Shin splints: Prevention & Treament

Unfortunately I am not alone in my ever nagging issues with my legs. I know every runner at some point will become familiar with these aches and question whether they are more than a simple thing requiring minimal intervention. As a coach I am frequently asked about shin splints and it seems something that every runner has dealt with to some extent.

Shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome account for nearly 20% of all running related injuries (Source). Runners of all levels have been plagued by shin splints and wonder what they did, how long to rest and how to fix them.

What is a shin splint? Pain along or just behind the shinbone (tibia) that occurs during physical activity and result from too much force being placed on your shinbone and connective tissues that attach your muscles to the bone. If pain is severe it is important to see a medical provider to rule out stress fracture or other injury.

What are risk factors for shin splints?
  • Running on a slanted/tilted surface
  • Running downhill
  • Improper or worn out shoes
  • Running too hard, too fast or too long
  • Flat feet or rigid arches
  • Overpronation
  • Starting new programs of high impact: running, jumping

How can I prevent shin splints?
  • Wear proper shoes: make sure to get fitted at a running store and change shoes as they wear out (every 300-500 miles)
  • Cross train with low impact activities such as swimming or biking
  • Correct biomechanical problems, gait analysis can determine potential problems such as stride length, foot strike, muscle imbalance.
  • Vary running surface
  • Increase intensity and mileage gradually: follow the 10% rule with no more than 10% increase of mileage weekly
  • Add strength training: Calf raises:
    • Stand with your heels together and toes pointed out. Slowly raise up onto your toes and lower yourself back down. Repeat 10 times.
    • Stand with your big toes together and heels far apart. Slowly raise up onto your toes, then lower yourself back down. Repeat 10 times.

How should I treat a shin splint? (This can take weeks to months)
  • Rest: Avoid high impact activity but continue exercise with low impact: swimming, pool running, biking as long as it is pain free.
  • Ice 10 minutes 2 times daily and after activity
  • OTC anti-inflamatory, but be sure to limit the length of time taking these and don't let it maske the pain to engage in activity
  • Compression with calf sleeves or knee socks
  • Determine any risk factors and make changes as able. There are times when a visit to a medical provider is warranted especially with repeated issues or continual/extreme pain.
  • Return to impact activity slowly.

And finally what you have been waiting for...
Congratulations to the 13 in 2013 Spring Giveaway:
Flexline Hydration – Gigi Becker
Energy Bits – Lauren
Swiftwick – Kyria
Sweat Pink pink laces – Julie Donahue
Spright Cosmetics – Amanda Lowry
Spright Cosmetics – Pattie Kepshire
Spright Cosmetics – Darlena Kolpack
Spright Cosmetics – Samantha Golden
Active Accessories On-the-Go Pouch – Carrie Skoll
Sportline Home Gym – Shanna McCallum Greenwood
Organic Teas – Rebecca Schaefer
Organic Teas – Natalie Torres

Watch for an email from Jill or I this weekend for details to claim your prize.

*As always this is not intended as medical diagnosis, please see your own medical provider


  1. I used to get shin splints something fierce about 3 years ago. They were debilitating. Went to a shoe store, got "fitted" for a "proper shoe" and my shin splints got even worse. Knocked out everything I knew about exercise and went straight to these $9 water shoes from walmart for minimalism. Ran pretty heavily in them. Shin splints haven't been back since. Of course, now that I'm running for more than just trying to lose weight, I have upped to the expensive minimalist shoes. I have flat feet and I over pronate. I don't have a single issue except my left leg is a little tighter causing some slight runners knee, nothing stretching hasn't helped with. I no longer trust running shoe stores or "proper fitting shoes".

    1. I honestly think it depends on the store, I have been to some where the one doing the fitting has no training or knowledge and other stores where they are staffed by PTs and other trained in gait analysis. In the end it is your feet and no one can tell you how a shoe feels even if it fits "perfect". Glad you have gotten better.

  2. Great tips Jen! I used to have shin splints when I first starting running. Not now thankfully!

    1. It is something I hear way too often about from my newer runners, such a frustrating injury.

  3. Great tips, I don't think a lot of people realize what causes them, this is great info! I don't get shin splints, but my sister gets them all the time (she never listens:) I do get her doing calf strengthening and that really helps her! We do the same exercise for her as you listed above, but do them on a 2x4" piece of wood. (a trick a marathon runner taught me years ago:)

  4. Great overview! My tommie copper sleeves got me through last summer's shin issues... I still wear them!

  5. This post was exactly what I needed! Thanks for the tips! I have just started getting back into running after taking a break due to an injury and was surprised I had some pain in my shins! I had never had shin splints before. :-( I'll definitely be taking your advice!

  6. I will probably jinx myself but I have been fortunate and never had shin splints. Great info for all runners!

  7. I struggle with this, too. I've found it's speed work that brings them on for me. As long as I take it easy, I'm fine!

  8. Hi Jen!

    I emailed Jill a few days ago (and again today) as I am one of the Spring winners! I never win anything! BUT I haven't heard back from her and wasn't sure what I had to do to claim my prize! Thanks! :)


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