Shin Splints - An Introduction

Tuesday, 22 September 2015  |  Admin

It's the bane of a great number of runners and other athletes - Shin splints affects a lot of people with an active lifestyle and, if not dealt with correctly, can sideline you for an extended period of time.

What is Shin Splints?

Shin splints is a general term for exercise-induced pain in the front of the lower legs, or shins. At first this will present itself as a dull ache though if you ignore it and continue to exercise it can become very painful and prevent you from exercising altogether. The most common cause of shin splints is MTSS (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome). This is caused when a lot of pressure is placed on the legs, and the layer of connective tissue covering the shin bone (the periosteum) becomes inflamed.

Shin pain is not necessarily due to shin splints and is sometimes misdiagnosed. It could either be compartment syndrome, which is caused by a swelling of muscles creating pressure, or even a stress fracture, which is an incomplete crack in the bone itself. A general rule is that if it feels worse in the morning it is most likely shin splints, as the soft tissue will have tightened overnight. 

How Does This Happen?

Shin splints can be caused by a number of factors. You are more at risk if:

  • You are an inexperienced runner (less than 5 years)
  • You run on hard surfaces or on slopes, which increase the force of impact
  • You are overweight, as this puts more stress on your legs
  • You have tight calf muscles (linked to not stretching them out enough)
  • You suddenly change your workout routine
  • Your feet roll inwards as you run
  • You wear ill-fitting or very worn shoes

Treatment Options for Shin Splints

Experts agree that the best treatment for shin splints is simply rest. The severity of the condition will affect how long you wait for but you should generally stop the activity causing them for at least two weeks. Doing some kind of training is still possible but it shouldn't be high impact. Swimming, cycling or yoga, to name a few, would most likely be suitable. Icing your shins to reduce swelling and pain is also a good idea.

Once you have recovered, it is a good idea not to resume your normal activities at the same pace as before. You should gradually work your way up to the level you were before, and if the pain starts again you should ease off. Make sure you are properly warmed up and your calf muscles especially have been stretched.

Which Products Can Help with Shin Splints?

One of the most important things regarding shin splints is your footwear. If your shoes are not suited to your running style this can cause a number of problems. Topo Athletic shoes encourage natural movement, and have a good balance between comfort and feel with enough cushioning to protect your feet. The Fli-Lyte and Runventure models are both a great choice.

If you are recovering from shin splints or a more serious stress fracture then the Aircast Leg Brace can enhance circulation and reduce swelling, providing the support your legs need to heal.