What are

Shin Splints?

A term applied to a number of overuse injuries characterized by a dull aching pain felt on the inner or outer surface of the shin bone (tibia) and brought on by exercise. […] The symptoms stop when activity ceases, but the leg usually remains tender to the touch.
The Oxford Dictionary of Sports & Medicine

Graphic of bone structure inside lower leg, highlighting where shin splints often occur.


How are shin splints caused?

A person develops shin splints because they are unable to manage the force they put into the ground. Whether the force itself was too great or the volume was too great over time, the human body failed to manage/mitigate the force of impact into the ground. This causes stress within the shin/ankle region, which can then lead to injuries to the bone, tissues, muscles, or ligaments. These injuries – and the associated pains – are often referred to as “shin splints”.

Lower Leg with Bone Graphic
Female Runner


What are common activities that lead to shin splints?

Any activity that places unmanaged stress on your shins/ankles will likely result in shin splints eventually. The most common activities leading to shin splints for atheletes of all levels are:

  • Running/Sprinting
  • Jumping
  • High Impact Sports (football, volleyball, basketball, etc.)
  • Weighted Movement (rucking/backpacking, etc.)

And many more. Being overweight and simply walking fast and long enough can lead to shin splints.


Why do YOU have shin splints?

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Too much activity too quickly will wear you out. Your body can only take so much stress at the start. 

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Heavier and harder impacts will also wear you out quickly. Your body needs to scale up to heavier weights and harder impacts.

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Even if you start off slow giving your body time to adapt to heavier weights, it won’t matter if you don’t move properly.

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Improper footwear can change the way your foot impacts the ground. Poor fitting, worn out, no support, instable or imbalanced and tight shoes/clothing reduce your ability to manage ground contact.

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Over time your muscles, bones, tissues, ligaments, etc, will weaken if you do not properly rest and heal. Once they fatigue to a certain point, they no longer function properly, protecting you from each impact.


Going beyond just “shin splints”.

Now that you have an idea of what causes shin splints, it’s time to determine exactly what your shin splints might actually be. As mentioned in the definition above, “shin splints” is often the go-to term for any kind of pain between the knee and ankle joints. This is especially true when the activity that is believed to have caused it is a high-impact sport – especially running.

However, there can be a large number of things going on, some of which require special treatment and extensive rest compared to “just shin splints”

Graphic showing the lower leg from a top view, showing compartments, nerves, and bone placement.


Serious issues hiding behind “shin splints”.

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Compartment Syndrome

A condition where the fascia is too tight around the muscles/nerves/vascular system causing immense pressure.

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Peroneal Tendinitis

Inflamation on the outside of the ankle of the peroneal tendon causing pain and discomfort.

Graphic of a female physician.
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Disease or Illness

Cancer, bone maladies, and other medical issues causing pain when disturbed.

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Stress Fractures (tibia/fibula)

A microscopic break in your tibia or fibula generally caused by overuse.

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Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome

Inflammation of the periostitis (a layer of connective tissue around the bone).

Start your healing process today.

This is an informational website. This is not a replacement for proper medical care and attention by a registered physician. Please contact a sports medicine doctor or qualified physiotherapist in your area to undergo proper testing and treatment protocols for your specific issues.