How To Prevent Shin Splints In Runners

How To Prevent Shin Splints In Runners

How To Prevent Shin Splints In Runners Third Space Sports Medicine

Prevention is always the best medicine when it comes to running injuries. Shin splints are similar to most running injuries, in that the most effective way to prevent them is to respect the laws of adaptation. This means, firstly, listening to your body.

If you are feeling pain when running, it’s because your brain has decided, that a particular area of your body needs protecting. Usually, but not always, this is because too much stress, or load, is being accumulated in the painful area, and you are not leaving enough time in between stresses to allow the tissues to adapt.

So the key to injury prevention is gradual, patient loading.

Now, if you’ve gone past the prevention phase and are in the painful phase (and lets face it, if you’re reading this, I imagine you’re in this phase already) the next sections will be helpful for you.


Ice works really nicely as an analgesic. Rough guidelines of 10 mins every 2 hours, if needed, are adequate (Remember to wrap ice in a damp towel to prevent ice burns).


The goal of running re-education is to assess an individuals running style, and see if, through subtle changes to biomechanics, you can unload the tissues (bone, muscle, ligament), whilst not jeopardising performance or simply creating another injury elsewhere in the body. 

If none of the below techniques are working for you, then it may be time to see an osteopath for some advice. Often it is impossible to see the problem from the inside…

1. Increase Cadence or Shorten Stride Length

There’s no set stride rate you should aim for so have a play around with it. Generally, go for 5%-10% more than your current cadence and see what happens. You can always gradually increase it from there and re-assess the ‘experiment’.

The theory behind increasing your cadence is to prevent your from over striding so if it is easier to think about it in these terms then simply try to shorten your stride length ever so slightly. What this does is gets you landing closer to your centre of mass and with a straight tibia, as opposed to your tibia flicking out ahead of the knee.

2. Increase Step Width

Trying to move the load from the inside of the shin, to achieve less varus (side bending).  Generally, asking people to have some daylight between their legs or imagine running on either side of a yellow parking line, gets the right changes. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a long term change but long enough to allow the painful tissues to recover.

3. Change The Direction Of The Ground Reaction Force

Again, we are trying to decrease the anterior tibia bowing. If we look at a pole vaulter, if he places the pole out in front of him with forward and downwards force it will create anterior bowing. However, if he plants the pole down with a backward and downwards force, it will not bow anteriorly, but posteriorly. Bad for a pole vaulter, but good in our tibial context! i.e the force will go more through the back of the tibia.

Any change in the direction of the ground reaction force, to a more backwards and downwards force, will decrease the load in the anterior tibia and may be enough for us to keep running without pain. How to do this? 

4. Posture

Run Tall. Imagine you have a hook attached to the crown of the head and you are being pulled directly upwards. This helps decrease an anterior pelvic tilt, or a forward lean from the waist.  Both of these latter postures lead to the centre of mass shifting forwards during stance. To compensate for this, you will have to over stride with the next step = more load on knee and shin area.

Other treatments that can be used in the fight against shin splints:


Orthotics can still be a great tool to offload an injured or sensitised area. It is vital to speak to a podiatrist who can assess and diagnose exactly what is loading and unloading from your foot into your leg while you walk and run in order to improve what is happening and to offload the painful structures. 

Similar to orthotics but a more temporary solution from a run to run basis. 


As mentioned last week, weak calves have been implemented in shin splints. So seems like a good idea to strengthen these muscles. Avoid calf strengthening where jumping or bouncing is involved for obvious reasons! 


Bit of a weird one this, intuitively you would think that running on softer ground, such as an athletics track, sand or grass, would be easier on the legs, but the literature suggests that when we run on softer ground our leg actually stiffens more to compensate for the softness, and the reverse is true when running on hard ground i.e. less stiff legs. However, in practice this seems to be less straight forward as it seems it is more the change of surface rather than specifically onto firmer ground and one to bear in mind if you find your pain is worse on softer ground. That or it may be that ‘shin splints’ are a cover for something else that is going on to cause you pain. 


What Causes Shin Splints In Runners?

What Causes Shin Splints In Runners? Third Space Sports Medicine

Shin splints are medically known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome and is reckoned to occur in up to 20% of runners.

What Causes Your Shin Splints?

Shin splints is often classed as an overuse injury but there are often many factors involved. It is interesting to note that it tends to affect more novice runners than fitter, more experienced athletes.

The symptoms of shin splints of pain along the inside of the tibia – the hard flat bone at the front of your calf. It is usually painful to press on and sometimes it even looks swollen in more severe cases.

  1. Muscles of the Calf & Foot who have their attachments on the tibia. If these are tight, weak or used excessively then tugging and traction on the place they attach can become inflamed.
  2. The Fascia (connective tissue) of the calf attaches to the inner border of the tibia along the full length of the bone.
  3. Decreased Calf Strength, or even a smaller calf size may leave you vulnerable to shin splints. The theory is that a bigger, stronger calf muscles will  absorb some of the impact forces of running and therefore allow the bone to take more loading before becoming injured.
  4. Tibial Bowing/Bending. The theory goes that it is the problem of micro-trauma to the bone due to repeated bending or bowing of the tibia.
What Else Could Your Shin Splints Be? 
There are, of course, other things that could be causing the pain in your shins. Some of these are more common that others but the rarer ones are serious medical conditions that need immediate treatment. If you are ever in doubt, call your osteopath to get yourself diagnosed or referred for special testing.
  • Stress Fracture
  • Chronic exertion compartment syndrome
  • Popliteal Artery Entrapment
  • Tibial Tumours
  • Bone Infections

Next Week, Preventing Your Shin Splints!



6 Great Seasonal Foods And What They Actually Do

6 Great Seasonal Foods And What They Actually Do Third Space Sports Medicine

Thanks to the wonderful team at Babylon, who put together a great summary of how your kitchen may prevent an otherwise inevitable trip to the pharmacy for some Lemsip….
6 Great Seasonal Foods And What They Actually Do Third Space Sports Medicine


A joy of Autumn, along with blueberries, bananas, dark chocolate and red wine, Apples are packed with flavenoids. Anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergic properties super-molecules to give you the best chance of fighting infection 
6 Great Seasonal Foods And What They Actually Do Third Space Sports Medicine


Most people don’t like them but sprouts are an excellent source of vitamin K, needed for blood clotting, an essential part of the healing process. The average adult needs slightly less than 1mg of Vitamin K every day, and your liver will store excess for later use, so it’s easy to get all the vitamin K you need from a varied diet. Sprouts are also high in Iron, a vital component for producing red blood cells, so eat Sprouts and give your blood levels a boost. 
6 Great Seasonal Foods And What They Actually Do Third Space Sports Medicine


Parsnips, as well as bananas, contain potassium, an electrolyte that helps carry electrical messages around the body via nerves. Potassium can help lower blood pressure by causing the kidneys to retain more sodium, help maintain bone health and reduce your risk of developing kidney stones. Potassium rich foods also prevent leg cramps and other muscle spasms because of the role potassium plays with nerve impulses and muscle contraction throughout the body. 
6 Great Seasonal Foods And What They Actually Do Third Space Sports Medicine


Squash is high in omega 3, a fatty acid linked to brain and visual development in babies and research has found that cultures who eat foods high in Omega 3 have lower levels of depression. Omega 3 can also be found in Salmon, Sardines, and Tuna. To cut a long story short, Omega 3 is good for your brain. If you find the long dark winter days depressing, make sure you get plenty of Omega 3.
6 Great Seasonal Foods And What They Actually Do Third Space Sports Medicine


Pumpkin is high in many vitamins, including B1(Thiamin), B3 (Niacin), and B6 (Pyridoxine). Thiamin helps to break down and release the energy you get from your food. It also helps to keep your nervous system healthy. Niacin also contributes to good skin.
If you don’t get enough vitamin B you can get anaemia and skin disorders. Low levels of vitamin B have also been linked to depression, confusion, and a greater susceptibility to infections. Eat plenty of pumpkin to beat infections and help lift your moods during the winter months. 
6 Great Seasonal Foods And What They Actually Do Third Space Sports Medicine

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes, apart from being delicious are high in vitamin A, which helps your immune system fight infections, and it helps your vision in dim light. It also contributes to keeping your skin healthy, especially the lining of the nose. It’s the season for cold and flu, so give your nose a fighting chance and eat plenty of Sweet Potatoes.