What Are Shin Splints & How Do You Prevent Them?

Shin splints are perhaps the most common running injury encountered by sports medicine doctors and physical therapists. They are also one of the most preventable conditions. Are you concerned you may have shin splints or are wondering how you can prevent their occurrence?

Anna Weber, an elite runner and Olympic trials qualifier, tells us about shin splints and tips for avoiding them.

What are Shin Splints?

Despite the prevalence of this condition, sports scientists are still unsure what exactly causes shin pain.

Some doctors hypothesize that microtears in the muscle that runs along the shin bone are to blame. Others theorize that inflammation in the calf or periosteum muscles are the cause.

What are the Symptoms?

A person experiencing shin splints will feel sharp, localized pain in either the front or side of their shin bone during exercise.

In severe cases, the pain is felt while walking, especially when going up or down stairs. The pain is often worse first thing in the morning. This is because the muscles need to warm up.

Related: Strength Training for Triathletes: Injury Prevention

How Can I Diagnose Shin Splints?

Shin splints self diagnosis involves standing with your feet firmly on the ground, hip width apart.

Lift your toes off the ground while keeping your heels planted.  If suffering from shin splints you will feel a sharp pain along your shin bone as your toes rise.

If not, you may be dealing with a stress fracture instead and should visit a doctor for a complete diagnosis.

How Do I Prevent Shin Splints?

Shin Splints: Stretching

The primary cause of shin splints is running too much mileage too soon. Another cause is drastically increasing the intensity of your runs.

Following a conservative running plan which gradually increases volume is what the experts recommend. Never boost mileage by more than 15 – 20% per week, and do not start running high-intensity workouts until you have completed 6 – 8 weeks of easy running.

Some sports doctors suggest that the risk of developing shin splints increases if calf flexibility is poor. Proper stretching of the calf muscles is therefore very beneficial. Strengthening exercises, such as toe raises, are also a good idea for those prone to shin problems.

Other common causes of shin splints include running excessively on hard surfaces, wearing ill-fitting shoes, or running excessively on tight turns (such as on an indoor track).

Running exclusively on cement may promote shin splints because of the increased impact to lower legs versus running on grass or trails.  As a preventative measure, be sure to rotate the types of surfaces you run on.

People who wear improper running shoes may also be at more risk of shin splints due to their feet being forced into an unnatural foot fall.  Chronic shin splint sufferers need to be fitted for running shoes with extra cushion and motion control.

Finally, shins are under additional strain when runners choose to run the majority of their miles on indoor or outdoor tracks, due to the continual left turns. Switching directions often or finding other running routes will help.

Related: Footwear Prescription: How to Choose Running Shoes?

About Anna Weber

Anna Weber - Linked Fitness Community Author - Shin Splints

Anna is an elite runner from Indianapolis, USA. In July 2015 she made the brave decision to put her PhD in Analytical Chemistry on hold so that she could follow her true passion – running.

Since then she has worked harder than ever before and in October 2015 she qualified for the Olympic Trials at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in a time of 2:38:39.

Anna’s huge success has been recognised by the running apparel company Oiselle, whose mission is to provide inspiration and support to women of all running levels. Oiselle have made Anna a member of their Haute Volée team which is their Elite Team.

To find out more about Anna Weber, you can visit her blog and her website

View Anna Weber's Profile

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