ask a runner: shin splints



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Hi there. I was a runner, I loved running. Makes me feel free. However I've got really bad shin splints. I haven’t been able to run for more than five minutes without tears streaming down my face. I would love to get back into running. Any suggestions? - Caitlin

I used to run consistently for many years and recently took a break when I felt shin splints. I started to run again but now the arch of my feet hurts and so do my knees. I purchased over-pronator shoes but the problem keeps on going. What would you recommend for this type of problem? I really love to run and wouldn’t want to stop. - Sam

Any suggestions for avoiding shin splints? I seem to get them no matter what I do - Emmy

I just started running, but find it hard to get pass the 4 mile mark. Also, started developing shin splints. How do you get rid of them? - Melissa

I see this has come up a few times, but I’m also wondering about shin splints! How to prevent them, treat after, etc. I seem to get them on concrete, but recently did on a track, and they always discourage me from running - Larissa

a runner answers

Caitlin, Sam, Emmy, Melissa, & Larissa,

Shin splints are a common and uncomfortable condition. A common cause is when people ramp up their speed or mileage too quickly. First off, make sure that the shoes you run in are appropriate for your feet. Ask the people at your local running shop – they should be trained in this. If that’s all good, then I would recommend a run/walk combination and see if that helps alleviate some of the pain. Try to stay beneath your threshold of shin pain – you may find that adding more frequent walking breaks or running on non-consecutive days will help this. DO NOT try speedwork or racing until the pain has gone away.

I have also found that shin splints are almost always correlated with tight calf muscles and other surrounding muscles of the lower body. Invest in a foam roller, or see if your gym has one, and check out www.my-physical-therapy-coach.com/foam-roller-exercises.html. I recommend all of the lower body exercises on this website, particularly, the “Gastroc Soleus Stretch”. If all else fails and you still have bad shin splints, then talk to your doctor – you may have stress fractures. The only solution is to take time off. Don’t panic! Use swimming, cycling, and other low impact exercises to keep fitness high while they heal.

Ainslie

Ainslie is the first run expert featured in our Ask a Runner series. Check out her website to get to know her better: http://triplethreattraining.ca/

Upcoming run posts from Ainslie:

- How to build endurance – May 19
- What to do about chafing – May 21
- Nutrition tips for runners – May 24
- Marathon training – May 26
- What kind of shoes to wear – May 27
- How to stay motivated – May 28

read more related posts:

21 Comments »


I have been getting really bag cramps under my ribs when I run. At first i thought it was because of eating too close to running so i tried eating after, and I still get the cramps. What should I do when I am running and get these really painful cramps? or what can I do to avoid them?

Comment by Kelly — May 17, 2010 @ 11:57 am


Cramps in that area are in most cases caused by your breathing. You’l want to make sure that you are taking full deep breathes all the way down to your belly, and fully exhaling the air. Many people tend to take really shallow breaths high into their chest while running because that is natural for the body to do when under stress. You must consciously deepen your breaths and over time, this will become more automatic. By adjusting your breathe, you are working with your diaphragm and keeping that muscle loose. That is often the muscle causing the cramp, whether it be in the ribs or in your side or even more around your back. Food can have a large roll in affecting your diaphragm as well, as your stomach being full can effect your breathing and you can get the same thing. The best thing to do is if you have to eat something right before a run, make it a small snack which is easily digestible. If you’re newer to running, you might want to wait an hour or two between food and your run, and as you get more comfortable, you can play with different things a little more. You can process food easier, if you are working less, so if you do have food in your belly, just slow down so you can keep digesting.
Nutrition and food are a big topic when it comes to running and there is so much variation between what works for you and someone else. The best thing to to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t and to take it easy until you know the best combination for your body.
-Brian, Running Guru

Comment by Brian — May 18, 2010 @ 6:36 am


The information on the shin splints is very complete and innacurate. Research shows weakness in the hips and core are the primary reasons for shin splints. Internal femoral rotation causes a toed out running style coupled with excessive pronation. A good pair of shoes does not fix the problem. A complete kinetic chain assessment and run gait analysis is necessary to determine the problem so that the corrective exercises and stretches be prescribed. Most people are weak and do not know how to run properly. Also pain in one area of the body is 95 times out of a 100 a cause from a problem elsewhere on the body.

J Woods

Comment by jeff woods — May 19, 2010 @ 12:53 pm


I find icing the area really helps, 2-4 times per day for 15-20 min.

Comment by Marissa — May 20, 2010 @ 9:10 am


I was haunted by shin splints for many years!
After I recovered from an achilles injury my shin splints got really bad. Did the shoe check, iced all time, and still had to take a lot of time off from sports. Then I started rolling out my calves daily with a foam roller and I haven’t been hurting for almost 5 years. I swear by it!!!

Comment by Katy — May 20, 2010 @ 8:14 pm


I used to play soccer and then run after wards on concrete! I would get the worst shin splints ever that I couldnt walk! Luckily I had gone to a physician that worked in the military and was taking over for my Dr for that week! He had told me, that from running from grass to concrete and back again was tearing the small tissue fibers away from the bone( pounding),and that this also happens on the base alot with the type of boots that they use. He said the best remedy was to either sit on your couch at night ( stick a movie in) and get a towel and crinkle it up with your toes, or the better way of garanteeing this to work is get a bucket of marbles and pick them up with your toes for about a hour! This builds those tiny fibers back up again. I only had to do this 2 or 3 times and have never had to do it again! It will hurt and become uncomfortable at the beginning, but well worth it! I recommend the marbles as it makes your feet work harder then a towel! I hope this helps! good luck to you all!

Comment by Leigh — May 22, 2010 @ 6:33 pm


To add to the above paragraph that I had forgotten to say was to get two buckets, use one for marbles and the other to drop them in. Use one foot to pick up around 100 or so marbles and then put them in the other bucket, then repeat with the other foot!

Comment by Leigh — May 22, 2010 @ 6:36 pm


My high school crew coach used to make us walk backwards after running to prevent shin splints, maybe something to do with muscle tension in the quads? Not quite sure if this has any research behind it but I’ve ran 3 marathons and 7 mini’s and I’m in training for another full and I’ve never had shin issues. Foam rolling is great…if you can handle the pain ;)

Comment by Ashley — May 24, 2010 @ 8:09 pm


Thanks Ainslie and everyone else who commented! I’ll look into the foam roller although not really sure how to use one…yet.

Comment by Emmy — May 25, 2010 @ 5:17 am


Every now and then I feel the dreadful onslaught of a minor shin-splint developing in my left leg. It only hurts after I run. It is a sharp pain, but very minor in intensity.

I alternate between a soft surface and the road. I try to stay under the shin-splints.

I will run through soreness, but will stop if any pain develops. Being sore and being in pain are two different things.

Comment by Mark — September 6, 2010 @ 12:21 am


I’m training for my first marathon I think I am starting to develop shin splints, but I’m not sure if that’s what it is because what most people describe sounds very intense. It’s painful but dull rather than sharp and it hasn’t been bad enough for me to stop training. Is this something that will develop into something more painful? I feel it most when I end up having to run on the side of a crowned road when the paths are icy. It also hurts when my dogs – my steadfast running partners – are pulling hard on their leashes (it’s worse if there are squirrels involved). I usually experience the pain in the first 1-3 miles but it is usually gone by mile 4 and beyond. Why does the pain go away? Could it be because the way I run changes as I go on or am I just not noticing the pain anymore? Or is it the simplest explanation?: the dogs are a little more settled in and not pulling as much.

My dogs – especially the bigger one – pull me a lot and I’m concerned that this might damage my joints in the long run. It would really be a shame if I could run anymore because the dogs are my motivation for running. They love it, so it’s hard to say “I don’t feel like running today” when it comes run-time and the two of them are scratching at the door and giving me sad-puppy eyes. They also push me to go faster than I would by myself. We recently tackled 15 miles together. I was wiped out and they were fine. Can running with leash-pulling dogs cause lasting injury over the long term?

Comment by Emily — March 24, 2011 @ 9:15 pm


Eeek! Shin Splints!

The good news, Emily, is that the pain hasn’t progressed into anything that is going to sideline you – yet. The first thing to do would be to get into physio, even just to get checked out. They can look at your shoes to make sure that they are offering enough support and aren’t too worn down (around the 450 km mark, running shoes should start heading to the great shoe store in the sky – or at least be relegated to only yard work). The muscles that are hurting are ones that work to support the calf. This is why the pain is strong when you are running on a raked or crowned road or on ice, as the muscles are working extra hard to stabilize the leg. Also, if you are doing a lot of sidewalk running, you are going to want to make sure that you are running on the same side of the street on the way out and the way back. This will make sure that both sides of the body are getting the same amount of work.

As this is your first marathon, my recommendation would be to let the dogs stay at home – at least for the longer runs. It’s impossible to focus on your form while you are holding on to a leash, let alone two leashes. Until the pain is under control, the dogs should just come on short runs if at all. Besides, you’re not going to be able to take the dogs on the racecourse. The pain most likely dissipates after the first couple of miles once the muscles are warmed and the endorphins kick in, but damage can still be done.
~ Tess, GEC

Comment by lululemon athletica GEC — March 26, 2011 @ 10:55 am


ahhh shin splints… one of the worst pains ever! I find you have to really get a good calf stretch on both the back and sides before any kind of running. Anyone try the reezig shoes that are suppose to help with this?

Comment by Sarah — May 2, 2011 @ 1:38 pm


I started running nearly two years ago. Last year I ran a 10K, 5K and half marathon (2:05) and love the feeling of finishing a challenging workout. Just last week I started getting pain in my foot and now I can barely walk let alone run…I am going to see a doctor, maybe it is a stress fracture or pulled ligament. I have fairly flat feet. Are there any exercises I can do without making my foot work, since I can’t run?

Comment by Christine — July 9, 2011 @ 8:21 pm


Oh do i know shin pain well! I’ve had 3 stress fractures in my left tibia and it has taken almost 18months of no running to let my body heal properly. (Not running for that long has been felt like a nightmare!!) All I can say to anyone else who suffers from shin splints… listen to the pain – STOP RUNNING AND GET ADVISE NOW! Dont be like me and try and run through the pain. I was also doing too much of the too’s – too much, too often, too soon so I learnt my lesson the hard way. Much running love to you and I hope it is not as bad as mine was.

Comment by Leanne — August 16, 2011 @ 9:42 pm


I had shin splints about 2 years ago right before a huge race. I decided to keep training, take a little time off afterwards and then get back into it…bad decision. You really need to take time off and do a lot of icing and foam roll work. Don’t get to the point where it turns to tendonitis because you over trained- most painful experience of my life.

Comment by Liz — October 3, 2011 @ 4:00 pm


My high school baseball coach used to make us walk backwards after running to prevent shin splints, maybe something to do with muscle tension in the quads? Not quite sure if this has any research behind it but I’ve run 7 marathons and I’m in training for another full and I’ve never had shin issues. Foam rolling is great too.

Comment by Shin Splint Causes — November 27, 2012 @ 8:30 am


Pain in one area of the body is 95% of the time a cause from a problem elsewhere on the body. A whole body approach is really best here, as with any type of medicine. Shin splints stink!

Comment by Sesamoiditis — November 27, 2012 @ 8:32 am


I suffered from shin splints for 6 years, they are aren’t fun! I recommend figuring out what caused them, fix what caused the injury.

Comment by Jake Baker — May 25, 2013 @ 4:26 pm


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Comment by soccer marketing — June 28, 2013 @ 1:44 pm


Hi,
I started to run and finished my first 5k run a few weeks ago (hooray!). On my journey from couch potato to 5k runner I also dealed with shin splints.

I created a small website to share the experiences I made in fighting my shin splints. I can also confirm that the foam roller work for me, in combination with shin sleeves for compression.

Best regards,
Jan

Comment by Jan Koch — July 2, 2013 @ 12:23 pm


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