Shin splints, formally known as medial tibial stress syndrome, send sharp lower leg pains from the tops of the feet up through the knees. This usually stems from one common mistake -- overdoing it. Though a combination of methods will prevent shin splints, patiently and gradually ramping up your running regimen will also help you significantly.
Warm up before every run. Start with a gradual buildup of walking, striding and jogging gently for about three to five minutes and then cap off your warm-up with about three to five minutes of dynamic stretches. Focus on your leg muscles with heel drops, lunges, leg swings, supine hamstring stretches and soleus stretches, for instance. A routine such as this prepares your leg muscles for a full range of motion, which helps prevent injury.
Equip yourself with proper running shoes based on your arch, foot strike and running mechanics. (See links in the Resources section). If you have tendency to overpronate, or rotate your foot excessively inward when you run, go with motion control trainers. Select highly cushioned shoes or add cushioned athletic insoles to your shoes if you tend to under-pronate.
Build your running regimen gradually. This gradual increase applies not only to the distance and duration of your run, but also to the intensity and frequency of your routine. Tempting as it may be, running too much right out of the gate puts you at a high risk for shin splints and other injuries, so focus on slowly building your regimen.
Switch direction as you run on flat surfaces, and avoid extremely hard running surfaces if possible. Start on grass or soft track surfaces rather than concrete. Tackle challenges such as hills only after you're comfortable running on flat surfaces.
If you experience shin splints, cut back on your running or stop running entirely until the splints heal, depending on the intensity of the pain. Ice your shins for about 20 minutes at at time, wrap your legs in compression bandages and perform gentle stretches regularly to reduce inflammation. Consult your doctor if the pain persists for several weeks at a time.
Cross train to prevent repetitive stress injuries such as shin splints. Mix up your running regimen with exercises that take stress off the shins, such as swimming, using an elliptical or bike riding.
For leg-focused dynamic stretches, try Russian walks, which involve simply walking with exaggerated movements and bringing your knees high up toward your stomach. Lateral lunges also make for an effective pre-run stretch to help prevent shin splints. For this stretch, think of squatting and shimmying sideways; assume a squat position with your feet spread wide and toes pointed outward, then bring your left ankle in toward your right ankle. Take a step to the right as you rise, then squat once again and repeat.