Shins Hurt After Running? How to Fix & Prevent Shin Splints

Do your shins hurt after running? Shin splints are one of the most common running injuries out there. It causes sore shins in the lower legs for runners. The pain of shin splints can be intense and annoying— and nearly every runner can empathize with how difficult they are to deal with.

Fortunately, you don’t have to deal with shin pain from running forever. We have some tips and best practices runners can use to treat and prevent sore shins so you can get on with your training and meet your personal goals!

Shins Hurt After Running? Here’s Why

“Why do my shins hurt when I run?” It’s a question we get all the time.

Shin splints are officially known as medial tibial stress syndrome, which presents as an aching pain on the front of your lower leg—on the shin bone, next to the tibia and calf muscles.

If you ignore your shin pain, it can get so bad that it keeps you from running—or even worse, lead to a stress fracture. If you get a tibial stress fracture, that can halt your training for six weeks or more. So, it’s important to prevent and treat them.

For some people, shin splints express themselves as pain in shins when running. For others, it’s pain in shins after running. Sometimes, runners won’t feal the same fatigue and running shin pain during the run because of adrenaline and distractions—however, it comes full force after they stop and settle down.

Why Do My Shins Hurt After Running?

If your shins hurt from running, they’re not always the culprit. Look upstream and downstream of the issue. Tight calves or quads could be failing to absorb impact, causing more stress to attack your shins with each step.

Calf and shin pain from running often come together, but sometimes the feeling is isolated. If you’re experiencing pain in your shins when running, try strengthening, stretching, and foam rolling your calves. If that eases the pain, you’ve found the culprit—keep your calves strong and loose, and you should be good to go.

It could even be a foot or ankle problem. If your ankles are tight or you’re wearing the incorrect footwear, then your shins could be compensating.

Know when to rest, when to lightly exercise, when to foam roll and massage, and when to get help.

If your shins hurt when running, begin a recovery program. Attack it sooner than later. You might be able to nip it in the bud if you find the problem quickly. And, then you’ll know exactly what to do if you have a flare-up later.

What Are Shin Muscles, Exactly?

Great question. While your shin is the front part of your lower leg, it’s actually compromised of a few different muscles. Everything is connected and related.

Ultimately, you have the tibialis anterior in the front of your shin, the gastrocnemius on the back of your leg (the calf muscle), and the soleus which attaches to your Achilles tendon.

When one of these muscles has a problem, it can cause issues upstream or downstream of the issue. When your calf is tight, your ankles, shins, and even toes can feel it. Keep all your shin muscles healthy and happy to prevent aches and pains in your lower body.

 

What Causes Shin Pain After Running? 

Does running cause shin pain?

While runners of every level can get shin splints, it’s more common among newer runners who may start out their training too quickly, making shin soreness an overuse injury. Women are also two to three times more likely to get shin splints.

Most sports medicine experts agree that common causes of sore shins after running and shin splints are caused by a slight bending of the shin bone when the foot hits the ground–especially while running on hard surfaces. In experienced runners who are used to high mileage training, the body responds to shin splints by reforming and strengthening the tibia, making it thicker and hardier. 

In less experienced runners, the tibia hasn’t had time to “learn” how to get stronger, making new runners more susceptible to the injury. However, there are ways to help prevent shin splints and treat them when it happens.

Preventing Shin Splints

In a perfect world, we’d always be able to prevent shin splints from running. Here are some of the things runners can do to make them less likely:

  • Don’t increase your mileage by more than 10 percent per week. Your body needs time to adapt to the increased workload and pounding on your legs. Furthermore, don’t forget to warm up with an easy jog and stretching before you turn on any intensity in a training workout. 
  • Keep an eye on the shape of your running shoes. Once they are wearing down (every few hundred miles or so), it’s time to replace them to support your legs. Don’t skimp on running shoes–they can be a little expensive, but the right pair are well worth it. 
  • Ice baths aren’t exactly comfortable, but they have an amazing impact. In college, I used to sit in an ice bath up to my waist for 15-20 minutes. It’s blasting cold at first, but then you go numb after a few minutes. Ice water has serious anti-inflammatory and healing properties! 
  • Cross-training: There’s no getting around it. Running is a high-impact sport. But you can get in quality cardiovascular and strength training sessions without all the impact. Try biking, the elliptical, swimming, pilates, or yoga
  • Don’t always run on hard surfaces like the road. Do some of your running on grass or a track. 

Let’s take a look at this video about the best ways to prevent shin splints for runners: 

How to Fix Shin Splints

Despite our best efforts, shin splints are still going to happen sometimes. If you start treating them early on, chances are you’ll avoid more shin pain down the road. Here are some of the best strategies for how to fix shin splints for good: 

  • Ice baths aren’t just good for shin pain prevention, they are also great for treating them! Whenever I have them, I fill up a bucket or clean trash can that goes up to my knees with ice water and read a book, watch TV, or work on my computer, 15 to 20 minutes goes by fast! 
  • You can also freeze small dixie cups full of water. Once frozen, peel off the top part of the paper and massage your skins with the ice. Ice packs also work great! 
  • If you find you’re prone to shin pain and keep getting shin splints over and over, consider orthotics for your shoes. Talk to an orthopedic specialist you can get you properly fitted. It can make all the difference. 
  • Strengthen your calves–they support your shin muscles. Start with 20 calf raises on each leg and work up to three sets, twice per day. You can also place your toes on the edge of a stair transfer your weight to one leg at a time to strengthen those calf muscles.
  • Over-the-counter ibuprofen can help reduce pain and swelling while you’re healing. However, don’t use it merely to “mask the pain” of your shins. It can be used in conjunction with other treatment options.  Don’t overdo it. A maximum of 500-600 mg per day while you heal should be enough. 

Here’s a great video to check out on how to foster excellent calf health:

  • Try wearing elastic compression bandages over your shins to support the bone and speed up healing. 
  • Get a foam roller to massage over your shins and reduce pain.

Now, let’s hear from our own Coach Nate on how to fix shin splints–and his personal experience:

Stopping Shin Pain from Running for Good

Ready to put shin pain behind you for good? Start a regimented training program! We’ll show you why your shins hurt after running and give you more tips for preventing shin splints—all on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis.

Have you downloaded our new mobile app? It’s loaded with workouts, videos, tips, and advice from expert coaches to keep you motivated every step of the way. Don’t forget to check out our range of training plans for runners of all levels, too! Finally, learn more about our injury prevention toolkit!