Shin Splints Explained

Have you started running again, begun to get excited about starting to build healthy habits, and then found you’ve started to get a pain at the front of your leg?

This is quite a common scenario and more often than not is caused by Shin Splints. So, what should you do about it – push through or stop?

Shin Splints

What Are Shin Splints

Shin splints is simply pain and discomfort on the lower 1/3 of the front inside of your leg. The pain is due to an inflammatory process caused by repetitive loading through the lower limbs.

Typically, an athlete will complain of pain at the beginning of the workout – which disappears only to return during the cool down. If the condition worsens, the athlete will experience pain throughout the entire training session and hours post the session.

Shin splints is a very general term which can be used often – however it is important to differentiate the pain at the front of the leg. This can be done by a physiotherapist who will correctly diagnose what the specific pathophysiology it could be:

  • Medial tibial stress syndrome
  • Stress fracture
  • Compartment syndrome

Understanding The Anatomy

You have muscles at the back, side and front of your lower legs which all contribute equally to creating optimal foot mechanics, for loading during running and jumping. If there are imbalances in strength or flexibility between these muscles this can contribute to shin splints.

More importantly, athletes with general weakness in the lower limb e.g., calf or soleus are more prone to muscle fatigue – which leads to altered running mechanics and strain on the tibia.

Shin splints can occur for several reasons including:

  • Changes in the training program – increase in distance or intensity
  • Changes to the surface – hard, soft, or uneven surface
  • Bad running shoes
  • Biomechanical abnormalities such as foot arch, hyper-pronation of the foot or leg length discrepancies

Who Is More At Risk Of Injury?

  • Running/jumping based sports
  • Long distance runners
  • Female athletes – due to nutritional, hormonal, and biomechanical differences
  • Athletes who are obese

What Can You Do To Help The Symptoms?

First, it is extremely important to see a physiotherapist who can accurately assess and screen the correct diagnosis, and cause behind the shin splints. The treatment should aim to address the training structure and modify what is necessary.

Further focus should be on any biomechanical abnormalities and provided the necessary rehab to improve the athlete’s mechanics.

Complete rest is never the answer*

Treating shin splints is always complex, and very highly individualised – which means everyone can respond differently to different treatment options and training modification. To best evaluate treatment efficacy and return to full training – the athlete and Physio should monitor the follow scores to monitor progress.

What Should You Monitor?

Monitor and record the following scores to assess the return ability for the athlete to return to full training:

  • Pain at rest
  • Pain while performing activity of daily living
  • Limitation within sport
  • Pain while performing sporting activities


  • 1ST MTP stretch
  • Calf stretching
  • Single leg heel raise
  • Reverse heel raises
  • Foot intrinsic strengthening

How Do I Book An Appointment?

We’re taking the health of our clients, members and staff very seriously and our preference would be for you to call to book an appointment so that we can make sure to explain our approach to keeping you safe. You can call any of these numbers to schedule a session:

Online Consultations

Evolving with the current environment, we are also now offering online appointments, meaning that we can support anyone who is unable to leave their home. Sessions are done via our state of the art Telehealth system and as long as you have a laptop or tablet with an inbuilt camera, or a phone with camera, we can help!

To learn more about online consultations, please call us on any of the numbers listed above.

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