Shin splints is a term referring to pain on the front or inside of the shin. It is a very common injury in people new to sport, for those who are increasing their training load, training on hard surfaces, or people who walk a lot.

It should be noted that not all shin pain is from shin splints. An example of conditions which you may mistake for shin splints are a shin stress fracture, and compartment syndrome (which is a swelling within the compartments around the shin bone). Both of these can potentially be quite serious so it is important to get an assessment to confirm your diagnosis.

There are a number of things that can lead to shin splints, here are some of the common ones:

 1. Training approach: stepping up your training too quickly (going from “Zero to Hero”) is a very easy way to get injured. Injuries happen when the strain we put on our bodies is too much for our tissues to withstand.

If you are new to exercise, make sure you start small and build up gradually.

Take rest days between sessions, and follow a training programme if you are starting something new like running, eg Couch to 5K. 

If you are increasing your training load, ask yourself:

– Is your body ready for this increase?

– Have you built up steadily over the last few months? If so, increase your mileage or your intensity of sessions in one discipline at a time. 10% a week is a good guide, and this means a 10% increase in either intensity or mileage, not both!


2. Training surface

Completing all of your training on hard surfaces increases the risk of getting injuries such as shin splints, so try to vary the surface you are training on eg road, track or pitch sessions. Try a cross trainer or bike to unload the tissues while still working on fitness.

3. Footwear

The importance of footwear cannot be over-estimated- many overuse injuries can be caused purely from problems with footwear, please see our ‘Footwear’ section for more details. Click here >>>>

4. Muscle strength and flexibility

Better strength in the muscles of your trunk will help to hold good posture and maintain good alignment of your legs while exercising. Therefore doing regular exercises to improve your strength and core stability will reduce your risk of injury. If you are unsure as to what you should be doing, we can help design a programme to suit your activity and your specific areas of weakness.

5. Warm-up and cool-down

Before you run, walk or train, your tissues need to be warmed-up, for example doing a light jog/brisk walk, anything that gets the blood flowing. A common misconception is that people need to spend a lot of time stretching before they run- in fact static stretching is more important as part of your cool-down and recovery. 

Adequate time needs to be allowed for both the warm-up and cool-down- this can vary from 5-15 minutes, but make sure you feel the benefit before you stop.

Here are some useful stretches:


Treatment of shin splints

If you feel shin splints developing, the sooner you rest or pull back from training, the quicker they will heal. Ice your shin to reduce inflammation. Use the stretches in the link above. 

Once the pain has settled you can try to gradually build up your training again, start at a low level and increase one component (intensity or mileage) at a time. If you are in doubt about how to return to activity without flaring up pain in your shins, ask one of our Chartered Physiotherapists for advice.

Call us on 0404 49781


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