Q+A: Why these shin splints after five years?

Our experts answer real-life questions


Posted: 9 September 2000
by Nick Critchley

Q I’ve been running for five years with very few injuries, but recently I’ve been experiencing pain in both shins. The pain is on the inside of my legs, just off-centre. I tried resting for three weeks as suggested by my GP, but the problem returned as soon as I started training again. I’m a moderate overpronator, and I’m within my recommended weight band. What can I do?

A Shin pain is extremely common in runners, and shin splints is the very broad term used to cover a number of possible diagnoses. The vast majority of these are caused by a biomechanical abnormality. One of the most common explanations is overactivity in the muscles that lie on the inside of the shin. These muscles produce the outward turning movements of the ankle. They also act to stabilise the rear foot as it rolls inwards (pronates) when the heel strikes the ground. It sounds like these muscles could be overactive. This can cause overpronation and lead to damage, and hence shin pain, in the tibialis posterior muscle.

In the short term, I’d recommend that you decrease the amount of running you’re currently doing and make sure that you carefully stretch your gastrocnemius (main-calf) and soleus (lower-calf) muscles. In the long term, though, you need to address the underlying causes of the problem, so visit a chartered physiotherapist for a thorough physical examination. I would also recommend a slow-motion video analysis of your running technique. An appropriate course of physiotherapy to improve your core stability and lower-limb alignment may also be useful, and orthoses can sometimes help as well.

Nick Critchley, chartered physiotherapist and exercise physiologist at the Medifit Health & Fitness Centre, London


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could anyone advise me on what shoes would be best suited to help eleviate my ongoing problem with shin splints,
Posted: 02/10/2002 at 16:03

Greg - it depends what's causing the problem!! eg could be under / over pronation / inequal leg length / lack of knee extension due to quad problems / overtraining / hard roads.

If there was one shoe that sorted shin splints once and for all, I guess the manufacturers would make a million.

Mine were sorted by a combination of all of the above / remedial exercises / physiotherapy and orthotics. You need to get to the root of the cause - as if there's a biomechanical problem causing them ( and there usually is if you're a regular runner and don't suddenly treble your weekly mileage) then rest is absolutely useless - all it does is return the shin to the state it was before you did the activity which caused the problem in the first place - so you'll get them back again as soon as you start training again.

Sorry - but suggest you need a video analysis at the very least.
Posted: 02/10/2002 at 18:15

thanks for the advice shattered,after trying loads of different things ie rice,shoes,running on grass,it looks like a trip to a sports injury clinic,as i think it must be a biomechanical problem i have.could anyone in the west midlands recomend a good clinic for me, cheers.
Posted: 05/10/2002 at 12:11

Why not travel up to Salford University - School of Podiatry - Fredrick St Salford.? ONly a couple of hours from the W Midlands and you can get everything done for £35 - including any orthotics that are needed.
Posted: 06/10/2002 at 17:17

I've just diagnosed myself as having shin splints and have continued training at the gym avoiding any running type stuff to maintain fitness (spin classes, eliptical cross trainer, rowing machine etc.)

I've changed my trainers and thats helped but i have also had my legs massaged. Not sure if this is recommended but i must say i have felt NO pain since (did only go a couple of days ago and haven't ventured out on a run yet) I was amazed when i stood up from the couch and walked around the room pain free. It only cost about £20 which is nothing if it means training is back on!!
Posted: 08/10/2002 at 17:17

Hi there,

I have also been experiencing severe pain in my shins, that only shows up when I start to run - I don't get it walking or through other exercise.

I last replaced my trainers about 8 months ago (now Nike pegasus, women). I did not used to get this with my old shoes (Nike Air, women).

Could my shoes be at the root of the problem?

Any advice most welcome.

Posted: 07/10/2003 at 13:46

Bernice

The two main causes of shin splints are overpronation and overuse (too much too soon), but if your shoes are worn out, that might cause it too.

How many miles have you done in your shoes? And has the pain started recently, or did it start when you changed shoes. I'm not sure what type your old shoes were - Nike tend to be Nike Air Something - but the Pegasus are a neutral shoe. If you overpronate, it may be that which is causing the pain. Might be worth going to a running shop and getting them to check your running style, to make sure you are wearing the right type of shoes.
Posted: 07/10/2003 at 13:54

Thanks,

I did go to a running shop - they recommended the pegasus.

I had the pain slightly with my old shoes but I think thats because they were worn (2 yrs old). I have had the pain nearly all the time to some extent - though much worse recently - from the pegasus. I have had them about 8 months and average between 6 and 15 miles per week. Currently I am resting from running and cross-training in the gym instead for now.
Posted: 22/10/2003 at 18:02

Training for london marathon this year had a problem with shin splint about 9 weeks ago, went to see a physio who told me to cut down my milage and put me in touch with a podiatrist who sorted some orthotics which worked a treat, but about 2 weeks ago shin splints came back after a half marathon with avengance and now every time i run i get shooting pains from start to finish, bit worried now with only two weeks ago, that if i start the marathon i wont be able to finish it, just wondering if anybody out there has had a similar experience
Posted: 04/04/2004 at 19:27

I got shin pains running in Nike Pegs. My heel strikes were on the(looking down at your feet) outside bottom right of trainer and my foot motion roles inwards. I liked the Pegs - loads of bounce however, when I changed to Adidas and Asics the problem went away.

Try a different trainer but before you spend your money look at the bottom of your old trainer and take them to the shop with you. If it is a reputable running emporium they can give you some pointers (however they will want to make a sale) but for the "be all and end all" to resolve the issue follow Shattered Shin's advice.
Posted: 04/04/2004 at 22:25

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