Shin splints: causes, prevention and cure

Shin splints are one of the more common injuries that often affect beginner runners or more experienced runners coming back from a lay-off.

There are different types of shin splints and the causes may be structural or induced.

An anterolateral shin splint affects the front and outer part of the muscles and a posteromedial shin splint affects the back and inner part of the muscles of the shin.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain on the front and outside of the shin when the heel touches the ground while running (anterolateral).
  • Pain on the inside of the lower leg above the ankle (posteromedial).
  • Inflammation (posteromedial).
  • Pain when you press the shin (posteromedial).
  • Pain when standing on the toes or rolling the ankle inwards (posteromedial).

Anterolateral shin splints are usually caused by a structural imbalance between the muscles at the front and back of the legs. The most common cause of a posteromedial shin splint is increasing the amount of exercise too much too quickly.

Other causes include:

  • Tired or inflexible calf muscles that put too much stress on the tendons.
  • Not stretching.
  • Running or jumping on slanted and hard surfaces.
  • Worn out shoes that don’t provide enough support.
  • Over-pronation when running can also aggravate the problem.

Shin splints can often be cured by rest or self-treatment.

At Sporting Feet we offer a number of solutions that can be used for self-treatment.

  • A supportive running shoe with some stability features and a rigid heel should help.

We offer a free foot scan and gait analysis to all our customers to ensure they receive the most suitable running shoes.  We stock most of the major running brands providing ample choices for every runner’s need.

  • Insoles will help by adding arch support.  We offer a range of different insoles which are beneficial for several running related conditions including shin splints.  These can be fitted for your specific arch type to provide more cushioning and support.
  • Compression calf sleeves can reduce the trauma and vibration that occurs with every foot strike when running by providing extra support and stability around the lower leg. They can also help reduce swelling and inflammation associated with shin splints.
  • Resistance bands can be used to strengthen the tendons and muscles at the front of the lower leg. Resistance work can also help equalise any imbalances between the muscles at the front and back of the legs.

Try anchoring an exercise band to the leg of a table or sofa and loop the other end around your forefoot. Move the foot up and down and from side to side from the ankle to strengthen the lower leg muscles.

  • Foam rollers can be used for self-massage to help keep the calf and hamstring muscles more flexible.  However be careful not to foam roll your shins directly. 

Seek medical assistance if the pain persists for more than a month or so.