The Joys of Shin Splints

I’m sure your can sense the sarcasm in the title of this post.  Shin splints are the antithesis of joyful.  They are excruciating and all too common for runners.  I’ve had a few issues with shin splints in the time that I’ve been running and it seems like they have recently made a triumphant return.  For the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling a slight pain on the inner side of my left shin, but it wasn’t until last night when both legs went into full shin splint overdrive that I knew I had to focus on healing this area of my legs again.

Shin splints are a way of describing pain in the lower shin area of the leg and most commonly is isolated to the front inside of your shin (tibia).  The symptoms can range from a dull ache during exercise to feeling tender to the touch at all times.  I’m lucky to suffer from both of these symptoms. Yay me!

Numerous factors can cause shin splints, including running on hard surfaces, overpronation of the feet, inadequate footwear, swollen muscles from overuse, or stress fractures.  But the most common cause of shin splints can be seen in the image to the right.  The periostium is a sheath surrounding the tibia bone.  This can become inflamed from overuse and friction on from the muscle…ouch!

So what do you do when shin splints pop up?  I’ve found a few tips and exercises that have worked for me in the past.  Time to pick these up again…

1. Ice, ice, and more ice.  Ice works miracles for inflammation.  Applying an ice pack for 20-30 minutes after exercise can do a world of good.  I’ve also recently found cold baths to be very helpful.  When the pain persists, I try to ice at least once a day even if I’m not exercising.  This is something I need to get better with.

2. Pain relieving gels.  These are products, such as BioFreeze and Perform (over-the-counter version), that can be helpful for temporary relief during and after exercise.  I’m interested in this new Bengay Zero Degrees product.  Has anyone tried it?  You keep it in the freezer and apply as needed.  Interesting concept…

3. Arch supports for your shoes.  A main cause of shin splints is overpronation, which is excessively rolling your foot inward as you run.  Orthotics, whether over-the-counter or custom made ($$), can help correct this and in turn help your shin splints.

Look…they come in fun colors!

4. Compression Sleeves.  These increase blood flow in your legs, which keeps your muscles warm and helps recovery.  I have yet to try these, but I have been considering it more lately.  I know many runners that swear by them during their races, and after my calf and shin pain following my last half marathon, I think they could really help.  For more information, check out this detailed look at compression socks over at The Science of Running.

5. Stretching!  This is something that has really helped me with my shin splints and other issues I’ve had while running.  I can’t stress enough how important stretching is.  I found this great video over on Fun and Fit that stretches both the shin and calf muscles.  They work together, so you must strengthen both!


I hope these tips help those of you that suffer from shin splints.  I know a few of them, the stretches in particular, have helped me!

Do you suffer from shin splints?  What do you do to ease your pain?

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  • I ran 2 half marathons in one weekend and was very undertrained. I chose that weekend to give compression socks a try and they really, really helped. And not just with with my shins, but it seemed to help prevent fatigue in my lower legs and offered extra support. I don’t use them every time I run, but for longer training runs and races it seems to help. Good luck!

  • I’m going to try the compression socks I think if just straight up stretching and pain killers don’t work. I’m trying to convince myself that those compression socks are just cute “leg warmer” type things and CAN look cute! lol. Great post! I’m definitely going to check out that video. I hope to get my shin splints under control soon, and at least by the 5k in September!

  • I have fought shin splints for 6 months and finally solved the problem by using my orthotics. I knew earlier on that was what is best but was afraid to try it. now i do not suffer from.shin splints at all. if anyone is serious about running and suffers they really should have their feet checked for overpronation. it has changed me completely. i ran my half marathon pain free from shin splints. But i do wear calf sleeves during my runs and after my ice bath. i also wear them during the day after a lo.g run.

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