If you're having sudden onset of pain in the front of your leg, or just on the side, that is the side between one leg and the other, just behind the leg bone, you may be developing shin splints.

What Are Shin Splints?

Shin splints can cause intense muscle pain. And that's what shin splints are--a pulling of the muscle. It's not a cramp, but it's a pulling of the muscle where it attaches to the bone.

What Causes Shin Splints

  • A rapid increase in exercise without appropriate training.
  • Tightness of calf musculature. We harp on that a lot in a lot of these talks because the tight calf, tight Achilles tendon, whichever you want to call it, is an incredible culprit, because when you go forward with a tight calf, you can't bend your ankle properly. So instead of being dynamic and pushing off the foot, your virtually, the body says, this is a no brainer. I'll just lift it off the ground. You may not look like this, but I'm a little older. And we refer to it as the Charlie Chaplin style of walking and people run that way too. They don't propel well from heel to toe.
  • Wearing improper shoes. You'd need to be in a stable athletic shoe for athletics and it needs to match your foot type.

How Shin Splints Are Treated

Now, normally the problem can be addressed fairly conservatively. 

  • Ramp up your training more slowly. Don't head out for a five mile run when you haven't been running for a long time.
  • Stretching. Do this before you head out for your run, not afterwards. Do some stretching. That doesn't mean two minutes, like I see the runners at Greenlake do-- put the foot up on the bar and take off again. No, instead you need to spend a good 10 or 15 minutes stretching the calf musculature. 
  • Buy stable shoes.  Here's a article I've written called "How to Buy the Best Running Shoes for Your Feet".  Much of the information there is also appropriate for other sports.

If you do these three things, pay attention to these pains. Don't just try to run through it all. Train a little more slowly, a little bit of rest, ice, elevation, gradually getting back into it, stretching out that calf musculature, wearing good shoes, you can help a long way to prevent chronic shin splints.