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Preventing Shin Splints

I reached out to a former Athletic Trainer of mine at St. Cloud State University because I had a handful of questions regarding overuse injuries that many of my clients have been facing.

As a society, we are far more active then we’ve ever been which has increased our risk of risk of getting hurt. This increase in activity is awesome, it’s just a concern of mine watching clients go from 0-100 without taking the proper progressions to sustain long term success.

So today’s overuse injury is Shin Splints. It’s a painful, nagging injury that occurs in the lower portion of your leg that makes it very difficult to run/walk. If you suffer from this, or know someone who does, read this and share it.

The focus of this is to give you a better understanding of what shin splints are and how you can prevent and treat them if you become a victim.

Take it away Rachel!

Shin splints are far more common these days with the growing popularity of 5k’s, Spartan Races,  half marathons, and overall more active individuals.

It’s no longer becoming just a “runners” problem as it’s creeping into the weekend warriors and general population.

So here’s what you need to know to prevent or treat shin splints.

What Are Shin Splints?

Shin splints are a very general term to describe a number of lower leg injuries from compartment syndrome to stress fractures to musculotendinous inflammation. From a sports medicine standpoint, a shin splint is only musculotendinous in nature. Truly an overuse syndrome involving muscles and tendons, shin splints are characterized by sharp or tender pain and inflammation along the tibia (thick, lower leg bone).

They can develop as a result of overtraining, poor conditioning and/or biomechanical functions such as gait, shoe type or surface type. They may be present individually or a combination of all three.


How To Prevent Shin Splints?

  • Evaluate your feet. Are your foot arches flat? Are they too high or do you pronate or supinate (roll foot in or out). All may affect your gait and could cause stress and pain with running. Obviously, we cannot change the structure of our feet but getting into a good structured shoe or orthotic may help foot mechanics, thus eliminating the stress and pain. If you are unsure of proper foot structure, biomechanics of the foot or what shoes are appropriate, seek professional advice.
  • Things to consider when it comes to shoes: How old are your shoes? Do they meet the structural needs of your foot and are they appropriate for the surfaces that you are training on?
  • Evaluate your running surfaces! Is it too hard, too soft, are you using a treadmill or are have you been running the exact same route day after day, week after week, month after month? Are you running too much without a good change in your activity during the week….variation is key.
  • Make sure that you are properly conditioned before starting a lengthy running routine; going out for a two hour run after having a couple of weeks off is never good for your body.
  • Mix up your cardio workouts. Throw a pool or bike workout in occasionally. Your body will thank you.
  • Stretch


How To Treat Shin Splints

Ultimately, the best way to treat an overuse syndrome like shin splints is to eliminate the source of the stress.

If it’s the foot, running surfaces or a biomechanics issue then focus on correcting that first.

Old fashioned rest, ice and a dose of NSAID’s will help but if the source of the issue isn’t corrected you’ll have a painful, nagging injury.

Other treatments include range of motion exercises, neoprene sleeves to keep muscles warm and activated, physical therapy, and insoles.

Rachel Johnson MS, ATC

St. Cloud State University

As I mentioned earlier, if you are a weekend warrior be sure to take the proper precautions so you don’t become sidelined.



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