28 November 2021

Common running injuries – Shin splints

April 6, 2014

If you’ve been training for the London Marathon, by now you’ve probably completed your longest runs and are in the process of tapering your training, and hopefully it has been an injury-free process! In our final article on the most common running injuries, we give you some tips on staying injury-free.


You might have heard of, if you’re lucky enough not to have experienced it yourself, shin splints, a catchall term often referring to medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), which is characterised by pain and inflammation along the shin bone, specifically the inner part. It can often feel like tenderness or bruising of the shin.

Possible causes

The most common causes of MTSS are overloading the muscles of the lower leg, as in running too much too soon, and /or biomechanical irregularities such as overpronation. Inflexibility of your calf muscles may contribute as well. ‘Shin splints’, if not treated, can lead to stress fractures and women are 1.5 to 3.5 times more likely to get stress fractures due to our higher incidence of diminished bone density and osteoporosis. Consultant Radiologist, Dr Petrie de Villiers, who practices at clinics in Harley Street and Wimbledon in London, highlights the fact that diagnosing shin splints and stress fractures can be difficult and not always spotted on X-Ray, therefore an ultrasound scan may be more useful.

How to treat it

Firstly, apply the RICE procedure (rest, ice, compression, elevation). In particular ice your shins and avoid weight-bearing exercises, such as running, as much as possible for a short-period of time if the pain is acute (don’t run through the pain!). Ice massage could also be beneficial for reducing the inflammation of this area.

See a professional to assess whether you have a biomechanical irregularity like flat feet or overpronation – this is excessive inward rolling of the foot – and to address these with orthotics.

Do gentle static stretching of the calf muscles and Achilles tendon everyday and hold each stretch for 30 seconds.

 Calf Stretch

How to prevent it

Get the correct trainers! There are many running shops that do biomechanical assessments and can recommend good footwear specific to your feet.

Attend a running workshop to assess your running form and to find ways to improve this – it will help prevent injuries and make you a more efficient (and hopefully faster!) runner.

Don’t do too much too soon – follow a running programme which gradually increases your mileage each week, and vary your surfaces – try to avoid too hard surfaces like concrete as your only running surface.

Sportsister’s top tips to avoid running injuries:

  • When you feel acute pain or discomfort while running or after activity follow the RICE procedure – rest, ice, compression and elevation – and always listen to your body!
  • If you are in doubt see a professional to assess the injury and apply a rehabilitative programme specific to you.
  • Always follow best practices: use a running programme, buy appropriate footwear, warm-up before you run, stretch afterwards, and do strengthening exercises.
  • And if you are serious about your running or training for a specific event invest in a running workshop to improve your running technique, and regular sport massages.

Happy running!

Bianca Fermi, Sportsister

The Women’s Sports Magazine

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