What is the Connection Between Shin Splints and Running?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
Supportive shoe insoles can minimize shin splints.
Supportive shoe insoles can minimize shin splints.

The connection between shin splints and running is fairly simple: shin splints are caused by excessive use of the legs, and since running is an activity based primarily on the use of the legs, shin splints are likely to occur. The condition itself can be caused by several different injuries, from tendinitis to muscle strains, and even bone fractures. Shin splints and running often go hand in hand, and most injuries reported by runners end up being shin splints. A runner's motion can be hampered by shin splints and running can be all but impossible when the pain is at its worst. Many runners take precautions to prevent shin splints from happening in the future.

Woman running on a treadmill.
Woman running on a treadmill.

Proper footwear as well as a proper running stride can help eliminate the association between shin splints and running. Excess strain on the legs can lead to painful shin splints, so ensuring one's stride is as efficient as possible can help avoid excess strain on the muscles and bones of the shins. Proper running shoes can also help eliminate the connection between shin splints and running. The more adequately the foot is supported, the less likely the runner will be to break from his or her most natural, pain-free stride.

Running shoes.
Running shoes.

Shin splints can also occur when too much load is placed on the legs. Cross-country runners, for example, may find themselves jumping or leaping over obstacles, and after repeated motions such as these, the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones of the leg may endure enough stress that they may become injured. Prolonged periods of running will also lead to shin splints; as muscles tire, they tend to tighten, which means over the course of a long run, the muscles around the shin are likely to tense up. If tensed enough, the muscles can become strained, leading to slight tears in the tiny fibers that make up the muscles. The pain one experiences when this occurs may be called shin splints.

Runners are more likely to get shin splints, as the condition results from excessive use of the legs.
Runners are more likely to get shin splints, as the condition results from excessive use of the legs.

Pronation of the feet and flat feet can also lead to shin splints. Pronation occurs when foot is twisted so that weight is borne on the inner edge of the foot, causing the arch of the foot to collapse. This can lead to an altered gait while running, which means excess strain will be placed on the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones of the legs. Flat feet occur when the arch of the foot collapses for any reason, and like pronation, flat feet can lead to an altered gait that may cause shin splints.

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    • Supportive shoe insoles can minimize shin splints.
      Supportive shoe insoles can minimize shin splints.
    • Woman running on a treadmill.
      Woman running on a treadmill.
    • Running shoes.
      By: TrudiDesign
      Running shoes.
    • Runners are more likely to get shin splints, as the condition results from excessive use of the legs.
      By: Halfpoint
      Runners are more likely to get shin splints, as the condition results from excessive use of the legs.
    • Proper stride is important for preventing shin splints when running.
      By: Igor Mojzes
      Proper stride is important for preventing shin splints when running.
    • A high-quality shoe can help prevent shin splints by supporting the foot and placing less stress on the tibia bone.
      By: Martinan
      A high-quality shoe can help prevent shin splints by supporting the foot and placing less stress on the tibia bone.