Are you suffering from shin splints?

Shin splints are one of the most common running injuries. Symptoms can vary from slight discomfort to severe pain in the front lower leg. In most cases, the muscles along the shinbone have become swollen and painful.

What causes shin pain?

By Eric Schmuttenmaer

There are a number of possible causes of shin splints. Over-training is one of the most common causes. Check your running log to ensure you have not increased your training too quickly in intensity or quantity.

Improper running form is another common cause. Check your running posture and ensure you are not leaning too far forward while running.

Check your running foot strike. Sometimes a heel strike can cause this problem if the forefoot remains up and doesn't touch the running surface. If you are a heel striker, make sure your forefoot connects with the ground.

Other possible causes:

  • Running on uneven or hard surfaces
  • Incorrect or worn-out shoes
  • Tight calf muscles or Achilles tendon
  • Over-pronation
  • Over-striding (beginners appear to be more susceptible)

I have shin splints. Now what do I do?

If the pain is severe, stop running. Rest and seek professional advice as it could develop into a stress fracture or chronic compartment syndrome if ignored. If you suspect a stress fracture, you may want to have an x-ray to confirm if a fracture exists.

Some cases are not serious and the pain often disappears as the muscles relax during a run. There are a number of self-treatments you can try to ease the pain and correct the problem.

  • Rest or cross-train, i.e. cycling, swimming
  • Avoid downhill running
  • Run on softer surfaces, i.e. grass, trails
  • Avoid running on uneven surfaces
  • Use an anti-inflammatory to reduce swelling
  • Replace old shoes
  • Stretch the front leg muscles
  • Try deep water running
  • Avoid activities with high impact
  • Ice the area
  • Use a compression wrap
  • Trigger point treatment massage


To ice the area, it is recommended to ice for 10-20 minutes three times a day. An easy way to ice is to use a paper cup. Freeze water in the paper cup and then tear the top rim off the cup to expose some of the ice. Rub the exposed ice along your shin. The remaining part of the cup will keep your hand from freezing.

Stretch the area by pointing and flexing your toes. Also try standing on stairs and while holding onto the rail, rising up on your toes. Repeat throughout the day. This will stretch your sore muscles and will help ease the pain.

Related links:

Running Posture
Running Foot Strike
Stress Fracture
Deep Water Running

Return From Shin Splints Back to How to Prevent Injuries

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