How to Run with Shin Splints

Three Parts:Practicing Safe Running TechniquesChoosing the Right Running ShoesRehabilitating Your Shins After Injury

Shin splints (or medial tibial stress syndrome) are a type of overuse injury that occurs with a daily vigorous training regimen. Pain is felt along the middle to lower inner aspect of the leg as muscles and tendons attached to the shin bone become swollen. This swelling usually occurs as a result of repetitive pounding on the shin bone produced by weight-bearing activities such as running or dancing. Shin splints do not keep runners off the pavement for a long time. Generally, two weeks of rest will give a runner pain-free runs again. There are some tweaks that one should make when resuming physical activity after being diagnosed with shin splints though. A must-do list when returning from shin splints injury starts below with Step 1.

Part 1
Practicing Safe Running Techniques

  1. Image titled Run with Shin Splints Step 1
    Warm up before your run. Never underestimate the importance of a good warm-up. It prepares the muscles and connective tissues (bone tissues included) for the incoming stress.
    • Routine stretching is no longer part of a sound warm-up. It should be done after an exercise. When your muscles are cold, stretching could actually lead to injury.[1]
    • Dynamic warm-ups should be done to prepare the muscles and bones better. Some examples of dynamic warm-ups are jumping jacks and light jogging in place.
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    Stick to a stable, soft running terrain. Running on hard surfaces daily will pound the shin bone and cause shin splints again. Opt for runner friendly surfaces such as an indoor oval track with rubber matting instead.
    • Avoid uneven or rocky surfaces as well. Running in the sand or field can induce shin splints due to sudden changes in forces to the shin bone.
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    Begin by walking and work up to running. Begin with walking first to ensure the strength of your legs and that it doesn’t trigger any kind of pain, then start jogging for a couple of minutes and gradually level up to running.
    • You can have days of walking first, then days of jogging sessions, then eventually running in short time intervals till you reach your previous training times.
    • Start with half of the distance you used to run in the past, with a gradual increase over three weeks.
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    Stretch out your muscles after you run, like with the calf stretch. Stretching after vigorous activity promotes blood flow to the legs and augments the recovery period. The end result is a pair of well-rested legs that will respond better in the next running session.
    • The calf stretch is one of the best ways to cool down after a run. To do this exercise:
      • Stand in front of a wall. Put one leg in front of the other in a split stance.
      • The rear leg should be kept straight and the same foot kept in contact with the ground at all times. The front leg should be bent with that foot in contact with the ground, too.
    • Push your hands against the wall and bend the front leg further. You should feel a stretch in the calf muscles of the rear leg. Hold the position for 30 seconds.
    • Switch leg position and repeat.
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    Alternate running with other cardiovascular activities. Rest your shin bone by alternating running with exercises such as swimming or biking. These exercises keep the heart rate up while letting the shin bone recover from excessive stress brought about by running.
    • Crosstraining is not only good for your shins, but it's good for your overall health, too. Instead of just working the same set of muscles over and over, you'll be training your entire body.
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    Change your running shoes out regularly. Running fanatics who exercise almost daily must invest in new shoes every 6 months. Worn out shoes offer less cushion and support to the feet. When your shoes are weak, the shin bones take in more running-induced damage as a consequence.
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    Get plenty of rest. The secret to preventing shin splints recurrence is rest. The body needs it to recover from stressful forces induced by running. Though you may feel like it's detracting from your fitness, in truth it will return you to 100% faster.
    • Sleep alone will not provide complete recovery. A day or two of rest each week will help keep the bounce in your stride and prevent overuse injuries.
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    Work to build a lean upper body. A lean upper body reduces the amount of weight that the shin bone has to bear with each stride. These exercises will help you achieve a trim upper body fit for running:
    • The plank trains the core muscles to equally transmit forces to the lower body when running. This exercise also helps in reducing unwanted belly baggage that add burden to the shin bones. Read wikiHow's How to Perform the Plank Exercise for more information.
    • The bent-over row engages the back and core muscles. Both groups of muscles are important in maintaining proper running form that reduce load on the shin bone. See instructions on how to do a bent over row here.

Part 2
Choosing the Right Running Shoes

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    Consider getting shock-absorbing running shoes. Choose a suitable kind of runner’s shoe which will support your feet and reduce the force going up to your shin area. You can buy specific shock-absorbing running shoes or use shock absorbing insoles to minimize the shock on your legs in case of shin splints.
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    Get a shoe that promotes stability if you have normal feet and ankles. If you have normal feet or ankles, you need a shoe that gives you stability, which is why it’s called a “stability shoe.” This running shoe is designed with cushions and supporting materials with high quality to protect you from any foot injury while running or pronation of your feet.
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    Buy “motion control” shoes that are meant for over-pronated feet if you are dealing with this condition. For over pronated feet, which may form the majority of shin splints cases, feet over pronation causes the ankles to bend inward a little, resulting in losing the normal arch in the feet. In this case, you need a special shoe to control the feet motion – a "motion control" shoe.[2]
    • This type of running shoe is specially designed and manufactured with additional supportive substances to increase the density of your shoe’s midsole (the running shoe is designed to have outsole, which is the outer layer touching the floor; the insole is the inner layer in contact with your foot; the midsole is the layer between the outsole and insole; the midsole layer is very important to absorb the shock coming out with each running step instead of your leg, and to give ultimate support and comfort to your feet.
    • In the case of over pronated feet, the increase in the midsole density in addition to bridges and roll bars can actually decrease the over pronation rate and avoid worsening of your condition while running.
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    Look for “cushion” shoes if you have a problem with supination. Another common condition is called supination, which causes the ankles to bend outward a little. For this case you need a shoe called a “cushion shoe.”
    • In this type of shoe, additional materials are added to the heel and upper foot areas to be able to disperse the shock absorbed between the two layers, the midsole and outsole. It also adds support and backing to your feet and ankles.
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    Keep the surface you will be running on in mind when buying your shoes. Note that the surface you’re going to run on will affect your running shoe type:
    • Running on streets or asphalt will need light but high quality cushioning measures to minimize the great shock that can be transmitted to your leg through your foot as much as possible.
    • Running on trails will require other shoe types that can resist mud or rocks, and to be made with a waterproof quality.
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    Make sure that your shoes are not too tight. After choosing our running shoes, you have to ensure that the shoes are not too tight on your feet. The shoe fit must allow some space inside in width and length to give your foot and toes space. If there isn't enough room, you will find your toes being bent or squeezed while running, especially if you are a downhill runner.
    • More attention has to be paid if you use additional insoles within your shoes, as they will occupy more space of their own and you will find no space for your feet! Make sure to put your insoles in while trying your new running shoes and before making the decision of your proper fit.

Part 3
Rehabilitating Your Shins After Injury

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    Follow the RICE acronym to help heal your shin splints.
    • “R” is for rest. The patient must not perform any kind of sports or activities that put additional pressure on the leg. This will aim in recovering more quickly and minimize the inflammation. If an athlete ignores these minor precautions he can worsen his condition and prolong the healing process.
    • “I” is for ice. Ice is applied to reduce the inflammation process, which in turn will reduce the swelling and pain. Ice can cause vasodilation of the blood vessels, which minimizes the amount of blood reaching the affected area. This will result in inhibiting the leakage of fluids to the outside of cells, reducing the pressure on the surrounded soft tissues and tendons, and decreasing the pain.
    • Ice should never be applied directly to skin, but should be wrapped in a towel or cloth. If you don’t find ice packs in the house you can use frozen beans instead. Ice should be applied for fifteen minutes every four hours during the first three days.
    • “C” is for compression. Applying a tiny amount of pressure to your shin will help in reducing the pain and ease the inflammation. This can be done by making shin splint taping to add additional support to your muscles.
    • “E” is for elevation. It is helpful for reducing the inflammation to raise your leg on a chair in front of you using a pillow or cushion below your heel.
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    Take NSAIDs to reduce pain and inflammation. Ibuprofen is probably the most common NSAID, or painkiller, used. Follow the directions on the label or the directions of your doctor to know the appropriate dosage for you.
    • However, NSAIDs may produce some side effects such as gastrointestinal disorders like nausea, vomiting, peptic or gastric ulcers, patients with hepatic, renal failure or taking blood thinners as Warfarin should ask their doctor first before having any of these drugs.
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    Make sure you are getting enough calcium each day. The recommended daily intake of calcium intake is 1000mg/day to keep the shin bones strong and sturdy.[3] You can shoot for the daily requirement with 2 glasses of skim or low-fat milk daily and a serving of other dairy products.
    • Those who cannot tolerate milk can opt for calcium tablet supplementation. Talk to your doctor about taking supplements as they are not recommended for everyone.
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    Practice toe extensions. To strengthen your shins, you can do toe extensions. Here's how:[4]
    • Stand with your back straight and your heels on the floor with your shoulders back.
    • Raise your body up depending or standing on your toes
    • Return back to the ground and repeat for several times.
      • This exercise can increase in its severity by using a box or a ladder to stand on.
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    Give toe lifts a try. To do this strengthening exercise:
    • Stand with your back straight and your heels on the floor with your shoulders in line.
    • Raise your toes up without moving your feet, then lower them down.
    • Repeat several times. You can increase the strength of the exercise by putting some weight on your toes to give a sort of resistance while lifting them up.
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    Do the toe and heel walk. A similar strengthening exercise is the toe and heel walk. Here's how it's done:[5]
    • Stand with your back straight and raise your body on your toes.
    • Take several steps on your toes.
    • After finishing, stand on your heels and then take several steps on them.
    • Alternatively, you can walk taking a step standing on your heel, then raise your body to be on the toes, then repeat with the other step until making several steps for about five minutes.


  • Do toe grabs to strengthen your toes. Grab different things with your toes like marbles, towels or pencils.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Running | Feet Knees and Legs