Shin pain when running is one of those notorious injuries that runners hate. We regularly get asked “why do I get shin pain when I run?” and it is not always as simple as some people will make out.

 

My Shins Hurt!

 

Shin pain is generally going to be down to one (or a combination) of these things:

  • One or some of your lower leg muscles are inflamed/have DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) or worse still Rhabdomyolysis (effectively you have overworked a muscle so badly it has basically been liquidised into the bloodstream, causing flu like symptoms and sometimes far worse).
  • Inflammation of connective tissue, such as the periosteum or muscle fascia.
  • Or you have proper shin splints – Your tibia has microfractures in it!

Hopefully it’s just inflammation, but when you read the list above, you can see why it can be important to rest. Sometimes the old saying “no pain no gain” has to be taken with some intelligent judgement and a pinch of salt!

 

Doesn’t impact equal Shin Pain?

Foot being hammered

We often hear people advising that shin pain is simply caused by a lack of cushioning, while this is possible, it is pretty rare as all modern running shoes are very well cushioned. However if you have very old running shoes, where the cushioning has gone, then it could certainly be a factor. If you’re not sure if your shoes are too old then check out the last article “how long do running shoes last” for the answers. Basically the impact of running will cause micro traumas to bone and soft tissue if they aren’t absorbed enough and/or your body isn’t conditioned to them. So whilst this is not the definitive reason for shin pain, it could be a factor.

 

So what else can cause Shin Pain?

 

So excluding shock, probably the most important thing to consider is mechanical stress on muscles and joints. In the case of shin pain from running, this is normally going to be repetitive stress. The main mechanical stressor to the lower leg when you run is excessive pronation (the foot rolling inwards and downwards). However it’s not just the degree to which you pronate, it’s the force with which you pronate that really causes the damage. This means the speed and power with which your foot falls inwards.

The other thing that has a big effect on shin pain is your big toe function. If this doesn’t function correctly (which is pretty common), then your body will have to compensate in order for you to propel your body forwards when running. The compensation mechanisms will normally mean muscles will have to work harder and this can have a big effect on the chance of having shin pain due to muscular fatigue.

 

So what can I do to stop Shin Pain?

Free from shin pain

The key thing is to manage the amount and force of pronation of the foot when running. This isn’t something you can do through technique, you will always be fighting your personal biomechanics, which is not good for you and you won’t be able to override the natural mechanical nuances of the body. So what else is there? Well luckily as this is such a common problem in runners, shoe manufacturers have been making shoes that reduce the forces of pronation for some time now. So anti-pronation running shoes are very well capable of reducing the force of pronation as long as they are chosen correctly. This means having a full biomechanical assessment and choosing the shoes on this basis, not choosing them based on looks or price!

Whilst reducing pronation can often improve big toe function there are several good insoles available that can reduce pronation and also help improve big toe function, through better foot alignment. Again having these chosen based on your foot shape and biomechanics is important, incorrect arch support can actually inhibit big toe function (known technically as a reverse windlass mechanism).

A lot of customers ask if compression socks or calf sleeves can help. We always say that whilst they can help to lessen the symptoms, they don’t solve the root cause of the problem, which we’ve discussed here. So if you have shin pain, why not have a chat with us and hopefully we’ll be able to help you.

If you have any thoughts or advice for other customers remember you can comment below.

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Ryan has worked in the sports industry since 1999 and has a wealth of experience across most subjects. Ryan holds a BSc in microbiology and has studied sports physiology in great detail in his own time. His main areas of specialisation are: footwear construction, footwear technology, strength & conditioning and anatomy & physiology. He splits his 13 hours a week exercise between, Kickboxing, MMA, Crossfit, Rock Climbing and Running.