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Running Strength & Conditioning

Shin Splints, what you need to know.

Shin Splints, or more correctly Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS), is a very common running related ailment and particularly common in newer runners but not exclusively. Before applying the information in this blog post, be aware that the information is general and therefore may or may not be appropriate for you. Also, there are other problems which give similar symptoms to MTSS, so you should obtain a professional diagnosis.

Shin Splints cause mild to severe along the inside of the shin bone (tibia) during weight bearing exercise. Not limited to walking or running, but due to the nature of these exercises it is commonly associated. The affect area is generally tender to the touch and would be expected to span at least 5cm. Whilst common in new runners, it can also occur after running on a different surface, using new shoes, or an increase in training intensity.

Shin Splints arise from stress and impact to parts of the lower leg. Right leg shown for illustration.

Common Causes

Increased impact forces on the body often bring on shin splints. These may arise from running on harder surfaces, on a camber, or indeed from a marked increase in training volume. Other causes can stem from an individuals biomechanics and / or running form. An increase in pronation or foot abduction, a narrow step width or even low cadence, may lead to shin splints developing.

Treatment

There is no single treatment that is particularly effective, but a combination of the following may be helpful, depending on the individual cause:

  • Temporarily reducing your training load.
  • A programme of more gradual increases in training load can help your legs tolerate the effects of impact forces. Such a programme should be mindful of your specific training history, the surfaces you train on and the footwear you are using.
  • Gait retraining may help if you have an underlying biomechanics risk factor.
  • Strength training that focuses on the soleus and tibiallis posterior.
Strength Training of the Soleus can be helpful.

Returning to training

If delt with early then recovery can be quick; use pain as a guide as to when you might consider increasing your training again. During your return, consider low impact cross-training (potentially in a pool if you have access) or on a bike will help maintain your fitness whilst you slowly adapt your body to tolerate the impact forces of running.

Increase your running load gradually, ideally using softer surfaces such as trails. Avoid running downhill or on a cambered surfaces whilst reacclimatising the shin to impact.