Shin Splints in Runners - Exercises, Causes and More

Shin splints are an affliction known to many runners, but not one that many people understand well. These exercises for shin splints will help you banish the pain for good.

Shin Splints in Runners - Exercises, Causes and More

What are shin splints?

Shin splits is a bit of a catch-all term, and refers to any pain associated with the shins - whether this is on the inside or outside of the leg. Pain from shin splits will occur in conjunction with exercise.

Symptoms of shin splints

There is one main symptom of shin splints: this is a sharp pain in the shin while exercising. With mild shin splints, this pain may subside once you stop exercising. However, if shin pain is left untreated, it may become an ongoing problem that you notice 24 hours a day.

As well as soreness and tenderness, shin splints might also manifest as a mild swelling in the lower leg.


Why do runners get shin splints?

Shin splints are a particularly common problem in runners. This is because runners place a lot of pressure on their lower legs over time. If the muscles and bones aren’t strong enough to cope, this force will accumulate, causing damage to both muscle and bone.

What to do if you have shin splints

If you suspect you have shin splints, it’s a good idea to speak to a medical professional, such as a doctor, osteopath or physiotherapist. This is because the symptoms of shin splints can often be confused with other, more serious concerns - such as a stress fracture or chronic compartment syndrome.

It’s important to seek help for shin splints as soon as you first notice the pain. Shin splints aren’t permanent, but treating shin pain early is the best way to reverse it. Left ignored, shin splints can progress into something more serious, like a stress fracture.

How to treat shin splints

One way to treat shin splints in runners instantly is to reduce the amount you’re running, or to stop altogether. This will give the bone and muscle time to rest and heal, without having any extra stress placed upon them. 

If you have recently increased your weekly running distance, make sure you’re doing this gradually - this will give your body time to get used to the increased pressure.

To treat shin splints and reduce the chances of them coming back, it’s a good idea to strengthen the muscles around your shin. These strengthened muscles will then absorb more of the impact of running, therefore taking stress off the bone.

Alternatively, you can strengthen your bones themselves, by increasing their bone density. There are a number of ways to do this, including strength training exercises such as squats.

Exercises to help pain from shin splints


Squats are likely to be a bread and butter exercise for any long-distance runner, and will help to strengthen the tibia, making stress injuries far less likely.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.

  2. Slowly bend the knees and lower the body.

  3. Once you’ve reached the lowest point of your squat, drive upwards to reach your starting position.

  4. Repeat for three sets of eight repetitions.

You can do these squats just using your body weight, or you can add a suitable weight to really reap the benefits.

Isometric strengthening for the tibialis anterior muscle

This next exercise will stretch and strengthen the tibialis anterior muscle, which runs along the front of the shin. This is one of the muscles that will absorb a lot of the impact from the ground while running, taking the pressure off the tibia.

For this stretch, you will need someone to help you!

  1. Begin by lying on your back, flat on the floor.

  2. Ask your helper to place pressure on your toes so that they are pointing inwards (towards your other leg).

  3. Then press the toes down towards the floor. This will stretch the tibialis anterior muscle.

  4. Using your toes, push against your partner’s hand. This will help to activate the muscle.

  5. Hold for thirty seconds, and then repeat with the other leg. In total, repeat the stretch three times for each leg.

Osteopathy and physiotherapy for shin splints

Visiting an osteopath can be a great idea if you’re looking to banish that shin pain for good. VPS Medicine’s team of osteopaths and physiotherapists specialise in treating runners, making them a perfect choice for anyone struggling with shin splints. Book an appointment to get started on your journey back to fitness.