Training: Dealing with Shin Splints and Shin Pain

Coach Dean Hebert

Coach Dean Hebert

A reader named Angie poses a frequently asked question to us:

I have a question regarding shin splints. How bad should they hurt? I guess the better question is how much pain should one run through? And any quick fixes you know of? HELP!

Shin splints are caused for a reason. Most often it’s running too much or too fast, too soon. Rest alone rarely is the cure. It is a temporary relief.

Let’s address pain first. If they are very painful, you need to rule out a stress fracture. You should see your doctor and have them take x-rays of your legs if the pain is really bad. You should also watch out for pain in one very specific spot when touching your shin. With shin splints, the pain is usually fairly even across the whole shin. Often with stress fractures, the pain is located in one identifiable spot along the bone that you’ll feel with your finger.

Let’s assume you do not have a stress fracture for the sake of argument: If the pain hurts sufficiently to change your gait — meaning it makes you favor one leg over the other, limp, etc. — you are asking for lots more trouble than just shin splints because you will end up with compensatory injuries along with shin issues. Stop now. Get in to see your doctor or physical therapist. Get healed up and then get back to running.
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