Lower Leg / Shin Pain

by Paul


I am fairly new to triathlon but certainly not exercise. I have been increasing my running since last summer but have found that my lower leg pain (shin) is not improving, in fact it's getting worse.

I always stretch before and after my runs, I have tried to follow shin splint advice wherever possible.

I have had my gait analysed and Ii was advised that my shoe type was neutral.

I have bought another pair of high quality running shoes, this hasn't helped.

I wear recovery socks after my runs.

I have tried resting, this helps until i start to run again.

Im sure this is a subject thats gets raised on many occasions, any advice would be welcomed.

Regards in advance

Paul Slater

Rhona replies:

Hi Paul,

I feel for you, I used to suffer from shin pain (until I discovered I overpronate), and it’s not nice!

The key for you is to find the cause of the pain and address this. Otherwise you can treat the pain, or rest and feel better but then when you build your running up again the pain will come back.

There are many different things that could be causing the problem, so I’ll give you a few potential solutions. However if you haven’t already done so the best thing you could do is to see an experienced sports physio.

When you had your gait analysed was this done by a physio/podiatrist/biomechanist?

Whilst many running shops offer a gait analysis service this is often quite basic and limited to assessing for shoe type only. I’ve been told I need a neutral shoe in the past and yet I over-pronate and had shin pain until I got orthotics to correct this.

A physio would look at not only what your feet and lower legs do, but also your hips and even upper body. They would then provide advice about exercises to do to correct any imbalances, or be able to refer you to a podiatrist if orthotics were required.

Over pronation is probably one of the most common causes of shin pain, due to the ‘pulling’ action on the muscles on the inside of the lower leg (tibialis posterior being the main one).

Strengthening the stabilising muscles in the ankle and lower limb can help (see our lower limb conditioning page - these exercises could help even if you don't over-pronate), but even strengthening glute muscles can reduce over-pronation.

Another cause of shin pain is tight calves. You say you stretch pre and post running so this is probably not the cause of your shin pain. Make sure you stretch both the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) through stretching with both straight and bent leg.

If your shin pain has been around a while then a massage, whilst painful, would help to break down any lumps and bumps (scar tissue) in your shins.

People who get shin pain when there is no biomechanical cause have often built up their running too quickly, do a lot of running on the road, or a lot of hill running.

As your shins improve when you rest, make sure you build up your running gradually after a rest. Start off with an easy 10 minutes, and build gradually from there. Try to keep your running to grass or off-road at least until you are back to your usual running duration. Icing your shins after a run will also help reduce any swelling and reduce the pain.

So to summarise:
1) If you haven’t already done so, see an experienced sports physio.
2) Ensure your calf muscles are not tight and continue including stretching regularly.
3) Consider having a massage to break down scar tissue that has built up over time – and maybe on a regular basis to keep this at bay.
4) Look at how much running you are doing, the intensity and the surface you are running on.
5) Rest and let your shins recover, then work on the strength in your lower limbs and build your running back up gradually.

Good luck!

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