Shin splints are a very common issue among runners. Shin splints make up approximately 15% of all running injuries.
When I first started running over 10 years ago, I struggled with shin splints. I shared the story in this post. It was very frustrating. I quickly learned strategies to treat and prevent shin splints, and thankfully after they cleared up, I have never experienced shin splints again.
If you have struggled with shin splints, you are not alone. In this article, I’ll be sharing a bit about what shin splints are, how to prevent them, and how to get rid of shin splints if you get them.
Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor to help you diagnose and treat injuries.
What Are Shin Splints?
The term “shin splints” refers to pain and irritation in the edge of the shin area (tibia). Shin splints happen when small tears occur in the muscle in the shin area and the area becomes irritated and painful.
Repeated stress on the shin bones is usually the cause of shin splints. The clinical name for shin splints is medial tibial stress syndrome. Shin splints typically occur due to overuse. It is important to address shin splints right away when they occur. Failing to treat shin splints appropriately can lead to tibial stress fractures.
Shin splints are common for new runners and for runners who are returning after a long break.
How to Prevent Shin Splints
Shin splints can have multiple causes, but some of the most common causes are as a result of overuse and wearing the wrong shoes. Here is my list of advice for how to prevent shin splints:
Increase Mileage Gradually
Shin splints are commonly caused by taking on too much too fast. When you increase your mileage too quickly, your muscles don’t have enough time to heal, which leads to the shin pressure and pain.
Wear a Good Pair of Running Shoes
Shin splints commonly happen to runners who are wearing the wrong shoes. If you are wearing a shoe that isn’t the right style or fit, it can cause shin splints. Also, running in shoes that are worn out or have too many miles on them can cause shin splints as well. Always get a professional shoe fitting for running shoes and replace your running shoes every 300-500 miles!
Make Sure You’re Doing Dynamic Warmups & Stretching After Runs
Warming up and stretching are two very important activities that you should be adding to your runs to avoid shin splints.
Shorten Your Stride
Another way you can prevent shin splints is to shorten your stride. When you “overstride” (take big, long strides), you put extra pressure on your shins. Shorten your stride to decrease the amount of stress that you’re exerting on your shins.
Add Strength Training to Your Routine
Adding strength training to your routine, particularly strengthing your hips and core, can help to make you a stronger and more efficient runner. This will also improve your stride and your overall efficiency as a runner, which will in turn help to prevent shin splints!
How to Treat Shin Splints
Even when you take the proper precautions, sometimes shin splints still happen. So if they do, how should you treat them? Here are a few tips for how to get rid of shin splints if you already have them:
If you experience shin splints, it is very important that you rest to allow time for them to heal. Cut back on your runs or stop running altogether depending on how intense the pain is. If you are still itching to exercise, try doing an activity that does not put stress on your shins, such as using an elliptical, swimming, or biking.
Running a foam roller over the shin area several times a day can loosen the fascia (the material that wraps around your muscles). Foam rolling can help to alleviate the tightness that can cause the pain.
Icing your shins can help to alleviate pain and swelling. Icing several times a day for 2-3 days can provide relief.
See A Doctor
If you continue to experience shin splints after taking these measures, see a doctor. The doctor will give you a thorough physical exam to determine whether something more serious is going on.
- Have you ever experienced shin splints?
- How did you get them to go away?