I received an email with a question on what causes shin splints and how to treat them. Shin splints are pain in the leg below the knee and above the ankle. It often happens late in the training season for athletes due to overtraining and to new runners who are starting out after a period of rest. Symptoms are pain, tenderness and sometimes swelling, but trust me, you will know it when you are suffering from them!
Shin splints are a progressive injury so if they go untreated, they continue to worsen. What may have been a dull pain that went away as a runner is warmed up will swiftly turn into a painful, acute pain that interferes with running.
1. Watch Intensity and Distance: Sometimes they can be treated simply by lessening the increase in distance or intensity. I have already felt an onset of shin splints, cut out a run day or ran less than I planned and they vanished. Then, I slowly added the milage back in.
2. Ice: The best thing you can do for shin splints is ice the area to lessen the inflammation. After a long run, I run a cold bath and soak my muscles for 7-8 minutes to cut down on inflammation, but ice packs can be used – as long as they are not applied directly to naked skin, which can cause frost bite. Wrap them in a thin towel and ice frequently.
3. Stretch: After every run, I stretch out my calves which are the main offender of shin splints in my experience. Below are pictures of effective stretches for shin splints:
Also, check out this video on more stretches.
4. Look at the shoes you are training in: Shoes can be a huge offender in running injuries. Make sure that you have between 300-500 km or less on them. This article offers a great explanation on how shoes can cause shin splints.
5. Mind your form: Incorrect running form will cause injuries. Check out the photo below for correct running technique. (Except for the landing between heel and midfoot bit. Running on the front of the foot causes your body to naturally assume correct form and is correct.)
Best of luck with those shin splints!
Runners – anything I missed?
running surface can make a huge difference too! running on trails or on the grass beside the road/sidewalk can help to alleviate some of the pain
Absolutely! I forgot to include that one, but the surface is huge. Thanks for adding!
My shin splints typically come at the start of my run–I run maybe a quarter of a mile on blacktop. Then I hit a gravel surface and they stop, and even when I turn around and hit the blacktop again, they don’t come back. So is it safe to assume they’re surface-related?
I recently started running again after a long hiatus, and I do remember having shin splints before (they seemed to be surface related then too), but they seem worse now than I remember them being before. 🙁 I’ve been just pushing through hoping they go away as I get used to running again…but you said that doesn’t work. 🙁
Any advice? 🙂
It could have something to do with your warm up. It is tricky to say because so many things in your legs are connected. I can do a post on dynamic warm up movements so you are moving on every plane and strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee. I think stretching and strengthening is key, but I will ask the question to a few more people to see if they have any more advice for you.
Thanks! My warm-up right now just consists of walking…maybe 1/5 of a mile? I used to stretch a little before I ran, but I read recently (I can’t remember where) that stretching cold muscles really doesn’t do any good, so I don’t do that anymore. Is that legit though? I do stretch my calves a little after I run. And that means, hardly at all. :/
Oddly enough, I went running after writing this and had less trouble with shin splints than I’ve ever had before. And I didn’t do a thing differently–except try to keep the form you recommended.
Hm. Interesting. A dynamic warm up is recommended, especially if you are just getting back into it. Check back next wednesday and I will write up a stretching post.
It also could be your form as you suggested. I think that having both would be ideal (proper form and stretching).
There is a BIT of truth to the disadvantages of stretching, but that is a full out yoga session! You should be doing a quick movement of each plane before you hunker down for a run.
Thanks for the post! I don’t actually suffer from shin splints but I liked the last picture on how to run properly. Lots of good info thanks:-)
Glad you liked it! Good luck with the running form!
Jessica!! Oh my word- I feel so honored that you actually did an entire post on your blog to answer my question. =D Thank-you ever so much. Your information is greatly appreciated and I will be incorporating your tricks into my training. I have wondered about form so it was good to see those tips. The last couple of times I’ve gone running, I haven’t had any shins splints but I had taken almost a week off so obviously the rest did me good.
Glad to hear that your shin splints are on their way out!!!