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How to Overcome Shin Splints

Close of of runner's leg with xray view of bones

Yuri_Arcurs/iStock

In this Article:

  • Learn the signs and symptoms of shin splints.
  • Stretch before and after you work out to prevent shin splints.
  • Check out our tips on how to recover from shin splints quickly.

Ouch! Are your shins tender to the touch? Do they throb when you run? You may be experiencing shin splints, one of the most common running injuries.

Understanding Shin Splints

The term shin splints is used to describe pain on the inner edge of the tibia, or shin bone, where muscles attach to the bone. Shin splints are caused by inflammation of the tissues in the lower leg. They can be painful and are typically a result of overuse. Shin splints can:

  • Feel sharp and razor-like or dull and throbbing
  • Occur both during and after exercise
  • Be tender to the touch

People with flat feet, runners, athletes, and military personnel are prone to shin splints. Any time you have a substantial change in physical activity, you’re at a higher risk of getting shin splints. For example, you might get shin splints if you increase your weekly mileage from 10 to 15 miles a week.

Treating Shin Splints

Usually shin splints will subside after a few days. In the meantime, rest your body to allow it to heal. Anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, can also help to reduce the pain. Apply ice packs after physical activity, placing a damp towel between your shin and the ice to avoid direct contact with your skin.

Shin splints are typically fully healed when you can flex the injured leg or jog without pain. If the pain doesn’t subside after rest and icing for several days, it could be a sign of a more serious condition. Talk to your doctor if you experience persistent pain in your shins after you exercise.

Preventing Shin Splints

Here are five easy ways you can stop shin splints before they start:

  • Start slow. Build up your speed and distance gradually. Be sure to only increase distance by up to 10 percent each week.
  • Run on softer surfaces. Constant impact on hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt can put a lot of stress on your feet and shins. Instead, opt for running on softer surfaces, like grass or dirt trails.
  • Stretch. Try doing dynamic stretches before and static stretches after working out. Check out these dynamic stretches.
  • Rest. Give your legs a break! Give your body a chance to recover in between your workouts.
  • Replace your shoes. Replace your running shoes every 400-500 miles to avoid injury. Properly fitted shoes can help lessen or prevent shin splints and pain associated with exercising. Pick running shoes based on your arch shape and stride and lace them for peak performance.

Shin splints hurt, but the good news is they are treatable and preventable.

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