why do my shins hurt when i run

Why Do My Shins Hurt When I Run?

Why Do My Shins Hurt When I Run?

Have you been feeling sharp, acute pain in your shins while running? If you have, then you most likely have shin splints. Painful and unpleasant, they can not only be debilitating to your athletic performance, but they can also worsen and create a potential stress fracture over time.

That being said, we’re here to provide you more information on this particular type of running injury. In this article, we’ll answer the question: “Why do my shins hurt when I run?” by addressing what exactly are shin splints, their causes, and finally how to treat them. Without further ado, let’s begin!

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What are shin splints?

Also known as medial tibia stress syndrome, shin splints are a type of injury that occurs along the tibia, where the shin is located. It’s an inflammation of the tissue surrounding the shin bone and they, along with the muscles, tear as you run.

Usually, when you have shin splints, you might experience soreness and/or tenderness along the inside of your shin bone. However, as it worsens, you might start to feel acute pain with each step as you run, possibly progressing to pain even as you walk.

How does it occur?

  • One of the most common factors that cause shin splints is the sudden increase in mileage in a running program. Especially if you’re a beginner to running, going from little to a lot of training in a short period of time stresses your muscles and tissues, which then contributes to injury.
  • Even if you’re an experienced runner, you still might get shin splints. Perhaps you have naturally tight calf muscles, which then put more stress on your shins to compensate. Or, maybe your shoes aren’t providing enough cushion and support, thereby transferring the impact to the front of the lower leg.

For a video on the symptoms of shin splints, check out this one here: 

What are the differences between shin splints and stress fractures?

  • The main difference between shin splints and stress fractures is the degree of damage down to the affected body part. Stress fractures are an end product of shin splints, which itself is a precursor to worsening conditions.
  • Additionally, shin splints are caused by an excessive tear of the muscles and tissues as you train, and not giving them enough time between workouts to rest and repair. Stress fractures, on the other hand, occur on the bone level, created by little fissures and cracks that require more serious treatment than shin splints.

To learn more about stress fractures, check out our article on it here:

How do you treat shin splints?

Before you can go ahead and treat your injury, you’ll first need to have a diagnostic test to see if you, in fact, have shin splints and not some other type of injury. Should the case be that you have a stress fracture instead, you’ll need to take other measures to get your body healed.

Medical tests such as X-rays or MRI scans are the best ways to go since they not only can help you identify your problem but also figure out the steps to take afterward for recovery.

Once you confirm that you have shin splints, it’s now time to treat them. Here are some ways to go about it:

  • Get plenty of rest. Take time off from running to allow your shins to heal.
  • Perform modified activities that don’t put too much stress on your shins, including cycling, walking, and elliptical training.
  • ​Apply ice packs to your shins when they are feeling particularly painful or sore. Make sure you only leave them on for a few minutes or else they’ll start to burn your skin.
  • ​Strengthen your shins by doing some localized exercises, including toe curls and heel drops.
  • Check your shoes to see if they’re worn out or aren’t suitable for your foot type, thus requiring you to get new pairs. For ideas on running shoes, check out our article here.

For a video on shin strengthening exercises, take a look at this one here.

How long do shin splints take to heal?

Generally speaking, shin splints take around 2 to 4 weeks to heal; however, some of the more chronic cases can take 3 to 6 months to be completely gone.

Be patient, and wait at least two weeks after the pain just goes away to slowly resume running again.

Conclusion

Shin splints not only are, literally, a pain in our body, but they’re also a pain (figuratively, of course) when we need to stop in order for our shins to recover. However, with some patience and knowledge, you can take steps to help you recover in an efficient way. Here are some ways:

  • Get diagnosed to confirm that you have shin splints.
  • Cease running and other strenuous activities that might add stress to your shins.
  • ​Ice regularly and consider strengthening your shins to prevent future injuries.
  • ​Switch out running shoes for ones that will fit and support your feet better.
  • ​Be patient; shin splints don’t go away overnight.

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