How to prevent shin splints


About 30 to 40 percent of new runners develop shin splints; stay a part of the healthy majority by following these tips. 

Warm up properly to prepare your body for the demands of your workout and prevent injury. Try this dynamic warm up routine before you start running.

Gradually increase running frequency, distance, duration and intensity while allowing adequate rest between workouts. Find out how to build endurance and increase mileage without getting hurt.

Related: How Beginners Can Boost Endurance

Run on softer surfaces, such as trails, grass or a local track. Softer surfaces are lower impact and less stress for your legs compared to pavement and sidewalk.

Improve your running mechanics by stretching and strengthening your hips, glutes, core and lower legs.

Incorporate plyometric exercises to enhance your running efficiency and make you more resilient. Follow along with our Leap Year plyometric challenge to incorporate a different move into your routine every day.

Replace shoes at the recommended intervals of 300 to 500 miles.

Cross-train with lower-impact activities, such as swimming, cycling and using an elliptical trainer, to allow the body to recover. Even unconventional activities like paddle boarding and barre class can be great compliments to your running.

Related: Hit The Barre With These 5 Moves For Runners


  1. Foam rolling and The Stick. Two of my favorite pieces of equipment. I’ll link to several videos showing how to use both. The foam roller is 1 to 3’ long and about 6” in diameter. It’s great for self massage. The Stick is a brand name. It is a device that is about a foot or a little more – long – and it is slightly flexible and has 1” wide rings that spin on the shaft as you roll it on your legs. When you use either of these devices, make sure you don’t roll on the bone. You want to the side of the front of the leg to work the muscle. 2. Ice. Freeze a small paper cup with ice in it. Then you can tear off the edge of the cup and massage the area with ice. 3. Stretch: Wall lean, bent knee wall lean, stretching out the ankle by kneeling on floor with foot out flat on floor. Don’t do anything that hurts, though. Stretching should be quite gentle. 4. Strengthen: You’ll do well to strengthen all your muscles. You might be surprised that strengthening your core will help, even, because a stronger core means less stress on the legs and makes improved form possible. Do, work diligently at strengthening the leg muscles, though, and foot muscles. 5. Form: Eliminate any overstriding in your gait. When you overstride, meaning to plant your foot in front of your center of gravity, you’re using the part of your leg between your knee and foot as a fulcrum to pull your body up and over, putting much more stress on your lower leg. If you plant your foot right under your body, you’ll likely land on a very stable whole foot platform, and you’ll be on the downward part of your stride, already, immediately unloading the stress on your lower leg. 6. Concentrate on making sure the muscles of your leg are in balance. Many people have powerful calves but weak front leg muscles. Work on that. 7. Massage. You’ll find many examples in the show notes of physical therapists demonstrating how to massage the muscles involved. Plus, I always recommend periodic full body therapeutic sports massage. This will help tremendously with improved form and relieving tightness. A good MT will help you identify tight areas that you can then work on yourself. 8. Evaluate your shoes, whether they are worn and whether they are the best shoes for you. 9. Compression calf sleeves. These are not a gimmick. Especially for newer runners or for anyone who is having any problems with your shins, I would wear them for all your runs until the problem completely subsides, at least.

    10. Kinesio taping. When I had a stress fracture to my tibia, the location where they most frequently occur, after three months, an x-ray showed the bone was completely healed, but the pain lasted for months. A different doctor of physical therapy, Eric Schweitzer, showed me how to tape it. I did, and that definitely, helped with the nagging pain. He also showed me that I was overstriding. Not much, but enough to make it hurt more. I knew better, of course, but self awareness, as I’ve said before, is far from accurate, and I am not immune. He shot video of me on a treadmill, and video does not lie. I worked on that, and it helped as well.

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Now, let’s talk about prevention:

You can probably guess how to prevent shin splints based on the treatments, but I’ll provide a short list:

1. Avoid muscle imbalance 2. Run with good form 3. Stretch, enough, but not too much. Being too flexible is as much of a problem as being too tight, but if you have shin splints, there is a good chance that you will benefit from the stretches described above, but be careful to do dynamic stretches before exercising and only do static stretches when you are warmed up. 4. Get regular deep tissue massages and use The Stick and foam roller, daily. 5. Avoid sudden increases in mileage or intensity. 6. Learn hill-running technique and apply it. 7. Avoid suddenly doing more miles on harder surface. Ease into it. 8. If you switch to shoes with less cushioning, give yourself weeks to get adjusted to them by wearing your old shoes for at least half of your runs for a while, and depending on how little cushioning they have, you may need to only wear the new, less cushioned shoes, for a couple of tenths of miles at a time, gradually building up. 9. Do not run with your toes lifted. This alone causes stress to the muscles of your shin. 10. Wear compression socks for long runs or intense training, i.e., speed work. 11. Consider shoes with less drop. I have become a personal fan of Altra shoes, but other brands are offering shoes with zero drop or low drop. A lower drop will encourage good form, but shoes are quite individual. Be careful with any shoe change, and get your gait analyzed by an expert, a real expert.

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12. Study running form videos, and get a friend to shoot video of you, running, and strive for high cadence, short steps and light steps. Loud steps mean pounding. A stronger core will help keep you light on your feet. Planks are my very favorite core exercise. Make this part of your daily routine.

I hope that helps. If you are dealing with shin splints, just remember, you will get through this, and it will make you a stronger runner, both mentally, and physically. Injries are a part of running – to an extent. We do everything we can to avoid them. We try to make wise decisions, but sometimes we just can’t see what’s coming. We do something we think is reasonable only to find out our lower leg disagrees. Shin splints a huge pain, literally, and, mentally, because they keep us from doing what we love, at least for a time, but they always go away. Hang in there.

“Shin Splints” Runner’s World

How to Treat and Beat Shin Splints by Kelly O’Mara,

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Debbie is a running coach who loves to work with all levels of runners from beginner runners working up to their first mile to first-time marathoners. Running form, motivation, race strategy, speed work, and cross training will all help you achieve your goals. Chat with Debbie on Google+ | LinkedIn | Facebook

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