Is it possible to reduce the pain I get in the front of my shin when I run?

Wendy Batts
Pain in the front of the lower leg following or during activity, often known as “shin splints” is often related to calves that are tight and overactive, causing the ankles to be less mobile and the shin to overwork. There are a couple flexibility techniques out there that may help.
1. Self myofascial release (SMR), which you usually see people doing with a firm foam roller, is a great way to decrease the tension in the calves, thereby increasing the mobility of the ankle. Sit with the roller under the meaty part of your calves. You can lift yourself up on your hands or stay seated if need be. Roll back and forth between the knee and the ankle and when you feel a tender spot, hold it there for 20-30 seconds or until the knot “melts” and releases. If you can tolerate it, try crossing one foot over the other when you roll.
2. Static calf stretch

a. place your hands on a wall in front of you
b. take one step forward
c. straighten the back leg and squeeze the butt and quads to keep it locked out
d. be sure your back foot points straight or slightly inward
e. keeping your back heel firmly on the ground, lean toward the wall until you feel a slight stretch in the calf of your back leg
f. hold this position for 20-30 seconds and remember to breathe!
Remember, when you experience pain of any kind, it’s always a good idea to check with your physician first before trying to work with corrective flexibility on your own.
Dr. Mike Clark, DPT

Pain experienced in the front of the shins when running, often termed shin splints, is frequently caused by the inability of the muscles in the lower body to effectively absorb the forces of impact when our feet hit the ground. This leads to increased stress and ultimately trauma to the muscles, causing pain. To help your leg muscles become more resilient and reduce the likelihood of shin splints perform this simple 10 minute warm-up sequence 3-5x per week and/or before your runs:

Foam Roll (find 1-3 tender spots per muscle and hold on each spot for at least 30 seconds):

[media id="DEV__4c8131e64bade3_62571326" title="Foam Roll Calf"]

Outer thigh
[media id="PRD__4cc5c14b385c44_18916202" title="Foam Roll Outer Thigh"]

Inner thigh
[media id="PRD__4cc5a6e4bb07f5_51683492" title="Foam Roll Inner Thigh"]

Stretch (perform each stretch 1-3 times – holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds):

Kneeling Hip Flexor
[media id="DEV__4c84d73d4d4560_52445351" title="Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch"]

90/90 Hamstring
[media id="PRD__4ccf04d802c287_39508432" title="90 - 90 Hamstring Stretch"]

[media id="DEV__4c8240c5561d40_55319503" title="Wall Calf Stretch"]

Muscle Activation (perform 1-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions of each exercise):

Floor Bridge
[media id="DEV__4c7e5b83af1076_76124506" title="Floor Bridge"]

Single-leg calf raise
[media id="DEV__4c8241b35209c7_01140634" title="Single Leg Calf Raise"]

Dynamic Movement (perform 1-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions of each exercise):

Single-leg balance with hip flexion/extension
[media id="DEV__4c823e4737ed82_74280317" title="Single Leg Balance Hip Flexion/Extension"]

Multi-direction hop and hold

Pain? Not good. I want all my clients to feel tension free and I won't let them exercise until they are. Each one of us is unique and our bodies change on a day to day basis depending on multiple things:  how we slept, water intake, previous days workout... The list is endless. If you are experiencing shin splints, stop the running until they go away. Why? Because you are going to only aggravate them and they are going to get worse. Solution: Try a yoga class or learn stretches to open up your entire leg. Start with quad, then hamstring, then shins, calves and don't forget your feet. The feet can be extremely tight and it is important to stretch them and more important if you are a runner and do long distances. We want to gently open up all the areas around your knee. There are plenty of each of these stretches on here, check out my videos for them. When you are tension free and back to running remember and float don't pound, use your muscles not your joints.  

Yes it is. What you are experiencing is a condition called shin splints. This is caused by excessive stress (as seen in running) placed on the shin bone and the connective tissue that attaches to it, leading to inflamation and pain. Performing stretches for the calf muscles and strengthening exercises for the muscles in front of your calf can help decrease the stress to the lower leg when running. Also, performing exercises, such as a hop with stabilizition, that teach you how to decelerate (or slow yourself down) more effectively will also help strengthen the muscles of the lower leg and help you control your lower leg more effectively. These movement improvements will decrease the stress to your lower leg when running.

Brian Yee
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Yes. Shin splints are very common in runners. It is usually due to some type of muscular imbalance such as tight calves, poor glute strength, and possibly poor footwear and running mechanics. Please consult with a Physical Therapist and also a running coach to assess your mechanics.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Yes it sure is.  Cut your leg off at the knee (only kidding). That pain you get in the front of your shin when you run is what runners and other athletes affectionately call shin splints.  There are a number of ways to reduce the pain:

1) Ice your shins for at least 20 minutes every few hours for a few days or until the pain is gone. 

2) Take anti-inflammatory painkillers.  These babies can help reduce the pain and inflammation all at the same time. 

3) Check your kicks.  You may not be wearing proper footwear or your shoes might be as worn out as the socks in the back of your drawer. In some cases you may even need extra arch support. 

4) Cross train.  Include activities that aren’t as stressful on your shins.  Swimming, walking, or biking are all great. 

5) Add strength training to your work out regimen.  Strengthening your calves and shins will help minimize pain and the likelihood that your shin splints come back.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.