Wondering why your shins hurt after running? You’re certainly not alone. If there’s one type of running pain that is familiar to most new runners, it would be the pain associated with shin splints. While shin splints are a relatively common and harmless occurrence, they certainly come with their fair share of pain.
Taking action when you first notice that your shins hurt after running is key to preventing the issue from developing into something bigger. Making time to prevent shin splints throughout training is often much easier than learning how to treat and get rid of them once they have occurred.
Why do my shins hurt after running?
Many runners, especially beginner runners, find themselves asking this question. When it comes to running, shin pain during or after a run is most commonly associated with shin splints. This type of pain might present itself with some or all of the following symptoms:
- Sharp or aching pain in the front of the lower leg
- Shin pain that increases after exercise
- Pain when you push on the shin
- Shin pain that increases when the foot flexes
What causes shin pain after running?
In most cases, when a runner notices that their shins hurt after running, it is usually because of shin splints. However, it’s important to rule out other causes before jumping into any form of treatment. It is much less common, but certainly still possible, that shin pain after running could be caused by imbalances or injuries in the surrounding muscles, joints or bones – and not the shin area itself.
What are shin splints?
Runners use the term shin splints to refer to pain they experience in the front of their lower leg, along the shin bone. Shin splints, also known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, can range anywhere from a moderate annoyance to debilitating pain.
Shin splint pain is usually caused by repeated force against the shin bone, which is seen in activities like running, soccer, tennis, various other sports, and even walking. The repetitive motion sometimes causes the muscles to swell, leading to pressure on your shin bone, as well as tiny tears in the surrounding muscle and inflammation throughout the area.
Do shin splints go away if you keep running?
In most cases, unless certain modifications are made, shin splint pain will not go away if you continue to run. Just like most running injuries, shin splints require rest or at least a drastic reduction in mileage in order to heal.
If you must run, certain modifications can be made to help reduce shin pain. Decreasing mileage and intensity of your training will provide extra time for the shins to heal. Increasing cross training and implementing low impact workouts can also help.
In addition, running on a treadmill at a high incline — a 4 or 5 — can reduce the distance the foot has to travel to hit the ground, thus reducing the work of the muscles surrounding the shin.
What are the causes of shin splints?
If your shins hurt after running, there could be a variety of causes. However, some of the most common (and luckily, most easily treated) causes are the following.
- Drastic, sudden increase in mileage
- Overtraining or too few off/cross days
- Repetitive running on hard surfaces
- Flat feet
- Improper shoes
- Worn out shoes
How to Treat Shin Splints
In most cases, runners don’t take interest in learning about pain in the shins from running until it occurs. Unfortunately, this means that most are stuck treating shin pain once it has already occurred.
Luckily, most cases of running shin pain can be treated relatively easily and training can resume quickly. However, it’s important to treat shin splints as soon as they occur. Continuing to run when your shins hurt will only make the injury more severe, leading to longer treatment times. If your shins hurt after running, here are a few ways to treat and rid the pain.
- Ice the shins
- Take time off: usually requires 2-3 weeks of rest
- Complete lower leg stretches
- Get fitted for proper shoes
- Wear arch support
- Incorporate low impact cross training
Many new runners suffer from shin splints when the increase mileage or pace too quickly in the beginning of training. Seasoned runners can sometimes find themselves with shin splints if they are wearing improper gear, have made a change to their form or gait, or increase mileage rapidly.
7 Exercises to Prevent Shin Splints
Although shin splints can sometimes feel just like a mild or dull ache, they can quickly progress to something more serious.
Adding a few simple exercises to your regular stretching and strength training routine is often all it takes to help prevent your shins hurting during or after running from occurring.
Incorporating these shin exercises and stretches on a consistent basis will help prevent shin splints and avoid dealing with this troublesome pain during training.
Kneeling Shin Stretch
This exercise is a great way to really stretch out the shins and promote blood flow to the area. If you are currently dealing with shin splints, it might be a bit painful in the beginning. Remember to ease into the stretch slowly and only stretch as far as feels comfortable for you.
Begin this shin stretch on your knees, and then sit back down on your heels. Point your toes so your shins are flexed as you sink down onto your heels. Place one hand on either side of your feet and slowly lean backwards, lifting your knees off the floor.
Continue to lift your knees as far as feels comfortable. Hold for about 10 breaths or 30 seconds and slowly return to your original kneeling position.
Standing Shin Stretch
Another shin exercise that is a great way to stretch out the shin muscle after a run is this standing stretch. Again, if you are currently treating shin splints this stretch may feel a bit uncomfortable as you begin, so remember to stretch only as much as feels comfortable.
Begin this shin stretch by standing up straight with your feet together. Cross one foot over the other, planting your toes on the opposite side of your grounded foot, with the top of your foot facing the floor. Bend at the knee of your grounded leg to lower towards the floor, pointing the opposite foot as your leg moves against it.
Continue to lower towards the floor as far as is comfortable, and then hold the squatting position for about 30 seconds. Slowly return to standing and repeat on the opposite side.
A simple shin exercise you can complete to help prevent shin splints is the heel walk. To complete this exercise, stand in an open area and lift your toes off the floor so you are balancing on your heels. Walk forward on your heels with normal sized steps, keeping your toes elevated the entire time.
Point and Flex
This shin exercise can be completed either while standing or sitting in a chair. Begin by standing or sitting with your feet together, and then lift one foot in the air. Extend your elevated leg until it is straight, and then simply alternate between pointing and flexing your toes.
Move between pointing and flexing slowly and with control, holding each position for a few seconds before switching to the next.
Single Leg Bridge
Regular bridges are an excellent hip and glute strengthening exercise for runners, and single leg bridges take the exercise one step further by helping prevent shin splints as well. The single leg bridge engages your shin with each movement, helping to strengthen the muscle and promote healthy range of motion.
Begin this shin exercise by lying on your back with your arms down at your sides. Bend the knees and plant both feet on the floor in front of you. Lift one foot into the air, straightening your leg as you do so. Engage your core and lift your hips into the air, forming a single leg bridge.
From this position, continue to alternate between lowering your hips down towards the floor and lifting them into the air while keeping one leg elevated. Repeat for about 10-20 repetitions and then switch legs.
This simple shin exercise can be completed while sitting but requires a small towel, rag or washcloth for optimal effectiveness.
To complete toe curls, simply place your foot on top of a small towel and use your toes to scrunch the towel up or move it around. Curl your toes to get a grasp on the towel and continue to do so for about 20-30 repetitions.
You will need a step, stair or sturdy elevated surface to complete this shin exercise. Stand on the center of the step, and place one foot at the edge of the step so your heel is in the air. Slowly dip your heel down towards the floor as far as comfortable, and then return to level. Continue to repeat about 20-30 times, and then switch sides.
These 7 shin exercises and simple and easy to complete, making adding them to your regular strength training and stretching routine easier than ever. Taking a few extra minutes each week to prevent shin splints may be all it takes to avoid this troublesome pain during training.
Just because it’s common for the shins to hurt after running doesn’t mean you have to suffer from it too. Try adding these shin exercises to your weekly routine to prevent shin splints from occurring all together!