Shin splints are a beginning runner's worst nightmare. You make the commitment to do exercise, and then bam, your shins are throbbing with every step. To best understand how to treat shin splints, an understanding of what they are and what causes them is first needed.

Shin splints are due to an imbalance between the muscles that lift the foot and those that pull it down. Shin-splint pain commonly happens when runners are new to an exercise program. The cause of shin splints can vary. The two most common causes are running too far too soon and improper running shoes. Other causes can be over-striding or running surface.

Given you get the right shoes and cut back on distance the shin splint pain should go away as you develop your shin muscles and adjust to your exercise program. Here are a few tips to get you through the pain:

1. Strengthen your calf muscles with exercises: Toe Raises can help build the shin muscles and improve their flexibility so you can overcome shin splints. Try writing the entire alphabet with one foot lifted in the air. Repeat with other foot.

2. Replace old shoes: Shoe cushioning is exhausted every 400-500 miles, often long before the soles or uppers show wear. But these old, dead shoes can contribute to shin splints, as well as foot and leg fatigue. You may consider a more supportive foot bed as well. As well as a change in shoes, a more supportive foot bed that is properly fitted can reduce or even eliminate shin splint pain.

3. Alternate running days: Run only every other day until the pain disappears. Try walking if running is too painful.

4. Ice: Ice shins every night for 20 minutes and always ice after your workout.

5. Warm-up before going fast: Warm up walking at an easy pace for 10 minutes.

6. Stretch after warming up.

7. Slow or stop if you feel shin-splint pain.

If the pain continues or worsens, seek medical help. Occasionally, stress fractures can be mistaken as shin splints, and medical treatment for this is important.


Don Bentley is the owner of Fleet Feet Sports in American Fork. Contact him at: [email protected], or at 801 756-5800.