Shinsplints - How To Beat them

The body's components, and how they become damaged


Posted: 4 June 2000
by Patrick Milroy

Shinsplints are one of the most common running injuries. They result from tired or inflexible calf muscles putting too much stress on tendons, which become strained and torn. Overpronation aggravates this problem, as can running on hard surfaces, such as concrete; and running in stiff shoes.

Beginners are the most susceptible to shinsplints for a variety of reasons, but the most common is that they’re using leg muscles that haven’t been stressed in the same way before. Another common cause of shinsplints among beginners is poor choice of running shoes or running in something other than running shoes. Runners who have started running after long layoffs are also susceptible to shinsplints because they often increase their mileage too quickly.

Symptoms
Symptoms of shinsplints include an aching, throbbing or tenderness along the inside of the shin (although it can also radiate to the outside) about halfway down or all along the shin, from the ankle to the knee. This discomfort is due to the inflammation of the tendons on the inside of the front of the lower leg. This is basically the definition of shinsplints. (Sports medicine specialists don’t like to use the term shinsplints because it commonly refers to several lower-leg injuries. We’ll use it anyway, but we’ll focus on the specific problem that is the most common: tendinitis of the lower leg.)

Another symptom is pain when you press on the inflamed area. The pain of shinsplints is most severe at the start of a run, but can go away during a run once the muscles are loosened up (unlike a stress fracture of the shinbone, which will hurt all of the time). With tendinitis, pain will resume after the run.

The treatment
Many runners experience mild shin soreness, which usually can be tolerated. “If shinsplints hit you at the beginning of a season, a certain amount of running through it will help the body adapt,” says podiatrist David O’Brian. “But if it’s a persistent problem, you shouldn’t run through it.”

If it does persist, ice the inflamed area for 15 minutes three times a day and take aspirin or ibuprofen. Ice immediately after running. To hasten recovery, cut down on running or stop altogether. Exercises with a resistance band will help to strengthen muscles of the lower leg (see ‘An Ounce of Prevention’ below). Typical recovery time is two to four weeks.

If the injury doesn’t respond to self-treatment and rest in two to four weeks, see a podiatrist, who may recommend custom-made orthoses to control overpronation. Ultrasound and anti-inflammatories may also be prescribed, but surgery is rarely required.

While recovering from shinsplints, you may want to try alternative, non-impact exercises such as swimming, pool running, walking and cycling in low gear.

An ounce of prevention…
To guard against shinsplints, stretch and strengthen the tendons and muscles in the front of the leg by using band exercises. Anchor one end of the band to a heavy object, such as the leg of a sofa. Stretch the band, then loop it around the end of your foot. Move your foot up and down and from side to side against the band’s resistance to exercise different muscle groups. Many sports shops stock elasticated resistance bands (eg Clinabands).

An even simpler approach is to sit on a table or chair and loop either an ankle weight or a filled paint bucket around your foot, then move your foot up and down from the ankle.

Also, make sure to wear stability shoes or motion control shoes and consider orthotics, if your GP or specialist says you need them. Also replace worn-out shoes, warm up well and run on soft surfaces, and avoid overstriding, which puts more stress on shins.


Previous article
The Anatomy Of A Runner

shin splints, shin pain, shinsplints
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Hi Guys

Just a query... I started the beginner's schedule around 2 weeks ago and am currently varying from 3 miles to 6 of jog/walk. I've found since I started I have sore shins.

I have a relatively new pair of Adidas trail (same as stability control) shoes which are really comfortable. I stretch and warm up and down.

Anyone know what it is and will it improve..? It doesn't seem as bad as when I started. Also what else can I do to minimise the problems..?
Posted: 05/08/2002 at 06:26

It is normal to get some aches and pains, especially at the start, and sore shins are common. As long as the pain continues to get less as time goes on, don't worry too much.

You can minimise the effect in a few different ways:

Run on soft surfaces. Grass/trail is best, but if you have to run on pavements, tarmac is slightly better than concrete. (As your shoes are trail shoes, you may find they are not as cushioned as those designed specifically for road use).

Don't increase your mileage too quickly - 10% per week is the general rule of thumb.

Apply some ice to the affected area (a bag of frozen peas is a good size/shape) for 10-20 mins after your run to reduce any inflammation.

If you are getting discomfort when walking, especially if you have done all of the above, and after a couple of rest days, you may have to think about changing shoes, but as you say the pain is getting kess, this is unlikely.
Posted: 05/08/2002 at 14:40

Hi Cath
Have you tried running on softer surfaces grass etc and don't over do it to begin with
Sean
Posted: 05/08/2002 at 18:20


Hi Guys

Thanks for the responses. I must admit I prefer the stability of trail and tarmac but I run in a park so I'll try the grass verges and see how I go. Also someone from work recommended some stretches which have helped today.

Also, I don't think I'm over doing it. I'm still only jog-walking 60 seconds each for 8 reps over 3 miles or so (the upper of 6 was mainly walking :D) and I've been doing this a week already. The schedule says to move up to 120 seconds of jogging but I think I'm going to stay where I am until this settles down.

Nessie - I think I may go for a new pair of shoes anyway even though mine are comfortable. I'm just scared really of having to start over with all the breaking them in etc :) Also, I never thought about the ice/ frozen peas. Will try that on my next run day (Tuesday).

Thanks again Guys
Posted: 05/08/2002 at 18:30

Increase your mileage slowly as mentioned earlier 10% per week week max. alternatively try some cross training. Get some professional advice on shoes. I know how important they are, I suffered from shin splints for about 18 months (I'm tall and 16stone) finally I discovered NB 1220's and the splints are history.

Anyway good luck

CH
Posted: 06/08/2002 at 14:12

I had shin splits every time I ran when I first started out. The right shoes help, as does ice. The main thing to remember is "if it hurts, back off", save the heroics for racing. Trying to go too fast too soon was my problem, I have learnt to slow down and work on distance before speed. No more shin pains from training, only from racing and that's my fault cos I'm afraid of coming last (last but one is ok).
Posted: 06/08/2002 at 15:33

Don't forget those soleus stretches, they worked for me. (See rw stretching guide.)
Posted: 06/08/2002 at 15:53

Hi I am so glad I have found this website, I also am getting fed up with sore shins or shin splints, I am trying to improve my running ( only a beginner ) but after everytime I really do suffer, I put on a cold gel Ibropfren gel and cool ice pack, but how can I prevent it happening instead of just treating it after it happens. I would really like to enjoy running/ jogging but feel fed up when I suffer

Lizzy
Posted: 06/08/2002 at 22:38


Hi Guys...

Just thought I'd say a big thanks for all the advice. You'll be glad to know that after seeking help with shoes, I bought a new pair of Asics GT 2070 and I've only worn them last night (dog walking) and at lunchtime today (treadmill) and already I've noticed the difference. I ran well today and normally I'd be laying on the ice afterwards and taking anti-inflammatories but I'm fine. My muscles feel like they've been worked but generally the pains in my shins is much much less.
Posted: 07/08/2002 at 19:34


Another update. This is the day after my longest run so far (1.6 miles - I know that sounds pathetic but I was pleased!) but anyway, just to let you know that the shin pains have more or less dissipated now and today, surprisingly I haven't even got any muscular aching like I had last week - only the "worked muscles" feeling - no pain as such. As you can imagine, I'm quite pleased with this in one respect - I will be able to step up my training but on the other hand... now I know I can run 1.6miles I'm going to have to push myself to do it more frequently!!

Cath
Posted: 08/08/2002 at 14:46

Hi Cath, I'm glad that your shin pain is now under control, I would agree with all the advice you have recieved so far. I note that Lizzy is also suffering with a similar problem so I though I would emphasise the importance of purchasing the right kind of shoe for the individual runner. Persistant shin pain can usually be attributed to pronation of the foot. i.e. your foot rolls inward as the heal strikes and causes strain at the point where the muscle attaches to the front of the shin. Go to a proper running shop, preferably one with a treadmill where you running style can be checked out in various shoes.
If in London, I can recomemnd Runners Need at Liverpool Street.

Cheers
Jenks
Posted: 09/08/2002 at 09:14

Hi Cath,
I got shin splints at the beginning of the year. Never had it before, and so I wasn't aware of why I was getting pain. I unwisely didn't adjust my training, and developed a stress fracture, - very painful. I was limited to swimming and cylcing for nearly 2 months.
It frightened me!
Now I run 3/4 runs on the grass, I buy new shoes more regularly, and I take care to buy the correct shoes (i.e. nop longer just those on special offer).
So far so good.
Take care
Posted: 09/08/2002 at 09:57

I have read all the info on this thread and am still panicing! I dont know what shin splints feel like, but I am in my 3rd week back in training after a 4month break due to a fractured fibia (running induced), and this morning as I went out the door I had to stop and turn around straight away. I have a sharp shooting pain every time that my foot hits the ground running up the right side of my left shin bone. (The fracture was on the other leg - so not related) I can also feel a dull ache just sitting still. I am petrified that this is going to sideline me YET AGAIN. Anyone know if this sounds like shin splints? What are shin splints?
Posted: 15/07/2003 at 09:13

Sounds like the shin splints I had.
Must rest otherwise you could do some damage.
Go swimming and cycling.
There are various excercises you can do to strenghten the connective tissue. Also check that its not a bio-mechanical problem like over-pronation or collapsed medial arech causing it
Posted: 15/07/2003 at 09:34

How do I know if it is a "bi-machanical" problem though?
Posted: 15/07/2003 at 09:46

Hi Cath!

Glad to see you getting going again.

Although you had made pretty good progress before all that chemotherapy, it might well be the case that you have to pretend a little bit that you were off for several years rather than just 9 months, in terms of not offending grisly/stringy/bony bits of you.

I know starting back running (and I had kept quite fit dogwalking) it was six months or so before I stopped pulling muscles for example. That doesn't trouble me now.

Tessa, good luck. Get advice.
Posted: 15/07/2003 at 11:16

Tessa,
Do you get back pain, knee pain, hip pain, ankle pain, plantar fasciatis, do you overpronate or have fallen arches?
If so, could be bio-mechanical, spent £25 and go and have a consultation with a proper physio/podiatrist.
Alternatively, shin splints can be due to too much too soon, i,e, the connective tissue takes longer to strengthen compared to muscle tissue, therefore you tear it and it hurts. in this case, rest till its better and take it a bit easier.Also, you can do lower limb excercises.
good luck
Posted: 15/07/2003 at 17:28

Cheers!
I think it may well be a case of too much too soon. I am a little over eager to get back to my old fitness level I think!! Might have to substitute some runs with swim sessions/treadmill sessions.
Thanks alot for the advice - good to share these worries sometimes!
Posted: 15/07/2003 at 17:45

Hi

 I am overweight and have taken up running, at the moment I am following a walk/jog 1 min each x 6.  Since the first run on monday, my shins have been really sore more than yesterday, even when walking.  My feet are quite sore too, especially around the sides?  I have had my gait done and have bought the correct trainers so dont think it is that?  Possibly my weight!!!

 Will this carry on, throughout my training?

Thanks


Posted: 09/03/2010 at 14:21

Sounds like the kind of thing you'd expect when starting off.. I think its really important to allow time for the body to heal after running. Especially if like me, you work in an office.. All you are doing is sat down all day long and then suddenly get up and start running - it puts a lot of stress on your joints and muscles.

I had very bad shin soreness when returning to running after a long lay off, I did a few runs then immediately thought i could put in a lot more mileage without a slow build-up. After that it took a whole week for the soreness to go away (its no good trying to run again until the pain has completely gone)

Well, I learned my lesson after that and now I'm being very careful to a) run slowly  b) increase distance gradually c) make sure to take adequate breaks between runs

I've bought a couple of bags of frozen peas which I put on both shins immediately after my run, it's actually quite refreshing and seems to help prevent the shin soreness coming back. Hopefully soon i wont need them anymore.

I would say that it seems to be more of a problem when running on the roads than it is on grass, but unfortunately there's not much of a choice where I live.


Posted: 17/03/2010 at 17:28

I'm a beginner when it comes to running on roads,  i have decided to participate in a half marathon however I keep getting shin splints.  I play rugby every week and do not develop this problem however as soon as i hit concrete the pain is almost instantaneous.  the RW article does say this could be due to stretching or the hard surface.  Personally i think it is the hard surface.  Does anyone know of any helpful hints or tips that would help me overcome this pain and allow me to continue my running?

Thanks Alex.  


Posted: 07/02/2011 at 21:10

Hi, I am a running beginner too, and have painful shins after a week and a half  of jog /walking. My question is would it be useful to use compression type socks whilst running? I normally walk a lot and don't suffer from this problem then.

Thanks  Leaf


Posted: 02/05/2011 at 19:10

Alex, I would suggest if your sure its hard sufaces, either taking it down a notch and gearing up to a longer run on harder surfaces at a slower rate (eg x mins a day rather then xx mins a day) so your body has time to build appropiate muscle and gain enough experience plus recover better.

 Or get trainers which are more cushioned -though remember that you will still feel pain, theres only so much trainers can do and bear in mind each step when running will take on many times of your own body weight over and over again, making any pressure worse.

Or run on a padded surface such as a treadmill for longer runs, shorter runs on pavements until your running more and more on pavements.

If the pain is from over-use the prescription is simple, (painful but simple) stop overusing! Rest until things have repaired and then start back again but at a much slower rate, reduce the stressers which brought on the pain until your mind is training with your body and not 10 steps ahead of it. Your heart is likely to be healthier then your calves, as a result you have to hold back sometimes before your ready to go as far as your head and heart want you to.

 Its up to you if you take on any of what I've said but you sound like your in a similar situation to me: forever repeatedly hitting your head against a wall (the wall being shin splints), being forced by physical pain (and a bit of common sense) to rest, when you feel marginally better, over estimate what you feel you can actually do and repeat step one, go back running having changed very little other then maybe some foot/shin related gear, have the same thing happen all over again and being forced to rest all over again. If you repeat the same cycle the same things will happen, except the next time it will happen earlier on and repeatidly earlier and earlier on.

 Nothing changes unless you change the fundamentals of what your doing, thats really the only power we have: not the problem but how we chose to react to it.


Posted: 02/05/2011 at 20:08

try dropping a few pounds by eating smaller portions 5 times a day. ive found by eating pasta after a heavy workout get your energy back up a this is a heavy carb but if you do not do such a heavy workout eat boiled rice as this carbs not such a heavier carb as pasta. cut eggs out to 4 a week only eating 1 yolk. you may feel quite hungry so try snacking fruit, salad, veg, nutri grain bars. if your shins are realyy bad try swimming, cycling and rower as these are not bad contact for your shins and you will shed pounds. ive found saunas are good for the shin as a heat treatment.
Posted: 11/07/2011 at 16:54

Hi, I've just started training for a 10k and am doing a weekly mileage of about 40 miles, usually I would only do about 15-20. I've started getting shin splints, and I'm wondering whether to run through it or not? I'm a little worried as I already suffer from pretty severe tendonitis in my forearms.

Thanks 


Posted: 25/07/2011 at 17:43

Ive been suffering from shin splints for about 6 months now, and its taken until recently for me to give in and take some rest. I've had about 2 weeks off and I'm gradually building up my training again now, begining with three 2.7 mile runs a week, hoping to complete a 1/2 marathon in may. Hoping taking it slow will prevent futher injury.

I run with compression socks on now and it helps a lot, I also sleep in them and sometimes wear them the next day too to help with aches. I also apply ibuproben gel after a run to help stop inflamation.

I'm really hoping that this stops my legs getting any worse. Has any one got anymore advice? 


Posted: 25/07/2011 at 21:51

Also found shin soreness a barrier to getting back into running so thanks for all the advice above. Not too heavy (82kg, 1.83m) but I was heavy on my feet before and overstriding when running so had to change that and listen for heavy footfalls when running. As suggested above have stopped 'running' and gone back to 'pottering' to get distance back in legs before any 'heroics'.

Had been doing 15 mins (easy) on bike and dynamic stretches before running. Also foot raises leaning against a wall and otherplantar and dorsal stretching/exercises for a while together with regular layoffs due to shin and calf niggles. Started back with RW beginner's programme. Fine until the 3 x 12 minute runs before build up of shin soreness. After all the pains taken to avoid shin probs was mightily disappointed when they arrived again.

I've also started trying a bit of 'tennis ball reflexology' - certain it's not called that but anyway, you stand (still) on a tennis ball at certain parts of the foot. Seems to be workiing but that could be because I'm a optimistic hyperchondriac ... the power of the mind and all that... Anyway you can find it on You tube if you search under 'Running - Shin Splints & Calf Strain Solution Part 1/3' (there are 3 vids). Also going to play tennis and gen fitness exercises involving side-to-side movement rather than usual running motion to perhaps help to get over the shin problems.

Interested if anyone else has tried this or something similar with success or otherwise.

Cheers. 


Posted: 30/03/2012 at 08:16

Hello, I've suffered with shin splints for 6 years now after I took up running. Generally I get them back under control and then carry on. More recently I've taken runnning out of my gym programme and now do the bike, stepper and rower. I also have flat feet and have the insoles (for everyday shoes and also for my running shoes). I usually go to the gym 3 times a week and I go hill walking regularly with no problems. It's a problem that I feel I have adapted to and have under control.

However, a few weeks ago I wore heels (not that high) for about 4 hours (I religiously wear flats with the insoles) and this brought on shin splints. I have rested since and taken paracetamol and ibuprofen, and in the evenings I alternate with an ice pack and hot water bottle. The pain is going but now I just have a dull ache which doesn't seem to be shifting. Can anyone offer any advice?

In addition, I am wondering whether wearing heels can affect your shin splints and given I used to wear heels with no problems was it just a case of my feet/legs not being used to heels as I've had flats on for so long - do I need to reintroduce my feet to heels more gradually? 

 Thanks 


Posted: 01/04/2012 at 09:28

I have run for 3+ months now - but after getting a bicycle and cycling my boy 3 miles to school and back I have developed symptoms of shin splints - reasonably mild - I have rested today - but have a 5k race on Friday -

rest of the week off and race on Friday? or light training? - my first goal as to be injury free - and I dont want this to interupt my fitness


Posted: 23/04/2012 at 17:12

Well ive just had a eventful day of learning that Dr's and GPs are useless.

Went to A&E with shin pain fearing the worst after having shin splints for 4 months. My fears where confirmed, well kinda...
Firstly, the Dr said I PROBABLY have microfractures, PROBABLY... WHAT THE HELL....!

He said there was no point in doing xray as they dont show up due to being so small, which i know, but they do show on a bone scan. They said it wasnt necessary to do the bone scan, again WHAT THE HELL!

So anyway, went to see my GP straight after and he hadnt even heard of shin splints TRIPLE WHAT THE HELL!

Are there any GPs here or anyone whos know a GP who can ask?. I feel like like they trying to rob me of my syndrome, like i'm making it up or something!


Posted: 23/04/2012 at 17:37

Alaine Johnson-Westley wrote (see)
Well ive just had a eventful day of learning that Dr's and GPs are useless.

Went to A&E with shin pain fearing the worst after having shin splints for 4 months. My fears where confirmed, well kinda...
Firstly, the Dr said I PROBABLY have microfractures, PROBABLY... WHAT THE HELL....!

He said there was no point in doing xray as they dont show up due to being so small, which i know, but they do show on a bone scan. They said it wasnt necessary to do the bone scan, again WHAT THE HELL!

So anyway, went to see my GP straight after and he hadnt even heard of shin splints TRIPLE WHAT THE HELL!

Are there any GPs here or anyone whos know a GP who can ask?. I feel like like they trying to rob me of my syndrome, like i'm making it up or something!

I can understand your frustration, I had an equally frustrating problem with the physios at my local hospital, the first telling me to "hop until it hurt then rest for 30 seconds then repeat" I stopped going after 4 sessions because I couldn't walk. Another prodded my leg told me there was "nothing there or I'd be on the ceiling"...not once did any of them think to do even an MRI let alone a proper bone scan...it turned out to be a "very obvious" stress fracture. I still look back and regreat not wading (or maybe waddling!) back to the physio department to shove the diagnosis in their faces and wait for the red faces...

Maybe with the GP issue, ask for a second opnion? Maybe ask if you can be referred to a sports related physiotherapist if they have any, ask your GP to google a stress fracture and also shin splints (different things by the way) so they are aware and say that a doctor told you you could have this, its not a drempt up idea from the internet! Ask to see someone because you are in pain and need help, but as far as a scan goes, I'd say don't unless you really need it- extra nucear being pumped through your body isn't going to do it any favors, its something that worries me anyway as I had to have one because it was the only way I could force myself to stop running (I have a sort of obsessive based mental health condition of which running had then become a big part of despite the chronic pain).

What you'd need would be an MRI and then most likely further tests: I had a nuclear bone scan which is where they inject you with radio active fluid which then means you have to stay away from small children and animals and they warn you to not have any other tests for a long while because of the radiation risk which is why I'd say if you can, don't. If you really need one by all means but also be aware there may well be a legnthy waiting list and that the entire test from injection time through to the end of the scan takes 8 hours as you have to wait for the radioactive fluid to seep its way through your body, its a whole day off work and thats before the further few months waiting time to go back and see the consultant about it! Best advice? Get a good sports physio and stick with what they say, the private versions will add a proper sports massage and possibly taping which IMO does make all the difference.


Posted: 24/04/2012 at 00:35

hop on one leg... are they crazy!  It amazes me that they dont know much about this sort of injury. My Dr was so dismissive yesterday, I left his surgury feeling really angry and no better off.

With all the tests, I think I might just rest solid for a few weeks. Like you said, there'll be waiting times involved. By the time im done waiting i'll be half way to fixed!

I have been reading up on taping though, looks promising. Ive also been doing alot of research on running form and barefoot/forefoot running. I think alot of this may be cause by me being a heel striker, a heavy one at that. I'm not overweight, im just really heavy footed plus i walk with a wiggle..!! so i have alot of hip rotation. Ive read any rotation from the hip down is really bad.

Hey did anyone watch the London Marathon weekend just passed?....the first Brit from the Elite Woman catagory is how i need to run. she barely moved her torso, it was all leg movement. shes my inspiration!


Posted: 24/04/2012 at 14:42

Had them for two months now.  Seen two physios, done minimal mileage, trie various excercises and stretches.  Conclusion is that they is no cure for shin splints and am reluctant to spend out even more money on snake oil salesmen.  Think I will chuck my trainers and buy a bike.


Posted: 07/06/2013 at 20:21

I have been running for 4 months and I did my first 10k last weekend - and now I am suffering with shin pain just in my left leg.  Having read through these comments I have scrapped my idea of going for a short run today - think I will leave it until the weekend!  It seems there is no real cure for shin splints, it's more about learning the best way to manage it.  I will be taking on board all of the advice, but is it normal to have the problem in just one leg?  

Vicki


Posted: 04/06/2014 at 11:00

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