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The Various Causes of Shin Splints

Worn Running Shoes

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  • Shin splints occur when different parts of your lower leg experience pain due to repetitive stress
  • There are other conditions that may cause pain in your lower leg, which you may confuse with shin splints

Shin splints occur when different parts of your lower leg experience pain due to repetitive stress. It’s not clear how the pain occurs, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of the following factors:

Your hobbies: Shin splints tend to occur more often in athletes, especially in sports that strain your legs, such as marathon running, basketball, tennis and gymnastics.

Sudden increase in physical activity: You can develop pain in your shins if you suddenly increase your level of physical activity, especially if you had a sedentary lifestyle before. Pain can also develop if you suddenly increase the intensity of your training sessions if you’re already an experienced athlete.

The surface where you walk or do your exercises: The road you walk on or the flooring of your exercise area can play a role in developing shin splints. Hard surfaces, for example, add strain to your legs as opposed to softer surfaces.

Flat feet: Having flat feet means that your feet have no (or very low) arches, leaving a very flat footprint on the ground. This condition doesn’t usually cause any issues, but when it does, it may cause pain in your lower legs, especially the feet, ankles, shins and knees.1

Worn shoes: Wearing old, damaged shoes can cause you to develop shin splints due to poor form.2

The Pain in Your Shins May Be Caused by Something Else

There are other conditions that can cause pain in your lower leg, which you may confuse with shin splints. These conditions can include:

Stress fracture: A stress fracture is a tiny crack in a bone due to overuse. It occurs when a muscle is fatigued and cannot absorb impact anymore, causing your bone to absorb the impact instead. It’s estimated that 90 percent of stress fractures occur in the lower leg area.3 Similar to shin splints, a stress fracture causes pain in the lower leg. In addition, the pain occurs in a specific spot, which can subside during rest. Swelling may occur as well.4

Sprain: Sprains are common among people, and occur when the ligaments of your ankle stretch beyond their limits, causing them to tear.5 Ligaments are strong, fibrous tissues that connect bones together, helping stabilize joints and minimize injuries.6 The pain caused by a sprain can range from mild to severe, depending on the level of ligament damage. If the damage is severe, there may be swelling, bruising and instability when walking.7

Tendonitis: Tendons are strong tissues that connect muscles to bones to help move joints. However, they can become damaged if a certain movement is repeated often, or if you overload them by carrying a very heavy weight. This condition is known as tendonitis.8 The condition can occur near the ankle, which is in close proximity to the shin. Symptoms include pain in the tissues surrounding the joint, and pain that may appear 2 to 4 inches above the heel.9

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD): PAD is a condition wherein plaque builds up in the arteries in various parts of your body. It normally affects the legs, but can affect the stomach, arms and head as well.10 Indicative symptoms include pain while walking, weakness in the affected leg, shrinking muscles and brittle toenails.11


Shin Splints: Introduction

What Are Shin Splints?

Shin Splints Symptoms

Shin Splints Causes

Get Rid of Shin Splints

Types of Shin Splints

Shin Splints Treatment

Shin Splints Exercises

Shin Splints Prevention

Shin Splints Diet

Shin Splints FAQ

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