are multi use haha

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