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What Are Shin Splints? The Causes and Symptoms of Shin Splints


What Are Shin Splints?

While they're certainly a pain in the you-know-what, the term "shin splints" generally refers to pain along your tibia, or shinbone, which connects your knee to your ankle. Shin splints—specifically, pain along the medial (inner) side of the lower leg—are referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) in the medical community. Shin splints that occur on the anterior, or outside, part of the shinbone are less common.

What Causes Shin Splints?

Shin splints aren't limited to new runners. Dancers and military personnel are also commonly affected by shin splints due to repetitive movements on hard surfaces. However, runners and even walkers are often plagued by shin splints for the following reasons:

  • Excessive pronation and flat feet

As you run, your foot, lower leg, knee, and thigh all rotate inwards with every stride while your foot's arch flattens. The rotation of the foot inwards is called pronation. If you have flat feet, this movement is exaggerated and may lead to shin pain.

  • Improper footwear

Investing in a new pair of running shoes can be pricey, but it beats paying the price of shin splints. A good rule of thumb is to replace your sneakers every 300 to 400 miles.

  • Slanted running surfaces

Running the same concrete hill every day may be putting stress on your shins. Switch up your route to include softer surfaces, like grass or sand, which are gentler on your body.

  • Walking long distances

You probably wouldn't run a 10K without some prior training—and you shouldn't walk one unprepared, either. Even at a slower pace, your body may not be used to the sudden strain, which is why shin splints are common among walkers, too.

What Are the Symptoms of Shin Splints?

Symptoms include intense cramping, burning, and aching along the shinbone during or after physical activity. However, these could all be symptoms of a more serious injury, like a stress fracture, which is a crack in the bone caused by physical stress. Since shin splints are generally a precursor to a stress fracture, be proactive and take care of shin splints at the first sign.