Shin Splints: What causes shin splints? How do you heal shin splints?

What are shin splints?

  • Shin splints are micro tears or excessive increased tension of the muscles along the tibia
  • They cause the tibia to be inflamed and/or the periosteum around the bone to be irritated
  • If left untreated shin splints can cause stress fractures.

What can cause shin splints?

There are two main causes of shin splints

  • Over striding while running: your foot comes out too far in front of your body with each stride placing excessive forces on your tibia.
  • Poor foot and hip control: this places excessive strain on the muscles in the calf causing the muscles to pull on the Tibia.

How much force does your body absorb when running?

  • When you run your foot hits the ground over 1500 steps per mile.
  • With each step your body absorbs 1-2 times your body weight in impact forces.
  • These forces can increase and decrease based on how much you over stride and how well your body is able to use the force to propel you forward.
  • The more energy wasted means there is more energy your body must absorb. The more energy your body absorbs the more your body is breaking down and must repair itself.

3 exercises to help decrease pain for shin splints

  1. Decreasing the tension in calf musculature: Rolling out the calf with a peanut roller. 3 minutes each calf.

2. Proper foot mobility: lacrosse ball under feet. Stand with the lacrosse ball on the outer edge of foot – as pictured below. Place feet out and turn your hips back and forth while feeling a slight stretch on the bottom of your foot. Perform for 90 sec each foot.

3. Foot to hip connection strengthening – 3 way single leg deadlift. Perform a single leg deadlift on one leg while keeping your hips forward and your body in a straight line from your foot to your head. Perform 3 sets on each leg. Aim to a target and try to touch the target with your hand such as the shoe in the pictured example.

Bonus Information!!

  • Wearing compression sleeves helps to calm down the neuromuscular system and can relieve the increased tension your body may build up in your calf during a run.
  • Dry needling by a Physical Therapist can also be very helpful in decreasing the tension of the calf musculature.
  • When bone and muscles are inflamed/irritated to a certain extent your body may need a break from running. It is great to still do the above exercises while taking the break.


Clinics, U., 2022. Shin splints: The runner’s pain. [online] University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

Dicharry J. Running Rewired: Reinvent Your Run for Stability, Strength & Speed. Boulder, CO: VeloPress; 2017.

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