OC Sports & Rehab


Shin splints are a common injury for people who run. Most people don’t know how or why they get them, since there isn’t any real trauma or event they can point to as the time they hurt their shin, but they can be very painful. Knowing how and why you get shin splints can help you treat them and prevent them from coming back.

When we talk about pain from shin splints, we only mean pain on the front of the lower leg, on the shin. Shin splints are not the cause of pain in other parts of the leg. Even though you might have more than just shin splints, the pain from shin splints is only in your shin. Shin splints do not cause weakness, numbness, or tingling, either. Again, this is about something completely different. It is important to tell the difference between the different kinds of leg pain. Even though it’s common to have more than one diagnosis and not just shin splints, it’s important to find out what else might be wrong with the leg so you can treat it.

What are the most common causes of shin splints?

  • Footwear
    Shin splints can be caused by shoes that aren’t right for you, like flip-flops, going barefoot, high heels, or flat shoes. When you wear a shoe with no support, like a flip-flop or a high heel, your foot has to work harder. This puts more pressure on the shin and the foot and knee muscles.When you wear the right shoes, your foot can be put in the right place, and the shoes can also help to absorb shock. Most people don’t have feet that are perfectly made. They need help either in the area of shock absorption or support. If your foot can’t do something, your shoe should. If the shoe doesn’t give the foot what it needs, the muscles in the foot, knee, and hip will have to work harder to make up for what the shoe isn’t giving. You need to be properly fitted to find out what your foot is missing. If you’ve never been fitted for running shoes before, you should go to a running shoe store and get fit.Don’t wait until your running shoes are worn out to get a new pair. You should keep track of how many miles you run in a pair of running shoes and keep that number under 300. Most likely, you won’t see wear on the outside of the shoe. Don’t wait until the shoe starts to look worn before you get a new pair. If you do, you could start to get hurt. The inside of the shoe will always fall apart before the outside shows any signs of wear.
  • Overuse
    This is the one thing that is the hardest to fix because most people do not even know that they are overusing it. Let’s say you have a small pain in your hip or knee, or a more obvious problem like a rolled ankle. It’s not enough to make you stop or even notice, but it will change the way your foot is placed in a small way. You won’t notice anything here. But over time, this small change can become more permanent and cause the muscles in the foot, hip, and knee to work too hard. Shin splints can be caused by this change in how you use your muscles.When you first start running, you may feel some pain, but it usually goes away as you go. Or maybe the pain starts in the middle of the run but seems to go away if you keep running. But the pain doesn’t go away; you just learn to deal with it or change the way you walk slightly, not enough for you or anyone else to notice, but enough to get shin splints.
  • Weakness
    A muscle imbalance can be caused by weakness in the hips or abs. When you have weak hips and abs, the muscles in your lower leg have to work harder. If your hips and knees aren’t strong enough, the muscles in the front of your shins have to work harder. To run, you need a certain amount of strength. If you don’t have enough strength in your hips and abs, you’ll have to get it from your lower legs. Shin splints can happen when the lower leg has to work harder. Where there is weakness there is also tightness and having muscles that are tight allow for other muscles to work harder causing tendinitis, which is what shin splints are.

If you continue to have shin splints for extended periods of time, come see one of our experienced physical therapists by calling 949.716.5050!