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Shin Splints:

Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Shin Splint Treatment

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Shin Splints

Are you experiencing an aching or throbbing pain in your shins? Is this pain or discomfort keeping your from running and exercising? You're likely experiencing one of the most common running injuries known as shin splints.

What are shin splints?

Shin Splints are one of the most common injuries that runners come across. The term is typically applied to any pain that's occurring below the knee and above the ankle on the front of the leg. Shin splints can occur in either the inside of the leg (medial shin splints), or outside of the leg (anterior shin splints.) This injury is common among a vast assortment of athletes, from runners to dancers.

Shin splints are most common among new runners who aren't increasing their mileage gradually. If you're new to running, it's wise to build your mileage gradually, allowing you muscles time to repair and build themselves. Likewise, if you're a seasoned runner and you've recently changed your regimen (from flat surfaces to hills, for example) you too might be experiencing the ill effects of not giving your muscles time to adapt, causing shin splints to occur.

Shin Splint Symptoms:

  • Pain and tenderness in the lower leg
  • The inability to flex your toes up towards your shin without pain or discomfort
  • Pain in your legs between your knees and ankles that occurs after a few miles of running

It's important to remember that not all pain in your lower legs is necessarily due to shin splints. Pain in the outside part of the lower leg may be compartment syndrome, which is a swelling of muscles within a closed compartment within the lower leg. This creates pressure, unusual nerve sensations and eventually muscles weakness. To diagnose this condition you'll likely have to visit a doctor. However, before you do try using compression socks during your run. The compression might help the blood in that specific compartment flow better, relieving the pressure that's causing you discomfort. If you're a regular runner and you're experiencing pain in your lower leg around or above your ankles but below your knees, you could have a stress fracture (a micro fracture in either the tibia for fibula.) This can only be diagnosed via a professional using an x-ray.

What Causes Shin Splints?

  1. Worn or ill-fitting running shoes
  2. Overpronation
  3. Lack of stretching
  4. Muscle inefficiency or imbalance

Typically only 1 leg is affected when it comes to shin splints, and it's usually the runner's dominant leg. The pain is usually a result from an imbalance between the calf muscles and the muscles in the front of your leg.

Overpronation is when the foot rolls more than 15 degrees inward to meet the ground after heel strike. This rotation of the ankle forces the big toe to do most of the work to push itself back off the ground to being your next stride. This impact imbalance is what causes additional pain in the lower leg typically referred to as shin splints.

The most unfortunate part of shin splints is that doctors and physical therapists will recommend you stop running until the inflammation decreases and your muscles have time to repair themselves. The LAST thing in the world you want to do is stop running, Road Runner Sports has come up with a few options that could help you resolve your shin splint issues without having to stop running!

Shin Splints Treatment & Prevention: How to Treat & Prevent Shin Splints

1. Buy a new pair of running shoes - often times running in a new pair of running shoes with additional support and cushioning is enough to give your lower legs the relief they need to avoid further shin splint issues. Try Shoe Dog or visit our Running Shoes: How to Choose page for more information on how to shop for a new pair of running shoes that will fit your running style perfectly and reduce your risk of shin splints and other common running injuries.

Running Shoes

2. Compression Socks - Compression socks will help increase the blood flow in the muscles in your lower leg, thus reducing your chances of inflammation, pain and discomfort.

Compression Socks

3. Foam Rollers - every runner needs to own a foam roller, and it needs to become your very best friend. If you're experiencing shin splint pain, be sure to use a foam roller to roll out all the inflammation in your lower legs on a regular basis.

Foam Rollers

4. Shin Splint Compression Wrap - This compression wrap was created to eliminate shin split inflammation and discomfort. Try this compression wrap during your next run!.

Compression Wraps

5. Shin Splint Taping - You could also relive your shin splints by using taping techniques to help relax the muscles in the lower shin, relieve pressure to reduce pain and help to reduce inflammation.

Shin Splint Taping Video

Buy KT Tape Buy Atheletic Tape

Shin Splint Exercises

1. Stretch, stretch and stretch again! - Stretch your Achilles tendon, your front shins and your calves regularly to try and solve your shin splint woes. Shin splint stretches could make or break your recovery, so make sure you're diligent about doing them!

2. Trace the alphabet on the floor with your big toes. Do this with each of your legs - this will help stretch and strengthen your front calf/shin muscles.

3. Alternate walking on your heels for 30 seconds with walking regularly for 30 seconds - this exercise with help strengthen your front calf/shin muscles, helping to avoid shin splint issues in the future. Try to do #1, #2, and #3 three times a day!

4. If your shin splint problems aren't cured after trying each of these options, you may want to consider cross training (swimming, cycling, weight training, etc.) until you're able to run again. Once you start running again, remember to increase your mileage slowly ? no more than 10% increase in distance daily.

What are your thoughts on Shin Splints? Ignite some discussion and share your thoughts with us!

About the Author

has been a runner for the past 5 years. He picked up the sport when he was coming out of college as a way to stay fit, and stay in shape. He's since competed in over 30 official races, from full length triathlons to 200+ mile adventure races. He has had extensive experience with running injuries, including shin splints and serious IT band issues. He's been through physical therapy and has successfully recovered from both and it back on the road!